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Why I Started My Own Business as a Person With a Disability

“The most successful people follow passion, not paychecks.” This couldn’t be more true for me with my business.

Three years ago I decided to take a huge leap and open a canine massage business. My job at the time was so physically and mentally stressful there was no way I could continue. With this small business I’m not receiving steady paychecks. I’m not free from financial worry month-to-month, but I don’t worry about those things when I’m doing what I love. I know this might seem like a very small venture to some, it might even look easy to most, but the journey has been extremely hard and I’m beyond blessed and grateful to be here today.

I wasn’t supposed to live the night after I was born because I had spina bifida, but I did. I wasn’t supposed to live after my first surgery, but I did. Then I wasn’t going to walk (I’m paralyzed from my knees down); it took me four years but I did it. I wasn’t going to be in mainstream classes at school, but I was in fifth grade spelling and reading classes in first grade. I graduated from college with a double major.

I have been through countless surgeries and hospital stays, most recently almost dying again when I was 18 from a brain infection from my shunt. I had to relearn how to walk and develop my fine motor skills all over again. It was a huge blow. I fell into a major depression and developed PTSD. I was in a bad place and alone. I didn’t want to live. The point is, I know obstacles, I know fear, I know how to work hard just for the everyday things.

That’s why this business is so important to me. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, to live, to not give up. I was built in a world that wasn’t made for me, so I was always having to adapt, work and make my own opportunities. I started Hands Healing Hounds after getting my canine massage certification. My dog Shatzki was sick with cancer and I wanted to try anything else I could to help her. I was told she had two months and she lived one year. I am convinced massage helped her and I wanted to share that with the world.

Caring for dogs, be it massage, dog sitting etc. isn’t about the money for me. It never has been. It’s about helping dogs heal emotionally, physically and spiritually, and in turn helping their owners. It’s so hard knowing mentally you’re capable of doing a job but physically you can’t. Doing this job requires taking risks, working hard and stepping out of my comfort zone. I have social anxiety and PTSD episodes, so talking to people on the phone and visiting businesses is hard, but I do it because I believe in my business.

Owning this business provides me with a feeling of success and accomplishment because I’m making a difference and contributing to society. I’m so proud to have made it three years doing what I love, and I hope to make it many more. I am writing this through tears as I know how much work this has taken, how many sleepless nights, how many lost friends. I just hope Shatzki and Buddy are proud of me. I want to do right by them. I’ve made it my mission to care for every dog that comes to me and I hope I can keep doing that for a very long time, no matter what obstacles come my way.

Getty image by Rasulovs.