Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, college football coach Don Horton struggled to button his shirt after a football game. The situation inspired his wife to start MagnaReady, a company that makes shirts that are buttoned by magnets. James Brown reports on how the shirts are helping people with disabilities.
MagnaReady shirts offer ease of dressing to people with limited mobility. They are now making life easier for a larger group of people than their inventor, Maura Horton, originally anticipated. She started the company when her husband, a renowned football coach, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and had difficulty getting dressed independently. With nothing like this currently existing on the market, MagnaReady shirts do not skimp on quality, and offer a dignified way of dressing for those with limited dexterity. This mom of two is a jump-starter, an optimist and a hard worker. She used her previous clothing designer experience, found an investor and a supplier and created a product that is rapidly taking off. I talked to Maura Horton about MagnaReady easy shirting, family influences, business advice, possibilities for a cure and more in this interview.
YOU CAME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR MAGNAREADY WHEN YOUR HUSBAND WAS DIAGNOSED WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE. WHAT WAS THE FINAL MOTIVATION TO MAKE MAGNAREADY HAPPEN?
When my husband came home after a football game, his energy gone and said it was a hard day. I thought he was referring to the loss of the game but he said a player helped him button his shirt and he was embarrassed. There haven’t been many challenges with his disease that I am able to help with but this was one change I could help him with.
DO YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND IN DESIGN OR SEWING? HOW DID YOU MAKE YOUR FIRST MAGNAREADY SHIRT?
In my previous life I was a children’s clothing designer. After having children I stayed home. I had been out of the industry for 8 years. I created my first prototype with a local workroom in NY. I started the process hoping to convert my husband’s existing shirts from button-ups to magnetic, but because of the way they are manufactured that was impossible. So off to plan B!
WHO DO YOU SEE AS YOUR COMPETITION?
No one yet! Velcro closure shirts/clothes is all that has been on the market. I ordered a Velcro shirt for my husband as soon as he had his first challenges with limited mobility in his fingers. The shirt was thin and the fabric fibers got stuck in the Velcro. I knew that there had to be a better option.
WHAT REACTION DID YOU GET FROM YOUR FIRST BUYERS? DID YOU DISCOVER NEW AUDIENCE OVER TIME OR HAVE THE BUYERS BEEN CONSISTENTLY THE SAME?
The reaction I get is at times overwhelming. I ask on the MagnaReady website for people to share their story. They have come back with such a variety of reasons that people are seeking this solution out. All are touching. All to help restore dignity and independence into their (or their loved ones) daily routine. Some have Parkinson’s but most do not. I never believed how many groups this product would bring relief to from Alzheimer’s to Arthritis to Stroke and Wounded Warriors. It’s overwhelming and great now to see returning customers!
HOW MUCH TIME AND CAPITAL DID IT TAKE TO GET IT OFF THE GROUND FROM THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT?
Under $100,000 to date.
From concept to product launch has been about 4 years- that includes patent times.
HOW DO YOU ENSURE SHIRT DURABILITY FOR DRY-CLEANING OR LAUNDRY, CONSIDERING THERE ARE MAGNETS?
Quality was my number one driving force. I wanted something I would wear. The manufacturer that we use also produces for a well-known high-end shirt company. I am lucky they would take on my project. Laundering was number 2 – many resources and research went into the correct product to achieve this goal.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS WHILE BEING A MOM? HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TIME?
I try very hard to arrange my day so that when they are home I am present in the moment with my children. I am an early riser, thank goodness, and seem to get many things accomplished before the light of day.
WHATʼS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING MOMENT WITH THE BUSINESS SO FAR? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?
Challenges thus far, to be honest, pale in comparison to what my husband deals with on a daily basis. I don’t think thus far we’ve hit one that we can’t overcome.
WHAT WAS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DAY FOR MAGNAREADY? WHERE DO YOU SEE IT IN THE FUTURE?
There isn’t success for me with out a cure. So as a family and a company, we will work diligently to help bring awareness, compassion and understanding. I can only hope someday that Parkinson’s outward symptoms will be as accepted as a beautiful bald-headed cancer survivor is now accepted!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO MOMS THAT WANT TO LAUNCH THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Dive in! Be fearless! If you’re on the right path many things will happen organically.
HOW DID YOU HANDLE YOUR HUSBANDʼS DIAGNOSIS AS A FAMILY?
As a family we have refused to let it control us. We only had 1 daughter at the time of his diagnosis and were struggling to have another. We couldn’t imagine an only child having to deal with the diagnos on her own later in life. We made a conscious decision to have a second child. Don asked the doctor if there was any reason to not proceed with the planning of our family, the doctor said no- because we all need to believe that there will be a cure in his lifetime. We decided then that we wouldn’t let the disease define our family.
ON YOUR BLOG YOU TALK ABOUT COMING FROM A LARGE FAMILY. DO YOU TURN TO ANY OF THEM FOR ADVICE?
Yes. I often consult with my father. He is a great leader and successful entrepreneur. He worked for 7UP and decided to venture off on his own, creating his own distributorship. His fearless style leads me daily.
DO YOUR HAVE OTHER PRODUCTS FOR LIMITED MOBILITY IN THE WORKS?
Yes. We are launching children’s coats with the same technology. Limited mobility for many children is due to finger dexterity, young children just don’t have the control yet over their extremities to be able to use these complicated closure systems. Someday they will conquer buttons, snaps and zippers, but in the meantime MagnaMini will make getting ready to get out the door a little easier. And, being able to do up their own coat makes children confident when they achieve this milestone of growing up.
We have also secured the patent rights to the same technology for patient/hospital gowns.
IF I ASKED YOUR KIDS, WHAT KIND OF MOM YOU ARE, WHAT WOULD THEY SAY?
Not sure! Having two daughters I hope they would say that I am a strong but loving leader.
Learn more about Maura Horton and MagnaReady at magnaready.com.
Interviewed by Anna Harris.
Review From Left Hand Style – Style In Its Right Mind – By Stephanie Thomas
Thank you Left Hand Style for the review!
MagnaReady makes a great gift for Fathers Day! If you or someone you love has difficulty fastening buttons, the MagnaReady buttondownshirt will make dressing easier and faster.
It’s a great looking shirt. I appreciate designer, Maura Horton’s attention to fashion as well as function. MagnaReady uses individual magnets underneath each button for long-lasting dependable closure.