More than 50 Thomasville Rotarians participated in last week’s virtual club meeting where they got to meet Mr. Ben Huntzinger, founder of Spartan Wheel Chariots. Spartan Wheel Chariots was borne out of Mr. Huntzinger’s passion for the outdoors and to fill a need for an affordable wheelchair built especially for the rigors of outdoor life and sport.
Paralyzed in an accident 11 years ago, Ben had in mind the kind of chair that would allow him to once again enjoy the outdoors despite his disability. He taught himself to weld and started piecing together basic supplies from Lowe’s and The Home Depot. Eventually, the chair he had envisioned was a reality.
Ben’s chair design has two unique features: a sturdy rear suspension and large 10” by 3” front wheels which enable the chair to be ridden over gravel, on fine sand and even in the water. Although there are no known competitors with the exact features of his chair, the starting price for other chairs that a disabled person might consider for rugged outdoor use is $2,500. Mr. Huntzinger’s chairs sell for just $500.
While attending Southern Regional Technical College, Mr. Huntzinger was encouraged to enter a statewide competition among technical college students. The $25,000 grand prize that he won served as the seed money for Spartan Wheel Chariots, and he has been making, selling and shipping chairs all over the country ever since. Social media has been the main marketing tool for Spartan Wheel Chariots. Facebook, for example, has a sizeable ‘spinal injury group,’ and that has been the source of 85% of the company’s sales of about 120 chairs per year.
Currently, Spartan Wheel Chariots is a one-man operation that keeps Ben busy when he’s not studying at Thomas University to become an educator. However, Mr. Huntzinger hopes to have a full-scale production facility one day, possibly employing others who would share his passion. The large number and variety of questions and comments from participants in the meeting suggest that Thomasville Rotarians strongly admire Mr. Huntzinger’s passion, and many seem eager to offer guidance and support as he considers the future of his business.