In 1978, water skier Don Krebs was on the final lap of a 12-mile race on Mission Bay in San Diego when he fell, broke his neck, and sustained a spinal cord injury. He was 22 years old.
Krebs was an avid water skier from the age of 4. By 17 he could move at over 100 miles per hour on the water. A year later, he began water skiing competitively.
“I didn't even know at the time when you broke your neck it paralyzed you,” Krebs said. “So when I had fallen at that speed, it felt like I had a straitjacket on. I didn't really understand what was going on. I almost drowned, but since it was a competition, there was an ambulance boat, as well as an ambulance on the shore. And when they took me to shore, they told me I broke my neck and was paralyzed. Then it all came together.”
Krebs was a construction worker by trade before his injury. With that job no longer an option, he went to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California Lutheran University in 1985. The following year, he started the MBA program at the same school. During his third semester in the program, he wrote a business plan in his entrepreneurship class for a company that would sell recreation equipment for people with disabilities.
“My professor said, ‘You'd be a fool if you don't do this,’” Krebs said. “So I quit the MBA program and started the business.”
For 32 years, AccessTR.com has sold adaptive recreation and exercise equipment for people with disabilities.
“I really wanted to get back to water skiing, and I searched and searched and searched for an adaptive ski. And in my searching, I found adaptive ski equipment, fishing equipment, exercise equipment, stuff for archery and hunting, and all kinds of stuff. That's what gave me the idea to start the business, because I figured if I had trouble finding this equipment, there were other people having trouble finding the equipment.”
Krebs eventually found adaptive water skiing equipment and hit the water again.
“I went about two miles,” he said. “I thought, ‘you know, I can water ski. I can do anything.’”
AccessTR.com sells hunting and fishing, weight training, aquatic and cardio equipment; pool and spa lifts; golf clubs; standing frames; wheelchair ramps; and more. Inventory also includes items used daily such as wheelchairs, therapeutic collars, bath and shower accessories, cushions, and personal care products.
Krebs operates his business out of his home with his wife. He ships a handful of products from his home and dropships the rest. In its first year, AccessTR.com earned about $90,000 in sales. In its best year, 2007, the business reached about $1.2 million in sales. Nowadays, sales average about $600,000 a year.
In September 2020, AccessTR.com installed Fast, a one-click login and checkout service to improve the customer shopping experience. Fast eliminates the hassle of typing out credit card and shipping address information each time a customer wants to make a purchase. With Fast Checkout, customers click a button and complete their purchase in a matter of seconds. Today, roughly 80 percent of AccessTR.com orders are processed through Fast.
“Fast made it as simple as can be,” Krebs said. “I'm a 65-year-old man and not a real techie.”
Having Fast Checkout as an option means customers get what they need quickly and have more time to enjoy life. But the core of AccessTR.com’s success is Krebs’s personal connection to the company and its mission.
“I am paralyzed,” Krebs said. “My customers know when they call me that I understand their situation. We talk about life as well as products. I've had some customers that said, ‘I've been buying stuff from you for 25 years.’”