Fill To Capacity (Where Heart, Grit and Irreverent Humor Collide)

Two Moms, One Mission: Inclusive Fashion For All

May 11, 2024 Pat Benincasa Episode 74
Two Moms, One Mission: Inclusive Fashion For All
Fill To Capacity (Where Heart, Grit and Irreverent Humor Collide)
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Fill To Capacity (Where Heart, Grit and Irreverent Humor Collide)
Two Moms, One Mission: Inclusive Fashion For All
May 11, 2024 Episode 74
Pat Benincasa

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, Joanne DiCamillo and Nikki Puzzo, founders of befree, an innovative adaptive clothing line designed for people with limited mobility share their unstoppable journey! Inspired by Nikki’s daughter Stella’s post-surgery needs, Joanne and Nikki transformed a simple idea, zipOns into a groundbreaking solution that offers comfort, ease, and dignity to those who need it most. But zipOns quickly caught on with anglers, athletes, and outdoor enthusiasts.  

Join us as Joanne and Nikki share their intergenerational journey, from the challenges of prototyping and manufacturing to the impact their clothing has had on customers’ lives. Discover how befree’s adaptive clothing is redefining normal, providing freedom, and enhancing the daily lives of individuals with disabilities and for their caregivers.

Through trials, feedback, and a relentless belief in their mission, Joanne and Nikki have mainstreamed adaptive fashion that challenge norms making stylish, functional clothing accessible to all. Learn how they navigated the fashion industry without prior experience, evolved their products, and envision the future of inclusive fashion.

Tune in to be inspired by their story of innovation and dogged commitment to inclusivity, one zipOn at a time!

Today's episode is brought to you by the Joan of Arc Scroll Medal, a beautiful brass alloy medal, designed by award-winning artist, Pat Benincasa. This uniquely shaped medal is ideal for holiday or as a special occasion gift!    Visit www.patbenincasa-art.com
For international listeners the medal is available on Etsy.

Joan of Arc Scroll Medal
This brass alloy medal can be worn on a necklace, a keychain, dogtags, on a bag, or in your car.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.


Please Note: The views expressed by our guests do not necessarily reflect the views of the podcaster.

Follow me on Instagram!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, Joanne DiCamillo and Nikki Puzzo, founders of befree, an innovative adaptive clothing line designed for people with limited mobility share their unstoppable journey! Inspired by Nikki’s daughter Stella’s post-surgery needs, Joanne and Nikki transformed a simple idea, zipOns into a groundbreaking solution that offers comfort, ease, and dignity to those who need it most. But zipOns quickly caught on with anglers, athletes, and outdoor enthusiasts.  

Join us as Joanne and Nikki share their intergenerational journey, from the challenges of prototyping and manufacturing to the impact their clothing has had on customers’ lives. Discover how befree’s adaptive clothing is redefining normal, providing freedom, and enhancing the daily lives of individuals with disabilities and for their caregivers.

Through trials, feedback, and a relentless belief in their mission, Joanne and Nikki have mainstreamed adaptive fashion that challenge norms making stylish, functional clothing accessible to all. Learn how they navigated the fashion industry without prior experience, evolved their products, and envision the future of inclusive fashion.

Tune in to be inspired by their story of innovation and dogged commitment to inclusivity, one zipOn at a time!

Today's episode is brought to you by the Joan of Arc Scroll Medal, a beautiful brass alloy medal, designed by award-winning artist, Pat Benincasa. This uniquely shaped medal is ideal for holiday or as a special occasion gift!    Visit www.patbenincasa-art.com
For international listeners the medal is available on Etsy.

Joan of Arc Scroll Medal
This brass alloy medal can be worn on a necklace, a keychain, dogtags, on a bag, or in your car.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.


Please Note: The views expressed by our guests do not necessarily reflect the views of the podcaster.

Follow me on Instagram!


Pat
Fill To Capacity where heart grit and irreverent humor collide. A podcast for people too stubborn to quit and too creative not to make a difference.

 Pat
Hi, I am Pat Benincasa and welcome to Fill To Capacity, Today, episode number 74. "Two Moms, One Mission: Inclusive Fashion For All." My guests are Joanne DiCamillo and Nikki Puzzo, two resourceful mothers with really an intergenerational story to share, that includes Nikki's daughter, Stella and DiCamillo's mother. 

Now Puzzo and DiCamillo founded befree, an adaptive clothing line for those with limited mobility. And you know, they've been in a lot of articles and magazines, and they were featured on CBS News and NBC Boston News just to name a few. 

By the way, adaptive clothing is designed to help people with limited mobility dress comfortably, easily, and with dignity. Whether people are in a wheelchair, leg braces, or a cast, adaptive clothing can make all the difference. 

And as I was on the befree website, there was a wonderful quote: “Our goal is to offer a product that provides freedom during a time when freedom feels so far away.” With that said, welcome Joanne and Nikki. So nice to have you here.

Nikki
Thanks Pat. So good to be here. Yeah, thanks for having us. 

Pat
So can you tell us how did befree come about?

Nikki
So, my daughter Stella, has cerebral palsy, as you mentioned, and when she was five years old, she went in for double hip surgery. And that type of recovery, basically you are in two casts on both legs with a bar in between. And it's literally impossible to dress somebody for that. 

Stella also suffers from like a very bad anxiety. I knew that having cast on her legs for three months would be very difficult for her. And so I went out and I just bought a pair of pajama bottoms. I had taken 'em apart at the outer seam and sewed some Velcro, and I was able to basically open the pants up and sit her in them and put them around her casts and her legs. And it was really, truly a major game changer for Stella as she was like more willing to go out and have people come visit and things like that.

Nikki
'Cause she wasn't covered, like the doctors really were like, oh, you know, just put her in long T-shirts and dresses and blankets. I'm like, well that is miserable. Who wants to sit in that for three months? You know? So basically that's how the concept of befree came about. 

And when we were at her post-op appointment and then she was wearing them, the surgeon at Children's was just basically Nikki, these are amazing. So many people ask us what to dress their kids in. You should really think about making them. 

Joanne and I have been friends for a really long time, and she was over visiting Stella and we started talking about it and I was showing her the pants and how the doctors were so impressed and they were like, you need to make these. It will help so many people. So we decided to take a stab at it.

 Pat 
And then how did you come up with the prototype for what you wanted to market? How did you do that?

Joanne 
So, like Nikki said, when I was over one day and she showed me the pants, it was sort of, it was really mind blowing that something was such a simple design could be so impactful. 

Pants had opened on the outside, it sounds so simple, but yet they weren't available and it just changed Stella's recovery dramatically. So when she told me about them, I was like, well, you know, my mom has been sewing all my life. She's so talented. I was like, she could easily make some of these. She can make 'em for you. And so Nikki and I, neither one of us had any fashion experience. The more we talked about it and the more we realized like, these don't exist, but we wanna get them out there. My mother was the first one. She made us so many different prototypes to try. 

Joanne 
So as Nikki said, we started with the Velcro and then we realized that that doesn't wash too well. So we switched from Velcro to snaps, and then that was a little cumbersome and it puts a lot of pressure on the fabric. So we thought, well, maybe snap tape that was also cumbersome to have to do all the snaps. So then we settled on zippers. 

We threw that all and my mother made us samples of each of the different types of prototypes, and we had people try them. We took in their feedback and then we changed it. And then we got to a point with the zippers that we were happy with the functionality of it and the basic design. She made us a first pattern that then we were able to take to a manufacturer. But we weren't done yet though, because after that we really wanted to get input from the medical standpoint because we knew a lot of our customers would be people who are recovering from surgery or who had paralysis.

 Joanne 
We met with a nursing director at Mass General Hospital, and she really helped us with some crucial feedback that said, you know, we have to make sure that the zippers are covered completely all on the inside and even up over the waist, so that there wouldn't be any part that could cause irritation on the skin, especially if someone didn't have much sensitivity or had a paralysis and they wouldn't know that it was causing a breakdown which could lead to infection. So we went back to the drawing board one more time, and we figured out a flange that would cover the zipper in the interior, and that would fold over on the waist as well. And then that got us to our final design, which we submitted, and we were granted design and utility patents for as well.

Pat
I'm curious, how old was your mother when you went to her and said, Hey mom, do you mind just doing this, you know, sewing a few things? How old was she? 

Joanne 
86.

Pat
Oh, bless her heart! Okay. Well it sounds like Joanne, you come by it honestly, uh, both of you with that can do kind of attitude. It's one thing to have a good idea, but then to go through the mechanics of trying to do like research and design, but you weren't a major corporation, the fact that you had to do all that legwork yourself is really interesting. 

As I was getting ready for this podcast, I, I wanted to know the history of adaptive clothing, and I realized it had a really interesting history. Starting in the Industrial revolution. You're looking at 1760 to 1840 fashion shifted to mass-produced factory-made clothing leading to one size fits all. And then when you fast forward to mid 20th century when people were coming back from World War II with injuries and amputations, they needed clothing to fit their changing needs.

Pat
So between 1955 and 76, nearly 30% of the top US designers created the Functional Fashion Line, which aim to serve what they called “disabled bodies.” But then adaptive clothing largely disappeared from the market. And it wasn't until 2014’s New York Fashion Week when Danielle Sheypuk rolled her wheelchair down the runway that heads turned and adaptive clothing got attention. This movement really caught on when actress Selma Blair told the public about having MS. And then other actors came forward about their disabilities. So you can kinda say the cultural winds of change swept through the style industry. And some of the big brands like Tommy Hilfiger, they did introduce trendier options for adaptive clothing. And in the last few years, adaptive fashion and disability representation has finally gained a foothold in the fashion industry as people challenge what fashion is and who does it belong to

So with that said, you mentioned that you got a patent, but how were you able to navigate the fashion industry with no prior experience going into it and, and getting, getting somebody interested in what you were doing?

Joanne 
It's a lot of, like, even just the prototype was a lot of trial and error. Getting the production made was also for us, a lot of trial and error with different manufacturers. Because when we first started, obviously we were very small and we still are. And by the time we had met with the nursing director at Mass General, and we had redesigned, several, that was several times. At that point, we were really ready to get into production. It was the end of 2019, right when Covid was hitting, unfortunately, timing was pretty bad on that. Up until that point we had just made very small quantities and we're still kind of using it basically for feedback. And so it, it really was a lot of trial and errors trying to get up and running with different manufacturers. I think that was the hard part for us, not having a lot of experience.

Joanne
Yeah. was a little challenging. And then unfortunately we were shut down for probably just about two years for much of Covid because manufacturing was so hard to come by at that point. And us being so small, it just, it was really nearly impossible. So we did finally manage to get a production run out and it delivered in March of 2022 when we launched our new website. 

Although we've been at it for a while, it seems like that was really our launching date. And you know, unfortunately being shut down with Covid, our budgets were really tight at that point, so we didn't really have a lot for advertising and marketing. So I would say in the beginning it was really a lot of word of mouth. Since then, we have small budget that we work with a PR company and we started doing a little bit of advertising, very small budget. But I would say the bulk, I think definitely when we started off was definitely word of mouth and social media

Pat 
Well that's amazing because when word gets around, that's a very effective tool.

Joanne 
Absolutely.

Pat 
How did you not lose your minds when Covid hit? You had this incredible idea that will really make a difference in people's lives and then Covid happens. How did you not just just say forget it, or just go crazy, or maybe you did. 

Nikki 

I don't know, I think it was a little combination, but I think for us, we knew that our product was helping people. I think that's what kept us motivated. We had clients that were interested in wanting pants. And so I think, and we knew the benefit that it had on Stella and our other people that tried it out, that I think that kept us motivated to know, to keep going and hang in there. And just, we really truly believe in our product and we get such great feedback from our customers that I think that was our motivator.

Pat 
Can you get into the mechanics of how adaptive clothing impacts the daily lives and provides independence with  people who have limited mobility?

Nikki
Well, from my experience with my daughter, I think that I see her struggling getting dressed and undressed. And my personal goal with befree was to provide a sense of freedom for her in that she can go pick out clothes and have options, but also dress herself or with minimal assistance. Those are the things that I think people don't, they kind of take for granted a little bit. You know, how easy it is for an able body person to put their pants on by themselves and their shoes and things like that. And seeing her struggle with that was very hard. And I wanted to change that for her and knowing that it could impact so many people, which it's amazing how much a pair of pants can change someone's day, really. And shoes. So I think that's something that I'm happy to see that that in the industry is changing and evolving and starting to get on board with. This has to be the norm. It has to be something that's in every department store.

Pat 
Yes. What's noticeable is how much people with other abilities or limited mobility are now in advertisements. You see it now more and more like Target. It's just a wonderful thing to see seep into the culture . That  hey, everybody's different. And in that sense, they're no different than other human beings.

Nikki
Right.

Pat 
So, it has been quite a sea change in advertising to see that, you know, you mentioned feedback from your customers. How has that feedback influenced the, the evolution of your products? What kind of feedback do you get?

Joanne 
Well, I think if we go back, I think the first one, and when you ask like, what kept us going was we had feedback from a mother whose son, after his surgery, refused to leave the house. And it was just before Christmas. And we sent them a pair of pants and after he was able to put pants on, they went to a Christmas party and something like that. If we ever doubted like, should we keep doing this or whatever, we realized like that kind of feedback was so important to us. So that like, was very motivational. But I think we've got great feedback, like pockets, people wanted very deep pockets. So we didn't have that initially on some, our first rendition of our adult pants, we started off with just one fabric, a lightweight fabric. And then, you know, we got feedback that some people run cold and they, they want a heavier weight fabric.

Joanne 
So then we, we also offer a heavier weight fabric now, and then,  I think we have requests for shorts. So we have long pants now and we have shorts for adults. And a draw cord, I'm trying to think like all the different things for kids for waist too. So to have to make it more adjustable. So we added a draw cord and we really just basically listen to all, any features that our customers think of that they think, oh, this would make these pants better. Every time we do a production run, we kind of add something new into it. Especially sizes, actually. Now the last production run we did, we added tall sizes to almost all of our regular sizes. Okay. And then we added some short sizes as well.

Pat 
So you really are responsive to what your customers are saying.

Nikki 
Absolutely. Yeah.

Pat 
That's wonderful. Now Nikki, I know living with Stella and being so involved, almost you wanna say from the inside out. Joanne, I'd like to ask you, in what ways has creating adaptive clothing touched your life personally? And what has it taught you about the needs and experiences of the limited mobility community? What would you say?

Joanne 
Well, first thing if I think back to my initial reaction when Nikki first showed me the pants was I've just taken this for granted my entire life. I've never really thought about putting on pants. It was just something I never had to think about. So first I think, you know, that's pretty mind opening when you realize that something, that simple basic task of getting dressed is a very significant hardship for millions of people. So that was very impactful to think of that. And then again, there's a lot of like putting yourself in other people's shoes and talking to the customers the way we do every day and seeing again, how something just so simple changes their lives. We've been seeing more and more too with adults, it's a spouse helping a spouse, their spouse get dressed, and something that could be a difficult kind of stressful situation. It, it makes it better. And again, you're not in their shoes, you're not living their experience. You don't have to go through that hardship. But it's not hard to imagine anymore what that's like because you hear from people day in and day out that they have to deal with this. So it certainly makes you open up your eyes a lot more to understanding everybody else's experiences. Yeah.

 Pat 
You kind of segued into what I was gonna ask you. In a world where “normal” often refers to ease of movement and routine for able-bodied individuals like showering, dressing, like you're talking about, no one thinks about throwing their jeans on getting ready for the day or walking to work or climbing steps. 

So now you're redefining normal through the lens of someone with limited mobility. What does normal look like then?

Joanne
Well, for our goal, I think normal looks like you can go online, or you can go in a store and you can shop for clothes the way anyone else would. That you are not limited to this tiny little selection or you don't have to buy clothes that then you have to alter to fit your needs. So normal in the fashion sense should be that it's mainstream enough that it, it's out there everywhere. Like Nikki was saying, it should be in every department store, it should be in every online store. So it's just a normal experience of buying clothes and not that you have to search online endlessly to find a company that makes adaptive clothing.

Pat 
Yeah. In a, in a way you're tying the word normal to independence, dignity of movement. And so that whole notion of normal, of course normal is always overrated when you say normal. Good lord. Especially post covid normal has really changed. 

Joanne 
What’s normal anymore? Right?

Pat 
I don't even know what the hell normal even is. But just what you're doing for someone who has limited mobility, you've created a standard of normal like, Hey, I can get dressed. That's a no brainer. I can do it myself. I mean that seems huge that that is now something they don't even think about. And not only are you providing that, it's like cool badass styles, especially for teenagers. I taught high school and kids really are aware of what they put on. And so the fact that you're making it stylish, hip and easy to do really ties in with how people see themselves.

Joanne 
Absolutely. And our goal too is right now we just have a couple of basic styles that we started off that we launched with. But you know, we have a long list of other styles that we wanna get to as soon as we can. And again, listening to our customers and to Stella who's a big inspiration, leggings are huge. Every woman wears leggings and wants to wear leggings. So we have that in the works, but also just thinking any kind of pants. Like the normal should be, you can have whatever style of pants you want with the zippers that make them easy to get on and off. So we have cargo pants, jeans, dressier pants, joggers, all on our radar and kind of in a queue for things that we are, we're working on.

Pat 
How about tops? Have you thought about doing clothing like for outerwear or for blouses, tops and shirts?

Nikki 
We have, we actually prototyped a couple with a few friends that had arm surgery that is also on our radar. Yeah. We do get requests for tops and that is something we'd like to eventually add to our, our line.

Pat 
Also in the sense that, again, just from being in a high school, when kids break their arm or their leg, they're suddenly put in that other world of limited mobility. For that matter, any of us who have had broken bones, sprains or surgeries suddenly find that life in the fast lane slows down. Things like putting on a shirt, tying shoes or taking a shower are actions that now need to be negotiated. So it seems like you're serving a broader population here.

Joanne 
Yeah, definitely. And you know, again, at first when we started the company, we created them thinking of post-surgery recovery. But then as we have been doing it, there's, they're so versatile they, I mean there's things we've never could've ever have thought of. We have some customers who bought them for fishing because it's cold in the morning and then it gets hot in the afternoon and they don't wanna have to take their boots off if they have shorts on underneath so they can just unzip the pants and they don't have to take their boots off customers who bought them for horseback riding so that the, like the pristine horseback riding pants can stay nice and clean until it's time for the competition. And then you just take your zip ons off and there you go. And of course with the big riding boots, you don't wanna be taking those on and off Ice skaters hockey, a woman who does birding actually just bought a pair last week because same thing she says very cold in the morning, gets hot in the afternoon and you wanna be able to take your pants off easily as you're out in the forest or wherever you are watching the birds.

Joanne 
So it's incredible just the different uses that they have beyond just the post-surgery and recovery and for use of, and mobility.

Pat
So with all these different needs, do you experiment with fabrics like waterproof, stain resistant? 

Joanne 
Well, so again, we're a little bit slow to be getting other styles out there, but we are for like, for example, the leggings and these other ones that we have in the works, we definitely are, and we would love to offer, we have thought about waterproof and different, um, materials for golf pants and, and different things that we've also had a lot of interest in. So those are things that we're working on. But we did do a lot of research to pick the fabric that we do currently use because again, we were trying to fit as many needs as we could. So we wanted something that was lightweight and breathable and moisture wicking that would dry very fast. Yeah. But yet still looked casual but not too casual. So we did a lot of research to get to the fabrics that we use. Now,

Pat
In terms of the work that you're doing, do you envision a wider or broader audience appeal? It sounds like you are, when you talk about people fishing, horseback riding, you are now expanding beyond a specialized fashion into fashion with broader applications from what you started out. So that makes you, it makes your availability of what you're doing much wider. Did you ever expect that?

Nikki 
Probably not when we first started. Yeah. Yeah. It's been fun to see what people decide to use them for.

Pat
Well it's such a good idea. 

Nikki 
Yeah.

Pat 
I can remember, growing up, uh, a million years ago, the snowsuit .Okay. Any mom knows about the snowsuit and putting a toddler in one of those and how you had to really fight and put it on. It was really tough to do, but you're designing clothing that you can just zip on, zip off, which you can't beat for ease of use.

Joanne 
Yeah. You know, another area that's really interesting is partly a result of Covid is there were so many nursing homes that shut down. So there are a lot of adults that are living at home with family members that maybe normally wouldn't have. Or there's a lot of adult daycare centers that have now opened up and that's where adults are spending their day. And like caregivers too, like agencies that send a caregiver to the house, those are also booming. So again, this wasn't what we thought about when we started 'cause it was all thinking about Stella in the beginning. But for the elderly or adults with limited mobility who need a caregiver to help them get dressed, this is also life changing because again, you mentioned dignity before. That's so important when someone might need to be changed several times a day that with our pants, it's so quick and so easy and it takes away a lot of that awkwardness and the stress,

Pat 
Any way to make a situation less awkward is such a relief. So really what you're talking about is not just the person with limited mobility, but when we consider caregivers and family members, that is a huge piece of that. And especially now with boomers aging out. There are so many millennials taking care of their parents. Talk about a good idea at the right time. I know Covid interrupted, but this seems like one of those ideas that is timeless because of its multiple application. It just seems like the sky's the limit on this.

Joanne 
Right. And if you think of,  if we can get to all different kinds of styles too, then you can have just any kind of pants you want in this really easy to put on and put off style. So Yeah. And it even opens it up tremendously more.

Pat 
I was even thinking for athletes,  runners, if they had to come off the track, you can just throw these on.  

Joanne
Right. Yeah.

Pat
Do you guys ever pinch yourselves and say this is a good idea? I hope you guys really do that and just see what an incredible thing you have.

Pat
Now, the other day the BBC had an article, and it was John McFall para astronaut on a mission to open up space. And John is a former para-Olympian working with the European Space Agency on a groundbreaking study to see if it's feasible for someone with physical disability to live and work in space. Well, John's about halfway through this project and so far, has not found anything that would stand in the way of a mission. And he said he's convinced that he made the right choice because this could change people's perceptions. And then he went on to say, I'd like to think that it will broaden the horizons and their knowledge of what someone with physical disability is capable of. But I also hope that they see me as just John, because I am just John and I wanna be an astronaut and I happen to have a physical disability. What do you think of that attitude? What does that speak to you?

Nikki
I love that attitude. I have always told Stella that she can do anything she puts her mind to. She has done gymnastics, she skis, she is right now doing track. There's no, I feel like anything she wants to do, we find a way to make it happen. And I've always approached everything with her that way. Yeah. And she's embraced it. I love that part of her. And  I love that attitude.

Pat 
Well, that's wonderful. You know, we are our words. We are our words. So when we say things like, oh, I did this, it was stupid, or, oh, this, and then it's not gonna work. We are what we say, actually we are our thoughts. So the fact that the physical limitations don't play into the attitude, I wanna do this, I wanna do gymnastics, I'll do gymnastics. So, God, that's just really amazing. And I can't think of a better way to approach the world, quite frankly. 

You know, after I read that article, I kept thinking about you guys and I was looking at that article and thinking about befree. And I was thinking that the connection between a para-astronaut and what you do at befree is this:  In order to do anything, one has to feel their own agency.

Pat
So, in other words, be unencumbered by the most basic tasks like getting dressed or having mobility to move freely in your everyday life. 'cause only then can you realize your dreams. I mean, even if it means hurling through space!  And I think you allow so many people to have that kind of freedom and agency to go about their lives. That’s just amazing. That's why I've been after you. I know we postponed several times, but I thought, I'm not gonna let them go. People need to hear about this. This is so incredible. 

So I have to ask you, what's your vision for the future of adaptive clothing and how do you see, be free shaping that landscape?

Nikki
Go ahead, Joanne.

Joanne 
On what we said before is we just want it to be mainstream adaptive clothing. Again, it should be in every store, should be online, easy to find. And when you see a fashion show, you should see some people in wheelchairs, some people, maybe on crutches, some amputees. And it's not like, oh, there's an adaptive fashion show and there's a fashion show. There's a fashion show with fashion for all. So everybody's represented in the fashion show. Everybody's represented on the ads that we're seeing for fashion. Everyone's represented in the stores by the clothes that are being offered. And you know, for our part in that is we're just gonna keep producing all these great styles that we can and offer as many options as we can so that it, it gets to be mainstream, commonplace.

Joanne
And one other thing that we're really trying to push is an idea about inclusion for adaptive clothing. Because sometimes some of the adaptive clothing that's out there, it, it is costly to produce and it's expensive. So we have always tried to do is we didn't want people to pay a premium for adaptive clothing. So we've tried to keep our prices in line with, mainstream clothing, how you wanna say? Yeah. You don't feel like you're, you're paying a premium for that. So that's a goal of ours also is just to keep it the price where it should be. And one thing we also did is we partnered with a local nonprofit in our town, and there's some information about it on our website because we also didn't want financial hardship to ever stand in the way of anyone getting adaptive clothing. So this wonderful nonprofit called the Jauron Family Foundation has agreed to purchase pants and send them to anybody who would need them, but may not be able to afford them. Okay.

Pat 
And what's the name of the foundation again?

Joanne
It's the Jauron Family Foundation. And on our website, yeah, there's a little blurb on our website. It's a very simple process. You just send an email and send in a request. Um, and they're very responsive and they take care of it. And that, you know, we, we really wanted our part to make sure that there weren't obstacles to getting our clothing.

Pat
I will put in the show notes, not only your website, but I'll put them as well, the foundation. But that was one concern I was gonna ask you with the, with everything escalating in cost right now post Covid, I mean, that must be a battle for you to keep the cost down. Yes.

Nikki 
It can be challenging. Yes, absolutely.

Joanne
Yeah. Right. Very much. And I, I think we're, we're sort of just trying to be very patient. Like we were very patient through Covid and just knowing that as we grow and as our quantities grow and as we scale, that will bring our costs down. So we're just sort of riding it out until we get to where we need to be for that. 

Pat
You know, for those out there who are inspired by your story and may face their own unique challenges, what advice would you give them about turning a personal need into a universal solution?

Nikki
I think, like Joanne, I always say, if there's a will, there's a way. And if there's something that you come up with an idea that is helping solve a problem for yourself, most likely it's going to help solve a problem for somebody else. And I just think that you need to believe in, in yourself enough to follow through with that. That's actually a real thing. We saw something solving a simple problem for Stella and knowing that would help so many people, not in the way that it ended up in so many different areas that we have now discovered. But I do believe that if you find a solution to something that for yourself, you know, that there's gonna be a, it's gonna help somebody else. And and I do believe that, you know, that you need to just trust yourself. You're gonna get a lot of nos along the way and a lot of bumps and hurdles, but you just gotta stay the course and keep believing and moving forward with it. I think that's kind of how we made it this far. 

Pat
Joanne, do you wanna add to that?

Joanne 
Well definitely bumps along the way for sure. And yeah, you know, I think we do say like every time when someone would say no or we, you know, we would feel a little discouraged, we'd have to just say, no way. You know what? That, that's just a way to grow and keep going. And to really like trust and believe in yourself. And, you know, again, Nikki and I starting out with really no fashion experience, you know, I think sometimes we really did feel intimidated and the more experience we've had, we gained confidence to say, you know, we, we do kind of know what we're doing. We can't be deterred by anyone, or something negative that happens that wants to take you off the track that you're going on. So we've learned to really trust ourselves, have more confidence, and keep the goal in mind and keep at it.

Pat
Well, obviously it's paying off. I can't imagine the number of lives you've touched. Well, Joanne and Nikki, here's to befree- clothing the world in comfort and possibility

Thank you so much for joining FTC today.  I'm just so delighted to be able to have you talk about the wonderful products that you're making for kids and for people, for everybody. This was really special. Listeners, if you've enjoyed today's podcast, please subscribe, and tell your friends. Thank you. Bye.

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Empowering Adaptive Clothing Through Innovation
Creating Adaptive Clothing for Limited Mobility
Redefining Normal With Adaptive Clothing
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Clothing the World in Comfort