UI student creates prosthetic limb covers

Erica Cole created a business to provide amputees with prosthetic covers after losing her own leg in a car accident in May.


Nick Rohlman

UI senior Erica Cole walks on campus on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Cole started a business called No Limbits which creates colorful covers for amputees’ prosthetics. Cole says that the covers have shifted the conversations she experiences about her prosthetic.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

University of Iowa senior Erica Cole has managed to turn a tragedy into a triumph — and an exciting new business venture.

Cole lost a leg in a car accident in May 2018, and she began using a prosthetic leg in September. Since then, working with the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, she has started a business called No Limbits to provide prosthetic covers to fellow amputees.

“When I got my prosthetic, I was really excited to get back to normal life,” Cole said.

However, she said, people treated her differently when they noticed she had a prosthetic leg, and it was difficult for her healing process.

“I was getting a lot of sympathy and a lot of questions that I didn’t want to answer every day, because it kind of pulls you back into that moment,” she said.

So she decided to use her experience in costume design to find a solution to her problem. Using thermoplastics, she made a mold around her remaining leg that she used as a cover for her prosthetic.

The cover is designed to look like a normal leg under clothes, but Cole decided to use her cover as a fashion piece. Her prosthetic cover is dotted with colored geometric shapes, designed to look like a stained-glass window.

“I was like, ‘Well, people are looking at it, so I might as well give them something to look at,’ ” she said.

Nick Rohlman
UI senior Erica Cole stands for a portrait on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Cole started a business called No Limbits which creates colorful covers for amputees’ prosthetics. Cole says that the covers have shifted the conversations she experiences about her prosthetic.

Cole was inspired to take her idea further after talking with other amputees and seeing that there was a desire for this kind of product. She entered the Entrepreneurial Center’s IdeaStorm competition in October 2018 to pitch her idea.

IdeaStorm takes place every semester; in it, students can pitch business ideas and compete for cash prizes. The event is split up into four categories, each focusing on different types of pitches.

Cole was awarded first place in the “Consumer Solutions” category, winning her $500 to put toward her business.

She began to grab the attention of Entrepreneurial Center officials after her IdeaStorm pitch. Center Director Lynn Allendorf was impressed by Cole’s idea and invited her to join the Founders Club after seeing her pitch.

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“I was just blown away that she’d had this horrific accident and so quickly had been able to turn it into a real positive,” Allendorf said.

From there, Cole got more involved with the center’s competitions, competing in the Iowa Startup Games in October as well. Cole’s team won first place and $1,000 in seed money.

In November, Cole won first place at the Rose Francis Elevator Pitch Competition, which included $12,500 in prize money over the two-day event.

Cole, a chemistry major, didn’t have any business experience before starting No Limbits. She said the Entrepreneurial Center and the Founders Club were instrumental in giving her the knowledge to run her business.

Entrepreneurial Center lecturer Kimm Harris, who worked with Cole to start her business, said one of the center’s major goals of is to reach out to students all over campus, not just business majors.

“People have ideas everywhere. They’re not just in business peoples’ minds,” Harris said. “A lot of the really great ideas come from people who have experiences like Erica.”

Cole is currently taking orders and working on prototypes for No Limbits. She plans to launch a project on Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform for creative projects, in March.

Before starting No Limbits, she said, she was planning on attending graduate school. Now, she’s not so sure.

“I really want to see where this goes, and I think I have an opportunity to help people from a unique position that not a lot of people find themselves in,” she said. “I’d kind of like to explore that a little bit.”