Kian ‘Keeks’ Mullen, pictured with mum April and dad Rob is the inspiration behind a new company helping families living with kids with special needs.

A Kian sense of style

“It may sound silly but something as simple as finding the right pair of shoes for Kian made our daily life so much easier.”

April and Rob Mullen from Cobh spent a long time searching for the perfect footwear for their son Kian who was born with an extremely rare genetic condition called Fox-G.

Kian’s condition means that he is non-verbal, non-mobile and tube fed.

While combing the internet one day for suitable shoes that could fit on over their son’s orthoses supports, they stumbled across American-based company Billy Footwear which ticked every box for Kian’s needs.

“Although Kian’s condition has introduced a whole range of challenges, he never gives up and remains our bright, happy and determined boy. Once we received our first pair of Billy shoes, there was no going back. We couldn’t believe it – a shoe that was stylish, functional and most importantly easy to get on,” said April.

Billy Footwear was the solution they were looking for, however, high shipping costs, import duties and long delivery times presented yet another challenge to the family.

Rob said: “When you have a child with orthotics, sizing a shoe can be difficult and the cost of returns was not feasible. In the past we have ordered shoes that were the wrong size for Kian and instead of returning the shoes we gifted them to someone else. We continued for the next few years buying Billys from the US but always hoping they would eventually be available in Ireland.”

As the years ticked by and costs continued to mount, April and Rob decided to take the leap and bring Billy Footwear to Ireland.

April said: “We’ve sat down and had countless conversations and just decided to bite the bullet and work with Billy Footwear to bring them to Ireland and help other families like us. Our main goal with this venture is to help other parents like ourselves – to give them access to what is available.”

She continued: “Your life as a special needs parent can be challenging and isolating at times and we just want to help elevate this in helping parents source a functional, universal and stylish shoe for their child.”

To achieve this goal, April and Rob launched their own company and called it Keeks, which is the nickname affectionately given to Kian by his family.

With the company now up and running, April said their goal is to make a wider range of products available to help assist parents and children with special needs.

“We are also selling Polly & Andy seamless bamboo socks to our product range which will go perfectly with the Billy shoes, including a knee high sock which is perfect to go under orthotics,” explains April.

Rob added: “We will continue to listen to our customers’ needs and hopefully use our new platform to source more products which are not readily available in Ireland.”