By Susan Robertson
Photos by Sam Thomas
Sherry Costanza Steady says she shouldn’t have started another business at the age of 70, but when she recognized an unfulfilled need, she didn’t let her age stop her from starting her fifth company.
Steady, now 75, is founder and CEO of Steady Enterprises, a Madison-based business she started in 2013 to manufacture the Steady Rollator Carrier, a rack that holds walkers and attaches to vehicles so that people who rely on them can take the walking aids wherever they go.
“My father was a mechanical engineer and could build anything. When I saw him struggling getting my mother’s walker into the trunk, I said to him, ‘Let’s make something,’” Steady says. “My husband is a retired iron worker, so he made the initial prototype.”
After the first prototype, further designs followed leading to a smaller, lighter model. The walker carrier weighs 8 pounds, and the wheelchair carrier, which followed, is 15 pounds.
Steady received a patent on the carrier in 10 weeks. Shortly after that, she connected with the UT Center for Industrial Services’ Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The procurement center assists small businesses across the state to help them become federal and state government vendors.
“Through a friend, I got in touch with Debbie (Barber, a procurement center consultant), and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful she is,” Steady said. “She is dedicated to helping people. I just can’t say enough about her.”
Barber met with Steady to familiarize the business owner with the services the center offers. Barber assisted Steady in registering for the federal government’s System for Award Management and the Commercial and Government Entity code, which is an identifier to defense agencies and other government departments.
“She informed me of the different events taking place that I needed to attend for my business,” Steady says. “She introduced me to the department heads that I needed to know. And she has helped submit the application for me to apply for WBENC. I never would have been able to do this by myself.”
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification validates that the business is at least 51 percent owned, operated and managed by a woman.
“Sherry is a pleasure to work with. No matter the task, she is ready to dig in and get it done,” Barber said. “She has applied for Women’s Business Enterprise certification, and that will help give her some marketing opportunities. We are working together to pursue opportunities with the government but more specifically the Veterans Administration.”
Steady is waiting for that certification’s approval before approaching the Veterans Administration.
Steady takes pride in the fact her product is made in the United States in facilities in Madison and Henderson.
“The day after I got my patent, a team from Shark Tank came to visit me about my product,” she says. “They said they could mass produce them at a lower cost by making them in China. I told them, ‘No, I’m going to make everything right here in the U.S.’ I like to say they are made by Tennessee craftsmen.”