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Whimble Care: Bridging Gaps in Disability Support and Event Accessibility

May 30, 2024

After witnessing the challenges people with physical disabilities often face in managing their day-to-day, Emma Brown set out in 2021 to create Whimble Care – a marketplace platform connecting people with disabilities to skilled caregivers in their area who can help. 

Now three years into her journey, Emma was recently named Founder of the Year at the 2024 Bootstrap Awards, and Whimble Care is broadening its focus to partner and collaborate with event organizers aiming to enhance accessibility at their in-person events.  

And as the company continues its pilot trial in Ottawa, 2024 is proving to be a pivotal year for the Ottawa-based care tech startup.

Driven to deliver personalized care solutions.  

In a virtual call, Emma explained that she started Whimble Care (Whimble) in 2021 after seeing first-hand the challenges her younger brother faced while living with disabilities.  In response, she wanted to find a way to help others who needed to connect with reliable outside support with tasks such as bathing, cooking, or cleaning to help them get through their daily routine more efficiently. 

The logo for Whimble Care

“My brother can mostly go about his day after having someone help him get up in the morning, shower, and do his bathroom routine,” she said. “But there are people who can’t do that, and who have a worker come in for every meal.”  

“And if they don’t show up, then the person is stuck in bed and can’t get to their wheelchair, she added. “I created Whimble with the intent of having a solution for these situations.”    

Regarded as the “Uber for personal care attendants” Whimble is an online marketplace platform connecting individuals with physical disabilities to caregivers in their geographical area for on-demand personal care assistance with day-to-day tasks.  

Currently being offered as a beta trial in Ottawa, the platform also encourages those outside the Ottawa area to register to a waitlist to encourage future expansion.  

Facing the challenge of entrepreneurship 

According to Emma, finding the funding needed to get to this point and grow the platform from an idea to a functioning and relevant solution for anyone needing support has proved to be a challenge.  

A person in a wheelchair is joined by a support person outside of TD Place in Ottawa. “I’ll be trying to research and apply for funding, but because my business isn’t at that revenue threshold, they show me these $5,000 funds for women founders, which is still helpful, but isn’t what I’m looking for in order to create a business,” Emma explained. 

In addition to funding challenges, Emma also struggled with overcoming the isolation that often comes with building a business.  

But she says she found relief and a supportive network of other founders who were also building their businesses and facing similar challenges in Invest Ottawa’s Ignition program, a 10-week boot camp created for entrepreneurs who want to validate their tech startup idea and create a solid foundation to build upon while building a network with like-minded founders.  

“The Ignition program helped connect me to people,” she said. “Being an entrepreneur is lonely and it was helpful to be put in a space where there were other entrepreneurs who get it.”  

Finding new opportunities through event-focused care services  

According to Emma, the idea for a new potential service area came from an encounter with an advisor who shared their own experiences and challenges in attending live events.  

“An advisor actually provided the seed of the idea,” Emma explained. “He mentioned how he frequently gets asked to provide talks and keynotes at events and conferences. And instead of just working about travel and your speech, there’s the added stress of trying to find a care worker to come with you.” 

After hearing about his experiences and learning how people with disabilities often don’t get the opportunity to truly enjoy in-person events, Emma set her sights on partnering with different events and event spaces to help provide on-site accessibility solutions that could help.  

From curling to Bluesfest, and beyond  

A Whimble team member is shown helping a client to access a sailboatEmma said that Whimble had an initial opportunity to pilot its on-site attendant care service through a collaboration with the Ottawa Valley Curling Association’s Learn to Wheelchair Curl program. Powered by the experience, Whimble then teamed up with the Nepean Sailing Club’s ABLE Sail program, practicing their services and getting feedback from the programs in June of 2023.  

Throughout the process, Emma continued her outreach, offering Whimble’s services to various upcoming events to reinforce their accessibility.

Eventually, earned the opportunity to support its first, large-scale event in Ottawa in Bluesfest – an event well-known in Ottawa and beyond.  It was a first, big event experience that Emma described as “really positive” that eventually led to continued collaboration through the CityFolk festival. 

“Bluesfest and CityFolk already realized they had a gap. When reaching out, they just got it,” Emma said, explaining how Whimble’s specialized care could help fill the gap.  

“They have a team of volunteers, their volunteer army, who help with everything, but they stop short of helping with more personal things. Bluesfest doesn’t want any volunteers helping someone in the bathroom or anything with risk involved, which I totally get.”  

A Whimble team member assists someone through an event space, alongside an open window. New opportunities with a world-class event space 

In early 2024, Whimble joined forces with Ottawa’s Shaw Centre in a collaborative effort aimed at enhancing inclusivity and accessibility at the prestigious venue.  

“When there are events being held in that space, they [Shaw Centre] will say, here’s our preferred caterer, here’s our preferred audio and visual company, and now Whimble is their preferred company for accessibility needs,” she explained. 

What’s next for Whimble? 

Emma says she currently navigating the beta testing phase for developing the Whimble app and is working to develop an intuitive interface design for the system and its users. 

As far as partnerships, Emma says Whimble has already partnered with Bluesfest and CityFolk to help deliver their 2024 festivals, which she says will once again help make the festivals as inclusive and accessible to everyone as possible.  

“Having overall accessibility makes the event more enjoyable for everyone.”

If you have an idea for a business but are not sure how to take it to the next level – Invest Ottawa has an extensive range of programs and services that can help you launch, grow, and scale your business. Visit our programs and services page for more information.  


Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa, is Ottawa’s leading economic development agency for fostering the advancement of the region's globally competitive knowledge-based institutions and industries. Invest Ottawa delivers its economic development services through a unique partnership with the City of Ottawa, where the City and Invest Ottawa, through its members set the strategy and manage the programs that move Ottawa’s economy forward. Invest Ottawa is a non-profit, partnership organization that operates on an annual budget that comes from a variety of sources including: municipal, federal and provincial government; membership fees; professional development programs; and private sector contributions.

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