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Archive for Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Development of business plan an empowering move for young woman

Paws Pleas products provide measure of self-sufficiency when state aid lacking


Lisa Willard is a 22-year-old woman who makes pet products for her business, Paws Pleas. Despite having cerebral palsy, she is actively involved in the business. Through the use of assistive devices, Willard can express herself verbally and control the power on things like a sewing machine and a food processor. Here, she is able to turn pages on a storybook program that runs through a nearby laptop computer by activating a switch near her headrest.

Lisa Willard is a 22-year-old woman who makes pet products for her business, Paws Pleas. Despite having cerebral palsy, she is actively involved in the business. Through the use of assistive devices, Willard can express herself verbally and control the power on things like a sewing machine and a food processor. Here, she is able to turn pages on a storybook program that runs through a nearby laptop computer by activating a switch near her headrest.

March 16, 2010

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Lisa Willard has a presentation that covers all areas of her business: She talks about pet beds, catnip toys and even a vest to put on dogs for carrying their Frisbees.

Willard and her foster mother, Patty Meyer, create these products for Willard’s home-based business, Paws Pleas.

She talks about how she sells them online at her Web site, www.pawspleas.com, how she wants to expand to craft shows and how all the products are machine-washable. It’s as much information as any pet lover could want.

But it’s not Willard’s voice you hear. It’s her DynaVox, a $7,000 system that Medicaid purchased for Willard, who has cerebral palsy, that allows her to communicate with people.

Willard’s foster mother, Patty Meyer, guides material through the sewing machine when Willard activates the switch from her wheelchair. Paws Pleas products include pet beds for dogs and cats, bandanas, catnip toys and edible treats.

Willard’s foster mother, Patty Meyer, guides material through the sewing machine when Willard activates the switch from her wheelchair. Paws Pleas products include pet beds for dogs and cats, bandanas, catnip toys and edible treats.

The Lawrence woman touches a switch with her forehead to tell people when she’s hungry, talk about what she did at physical therapy that day or listen to her favorite country music artists, such as Carrie Underwood.

Paws Pleas is the way Willard and Meyer hope she will earn a livelihood partially on her own.

“It is my hope to become as independent as possible,” Willard says, using her DynaVox.

Willard became Patty Meyer’s foster daughter when she was 2 1/2 years old. Last May, Willard, now 22, graduated from Free State High School. But because Willard was no longer under state care and had a legal guardian, she didn’t qualify immediately for adult day programs. She was put on a waiting list behind more than 2,000 other people.

“We were devastated, in fact,” Meyer said. “We already had our life figured out. We decided the only other option was to come up with a business she could do.”

Willard had taken sewing classes at Free State, so finding an activity in that area seemed like a good idea. Willard runs the sewing machine for her products with her headswitch. Meyer plugs it into a special box, and then Willard controls its power, while Meyer guides the fabric on the machine. Willard also can run the power of the food processor and blender when they make sweet potato chews and other animal treats.

“At least it gives her an avenue of doing something with her life,” Meyer said.

In January, Willard and Meyer won a $10,000 grant from the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities to help fund her business. Now it’s all about getting the word out.

Lisa Willard is a 22-year old young woman business owner that produces products for pets. She has Cerebral Palsy but is able to help make some of the products. Piper Chindamo, right, is a support person that works with Lisa part-time.

Lisa Willard is a 22-year old young woman business owner that produces products for pets. She has Cerebral Palsy but is able to help make some of the products. Piper Chindamo, right, is a support person that works with Lisa part-time.

Meyer said she and Willard plan to go to craft shows, but right now they’re working on orders that come in through the Web site and distributing brochures at local businesses.

When Willard isn’t helping create cat beds that look like teepees or towels for drying off wet dogs, she’s going to Kansas University, where she volunteers to work with students who are learning how to program her DynaVox. She also reads books to area elementary school children using the device.

Meyer said Willard is a very auditory learner, something that makes using the DynaVox possible and improves the possibilities for her future.

“It does allow her some independent communication,” Meyer said. “It does open up a whole different world.”

Comments

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 1 month ago

Go, Lisa Willard ! How many people, especiallyfragile young women( as seen in the offensively patronizing and old-fashioned eyes of so many bigoted Lawrence residents) show so much raw entrepreneurial spirit? Yet this brave woman has to be subject to judgment of people not worthy of her--as another blogger says--- those many locals who aren't known for using their heads. She is truly a HERO, but in Larryville this must be weighed against stereotypes, CELEBRATED INSPITE of the patronizing way other choose to see and treat her.

Hey, Larryville bigots-- do us a favor and please stop terrrorizing complete strangers on the public streets on the basis of stereotypes. I thought FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE were basic American values --and everyone obviously deserves to have their safety concerns respected even among the morally bankrupt, self-serving morons who live here. So please put a rein on your self-serving practice of insulting and patronizing 'kindness' to strangers that is actuallly totally fricking offensive discrimination and making terroristic threats-- you are kidding yourself people want to deal with you.

At least the LJ World does a little better this time than their usual pitiful attempts at offensively singling out successful people for legally questionable reasons to star in their sentimental, up-by-your own- bootstraps stories

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Deb Engstrom 4 years, 1 month ago

I've known LIsa and her family for many years. They have absolutely dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life for their children with disabilities (they have an older daughter with a cystic fibrosis and cognitive disabilities). The downside of all this is that Medicaid is being drastically cut (the funds that helped purchase Lisa's Dynavox and is providing supportive home care workers) and many people like Lisa may face a future in nursing homes. The waiting list is growing and many people don't have the family support that Lisa does. If you enjoyed this article, contact your legislator about the cutting of Medicaid and other funds to services for people with disabilities.

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pedsrn25 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm so proud of you and your folks!!! You Rock Lisa, from your old nurse Brenda at your doctor's office!

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riverdrifter 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm ordering the collapsable dog food/water bowl. In Jayhawk, of course.

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flutter 4 years, 1 month ago

This is so great! Have you considered setting up a store on Etsy.com? It's a place where people sell their handmade items online. You can sell so much on that site. Many people have been very successful with it.

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gatekeeper 4 years, 1 month ago

This is the first thing today to make me happy. I thought I was haviing a fairly cr*ppy day. This was a good wake up call to remind me that life is what we make of it.

Congratulations Lisa on having your own business. You are already leaps and bounds ahead of most people your age. I wish you the best with your business and career. You are truely an inspiration.

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ferrislives 4 years, 1 month ago

What a wonderful story! Kudos to Lisa and her inspiring family. It just goes to show what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. People who constantly give excuses on why they can't accomplish their goals should take note.

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Pywacket 4 years, 1 month ago

You go, girl!

Never mind "sports heroes"---people like Lisa and Patty are the real heroes in this world. Resourceful, determined, creative, and positive! I will share this article with everyone I can and hope the business grows in leaps and bounds.

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oneeye_wilbur 4 years, 1 month ago

And to think that some at the court house are complaining that they have to take four days off in a year and lose some pay.

This is what is wrong in America. This young lady is using her noggin' which is something that is lacking in Lawrence for most of the time.

And to imagine that she took sewing classes and can sew. So why can't Loring Henderson get some at the Drop In Center to sew and make quilts and use all of the clothes thrown out at Penn House and turn them into products.

Patty Meyer, you are more than a foster mother, many mothers need to have you teach them how to become mothers and mentors.

Good luck to this young lady.

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RadarC 4 years, 1 month ago

That is so cool! Way to go!

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ontheroadfitness 4 years, 1 month ago

What an awesome and inspiring story!

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