Pimped crutches and beautiful wheelchairs win student award


Flanders’ Student Entrepreneur of the Year is an industrial engineer and designer who has come up with smart ways to improve everyday medical equipment for the patients who use them

‘A whole new market’

A woman from Aalst is the 2017 Student Entrepreneur of the Year thanks to her creative ways of making crutches and wheelchairs more attractive and user-friendly.

Industrial engineer-designer Marie Van den Broeck has won the award, given by Unizo, the organisation that represents the self-employed in Flanders. Her business, My Add On, “pimps” crutches and wheelchairs to make them more beautiful, comfortable and practical.

Van den Broeck is a graduate of the industrial engineer-developer programme at the Kortrijk campus of Ghent University. She designs and distributes add-ons that users can click on to a crutch or wheelchair.

“She convinced the jury with the creative and innovative way in which she tapped into a whole new market, with products she designed herself,” Unizo said.

Her first product is MySleeve, a kind of sock that can be slid over the handgrips of crutches, to make the handles feel soft and prevent pain in the  hands. It also has a built-in magnet, which means users don’t have to bend down to pick up a dropped crutch that fell but can pick it up using the other crutch. Van den Broeck is being helped by incubator-accelerator The Birdhouse in Ghent to expand her business.

With its annual competition, the Unizo foundation Onderwijs & Ondernemen (Education & Entrepreneurship) aims to stimulate more students to start a business.

Photo courtesy My Add On/Facebook