Shark Tank winner Erica Cole started toying with the idea of prosthetics when she lost her leg in 2018. Since then, she’s started a business called No Limbits to bring amputee-friendly clothing to stores.
Erica Cole went from a trial run with 3D printers to a $100,000 Shark Tank deal in the span of four years.
The University of Iowa alum, who lost her leg in an accident in 2018, recently successfully showcased her clothing company that makes accessible clothing for lower half amputees on ABC’s Shark Tank.
“We were just discovering that there was just a very basic unmet need for people with disabilities,” Cole said.
Cole appeared on the show on April 1, promoting her brand, No Limbits. She pitched to investors and was offered a $100,000 deal by sharks Mark Cuban and Emma Grede.
No Limbits offers many different styles of pants that feature zippers on the sides of the leg and above and below the knee for easy access to a prosthesis.
Cole said she first became interested in 3D-printed prosthetic covers while studying at UI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.
Her interest grew more and more over time, she said.
“There was a pitch competition launched by JPEC [John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center] win a $500 scholarship for pitching a viable business idea,” she said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, why not? I could really use a $500 scholarship.
Cole ended up winning the contest and another one afterwards, catapulting his business into action. At that time, she had plenty of resources around her idea, she said, and felt she needed to get it started.
She landed her dream job at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, around the same time Target stores started taking notice of her idea.
“If Target takes notice, there must be something here,” Cole said.
Her mission with No Limbits is to advance the idea that adaptive clothing is necessary and fashionable. Cole said she tries to have a variety of sizes, lengths and colors to accommodate anyone who might need clothing.
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Mary Kay Wojciechowski, 68, of Naperville, Illinois and a lower-leg amputee, said once she’s in the pants she puts on in the morning, she doesn’t change out of them because it’s so hard.
“When I first saw [Cole’s designs] I was like, ‘Wow, someone is taking the bull by the horns when it comes to clothing, especially for people with leg amputees,’” she said.
Wojciechowski, who suffers from lupus, said she lost her leg eight years ago due to medication she was taking for the condition. Her amputation was life changing, she said, and took a lot of work.
“My main focus in life right now is to preserve what I have and work with what I have,” Wojciechowski said.
She’s an avid Shark Tank watcher, and when she heard about Cole’s appearance on the show, she was immediately interested.
Cole said she originally asked to participate in Shark Tank next year because the company had just started the manufacturing process, but ended up continuing this season instead.
“It was ultimately the best decision, and I didn’t want to regret not taking a chance on Shark Tank,” Cole said.
Wojciechowski said she watched the episode and was captured by Cole’s mission. She said she loves seeing people who are passionate about making life easier for others.
“This girl is thinking outside the box, not just because I’m a lower leg amputee, but because I like working with young people who are creative and can work independently like that,” Wojciechowski said.