Woman's dream for independence brings company to Central Texas

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by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 15 at 6:40 PM

AUSTIN --  A woman's desire to be independent and drive a car by herself sent her on a global search.

Stacy Zoern, 31, found her solution in Eastern Europe and now plans to bring it to Central Texas where she can give others the same Independence she has sought her entire life.

A genetic disability took Zoern's ability to walk at birth, confining her to a wheelchair. 

"Every part of my life, I've always just tried to be as independent as possible," said Zoern. "So you're given a set of limitations, well what can I do with that?"
 
Zoern has done plenty. She graduated UT Law School and is now an attorney in Austin. At age 19, she even drove herself around, until a wreck totaled the car and her dreams of independence. That lasted for 12 years, until March 2010.

"I was online looking for improvements in technology," said Zoern. "I wanted to kind of scope it out, and I came across this car on the Internet and I wanted to buy one."

She stumbled across the tiny Kenguru (pronounced Kangaroo). The car gives handicapped drivers the ability to drive without ever leaving a wheelchair. Drivers steer by using either a handle bar or joy stick, and brake and accelerate by hand. Top speed is 25 miles an hour, limiting the range of the car.

Only problem, only one prototype existed in the Eastern European country of Hungary and the company was out of money.

For Zoern, the obstacle became an opportunity. She took out a $50,000 loan, and with the help of other investors, founded Community Cars Incorporated.

"Every one of them is going to have a sticker on it that says "Assembled in Pflugerville, Texas," said David Clay with Pflugerville's Community Development Corporation.

For the past nine months, Clay worked to bring his city a rare opportunity.

"To bring something from another county here is exciting because a lot of our jobs and a lot of our industries are going the other way," explained Clay.

Zoern looks to change that. In July, Community Cars Inc. merged with Kenguru. The small cars will be built in Pflugerville and will sell for $20,000 -- a bargain compared to electric wheelchairs which sell for nearly double.

If all goes according to plan, eight workers will build 10 cars a month. The first line of Kenguru cars should roll out by September to be sold all over the world.

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