Thursday, January 12, 2012

Entrepreneur with Special Needs

I first heard about Barb from some locals on Pine Island.   Barb owns and operates a produce stand on Pine Island in Florida. Barb and her family moved to Pine Island from New York several years ago.  I was told Barb has Down syndrome, after meeting her I doubt that is the case, although she does have some sort of cognitive disability. I find her entrepreneurial story fascinating and unfortunately rare.

I write this post in hopes that many other people with disabilities will have the chance to create a life for themselves as Barb has done.  Undoubtedly Barb has had help but as Goethe says, ‘Act boldly and mighty forces will come to your aid.’

Barb agreed to photos and an interview, here is her story:

Barb owns and operates a produce stand on Pine Island in Saint James City, Florida.  Barb’s produce stand is a simple stand open every day except Wednesdays.   On Wednesdays Barb goes to the Farmer’s market and buys produce.  Barb says she often gets the same produce items but she likes to try new produce from time to time.

Barb didn’t plan on opening her own produce stand, it all started soon after she moved to Pine Island.  A friend at the time owned a produce stand and asked her to work at the stand, that’s where it all began.  Barb did not expand on the circumstances of how the stand became her stand but she now owns the produce stand and runs it independently.

Barb’s stand in the parking lot of another business next to the main road, Barb doesn’t have her driver’s license so she drives a golf cart to work.  Normally in small towns transportation is an issue, Pine Island with its bike paths makes a golf cart a perfect mode of transportation.  Barb’s golf cart was decorated with gold garland, it is the holiday season, when I mentioned the decorated golf cart Barb told me her family decorated the golf cart. 

Barb has all of her produce on display in small baskets.  I was told if you ask Barb how much her produce is, for instance green onions, she will point to the sign behind her back with the prices of her produce.   On the day I met Barb I bought two oranges, I asked how much they were and she told me a dollar. 

Barb has been running her produce stand for several years.  Ten years ago her stand was blown away by Hurricane Charlie, Barb said she knew it wouldn’t survive the storm.  After the hurricane several people on Pine Island donated money to buy Barb a new stand and a golf cart.  Barb said she really likes her new stand, she said the roof on the old stand would leak when it rained. 

Barb’s story is a simple story, but a great one.  If anyone knows of any other entrepreneurs with disabilities please post their story here, maybe it will inspire others.

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