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podcast transcript: When Life Hands You Lemons, Turn it into a Business

Posted in accessibility, Blind Business Owners, Blindness Resources, Career, Disability, education, Goals, Make Money, Marriage, Nontraditional Jobs, Podcast Episodes, Podcast Transcripts, rehabilitation, and Skilled Trades

“You, you just have to hustle. In life, you don’t get very far if you stand still.”

This episode comes from 2 interviews Chris conducted during the ACB National Convention in 2022 with members of IVIE.

Audio Format

You can find the audio version of this podcast here.

 

Transcript

Pre-episode Intro

 

Edward: You, you just have to hustle. In life, you don’t get very far if you stand still.

 

Chris: This is the Penny Forward podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time.  I’m Chris Peterson.

 

Liz: And I’m Liz Bottner.

 

Chris: We are blind people learning from each other how to be successful in our personal, professional, and financial lives.

 

Liz: Do you want to bring in more money by starting a business, but you’re not sure what you can do? Networking with other business owners is a great way to learn how to turn your ideas into a thriving business. It is also a great way to find inspiration. In this episode, you’ll hear two interviews with blind business owners Chris recorded at the American Council of the Blind national conference and convention, which took place in Omaha Nebraska in July 2022. You’ll learn about the products and services each business offers, and what it took to get each business off the ground.

 

Liz: Before we start, we’d like to thank Ron and Lisa Brookes, at Accessible Avenue, for sponsoring the Penny Forward podcast. I’m sure many of us have experienced frustration and uncertainty when trying to use public transportation or paratransit services that are either inaccessible, or just poorly designed for meeting our needs. Accessible Avenue works with transit agencies and other mobility providers to make transportation services accessible for everyone, including those of us who are blind or visually impaired. Accessible Avenue also works with individuals and organizations who need training or assistance with public transportation problems. You can learn more at

www.accessibleavenue.net

 

Chris: We’d also like to thank Kane Brolin of Brolin Wealth Management for sponsoring the podcast. Investing doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s never too late to take action. But depending on how far away your goals are, the decisions you need to make will be very different. Kane Brolin is a blind certified financial planner, and chartered special needs consultant, who may be able to help you, no matter how much you have, or what stage of life you are in. Learn more by visiting
brolinwealth.com
or by calling 574-254-7180.

 

Chris: So I’m here with Ardis Bazyn, she’s the president of Ivie, and we’re at the … What do you call this? The Blind Business Expo?

 

Ardis: Yeah, it’s called the Business Expo.

 

Chris: Okay.

 

Ardis: We’re blind business owners showcasing products and services.

 

Chris: Okay, and she’s here as a business owner, and also as the president of Ivie, and uh, can we talk briefly about Ivie, and what it is and what it does?

 

Ardis: Sure. Ivie stands for the Independent Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs. We’re a group of business owners, and some of our members are just wanting to know more about creating a business. And we have a website where we share lots of resources for business owners. We also have a monthly call, we call “Entrepreneur Exchange,” and we have it on a different topic every month relating to business ownership. We also have occasional calls on other topics, and we try to share information of interest for business owners.

 

Chris: How long has Ivie been around?

 

Ardis: It started in 1982 I believe.

 

Chris: A long time.

 

Ardis: So it’s been around for forty years.

 

Chris: Wow.

 

Ardis: It’s an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, and it was started so that business owners who might not at first feel, you know, that ACB is for them, but they’re business owners, so they’ve joined Ivie, and then they find out, “Hey. ACB has lots of things for blind people.” And so it’s a good affiliation.

 

Chris: Yeah. It really is. Talk to me about your business, though. Um, how long have you been doing it and what is it that you do?

 

Ardis: Okay, I’ve had this current business for twenty-two years. The name of my business is Bazyn Communications, and my name is Ardis Bazyn, so I just used my last name. I do speaking, business coaching, and writing, and I also do some braille transcription for people when requested. But my primary services are the speaking, business coaching and writing. I mostly work with entrepreneurs wanting to either start, build, or improve their business. You know, helping them with goal setting, helping them with particular things that they need help doing. I also help organizations by coordinating events, and helping them to do things that they don’t have time to do. Speaking, my most requested topic is “secrets to coping with challenges and change,” and writing, I’ve helped people with lots of different writing projects, from helping them write content for a website, writing a PR article, or article for a specific publication, or sometimes just critiquing what they’ve written to kind of tweak it a little bit to make it sound a little bit more professional, or more PR related.

 

Chris: Okay. How did you get started with that?

 

Ardis: Well, I used to be in food service management. With the Randolph Shepherd program, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that, and it’s a food service program that’s through the Department of Rehab in each state, where you manage a food service facility, where it’s mostly in state, federal, or sometimes private locations, but mostly state and federal. And I first got started by doing that. So that’s also entrepreneurship, but it’s in food service. Well while I was in that, I decided to go back and go to college, got my BA’S in public relations, speech communication, and then my masters in teaching, because I really enjoyed the training aspect of the job more so than actually the food service part of it. (Laugh.) So I started this business and moved away from food service management.

 

Chris: And was that a gradual transition, or was that a, just a quick, (Snaps his fingers .) Snap your fingers, “I’m doing this now” kind of transition?

 

Ardis: No, actually, I started speaking, oh, 15 years before I transitioned into a new business. I first started just speaking at church groups, and nonprofit groups, schools, etc. talking about blindness, and how blind people could do whatever they wanted to do. And then I started training employees, or other blind people to be able to do food service management, and then I’ve always liked to write, so I like to write stories, trying to explain exactly what I do in a way that helps other people feel like they can try it, and I edit a newsletter for the Randolph Shepherd venders. So I just kind of progress, decided, “Well hey. I like doing these things better than I like doing food service management, so why don’t I just start a new business doing those things?” (Laugh.)

 

Chris: Was there a point then where you kind of knew what your business was going to look like, and um, and, how did you know that it was going to be successful and that you could kind of move away from food service and into this?

 

Ardis: Well, you know, you never know for sure, but when I … I was gonna be moving to California, ’cause I met this guy, you know, …

 

(They laugh together.)

 

Ardis: But I knew that in the Randolph Shepherd program, I’d have to start from scratch, ’cause each state has its own program

 

Chris: Okay.

 

Ardis: And I’d been in it for long enough that I didn’t want to have to start at the beginning again, go through all the training again, and since I’d gotten my masters in this, and I’d been doing it on the side, I just decided to go for it. And when I moved, I did apply for a bunch of jobs with the city, and try to get some employment on the side as I started the business, ’cause I wasn’t sure how successful it would be, but when I didn’t land any of those jobs that I had applied for, I just decided, “Hey, might as well just go full steam forward.” And I think once you decide you’re gonna do it, then you put your name out there, and I joined some networking organizations, which really helped me a lot. I thought, joining Business Network International, it’s an organization where people refer business to one another, they just allow one of each type of business in each chapter, that really has promoted my business. And then I joined American Business Women’s Association, a local chapter, and then I’ve gone to like, networking events at the chambers, and also, I volunteer for lots of organizations. So some of my clients have come from volunteer work. Like I volunteer for a voting company called Democracy Live.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Ardis: You might have heard of it.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Ardis: And so I do contact work with them, and talk to advocates, talk to my state officials, and do work for them, and then one of my nonprofits that I’ve done volunteer work, now they pay me a stipend to do a certain amount of work for them. ‘Cause they wanted me to do more than what I felt comfortable doing just as a volunteer. (Laugh.)

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Ardis: So sometimes, you know, work from a sense of what you’re familiar with and then find out, you know, what you can move forward with.

 

Chris: About how big is this? How many businesses are here and do you have a sense for what types are here?

 

Ardis: Right now, this time, we just have three businesses here, but it’s a variety of products, because some of us do more than one thing.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Ardis: Like, even though my … business coaching, speaking and writing are my key things, I do sell products, you know, like my large multipocketed tote bag, and it says “Making the Impossible Possible” on it, and then I also have some thumb drives, and some braille and print greeting cards. But the other people here sell a variety of things too. So, if you go around and talk to them, they can tell you about their products. But in Ivie, we have about twenty-four members right now, and a bunch of different types of businesses. But unfortunately, not everybody felt comfortable coming to the convention in person, so that limited the number of people that actually were actually doing a booth in person. (Laugh.)

 

Chris: So, along those lines, you were telling me before we started recording that uh, there are plans in the works to do something through Zoom so more people can participate?

 

Ardis: Yes. We’ve talked about doing a business expo online. And what that looks like, we were talking about like the first of November, having opportunities for businesses to sign up, and have a Zoom room for a certain period of time. And the period of time would depend on how many businesses sign up, and they would either use their own zoom line or one of our members could borrow their zoom line so they could come on, tell about the products and services, and also give them contact information so people could actually purchase their products from them. And we’re hoping that that will draw some new businesses in that haven’t been part of our group before, just because of the outreach, because we’re planning to do a bunch of marketing with all the state special interest affiliates, as well as, you know, with the list serves that all the organizations have, and outside ones too if possible. So, … (Laugh.)

 

Chris: Mhm. Do you have a sense for when that will be happening?

 

Ardis: We’re talking about the first of November. The, like the weekend right around the first, because we want it far enough ahead of Christmas so people can be thinking about what they want to buy for gifts.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Ardis: And then, then they can sell their products and services for Christmas presents. For different things that they feel people might want to give as gifts. Not that they have to give them as gifts, but, (Laugh.)

 

Chris: Right. It’s a good time, though. Yeah.

 

Ardis: Yeah, ’cause people sell their different products that people might want year round, and other things people think of more, you know, Christmas time.

 

Chris: Yeah. Um, so, do you want to give your contact information?

 

Ardis: Sure. Um, my name is spelled A-r-d-I-s, B-a-z-y-n, and my phone number is 818-238-9321, and my cell phone, if people want to reach me when I’m out of town, is 818-209-8684, and my email address is

abazyn at bazyncommunications.com

and that’s plural, communications.com

 

Chris: And where can people find out more about Ivie?

 

Ardis: Okay, Ivie, you can go to the Ivie website, which is

ivie-acb.org

and my website, I have

bazyncommunications.com

or

ardisbazyn.com

 

Chris: Great. Ardis, thank you very much.

 

Ardis: No problem.

 

Male Announcer: We’ll hear the conclusion of this interview in a moment, but first, a brief word from our sponsor.

 

Female Announcer: Looking for resources and services related to blindness and low vision? The trained staff of the American Printing House for the Blind Connect Center Information and Referral line are here to help. Call 1800-232-5463, or visit our website,

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to access our community connect calendar, our directory of services, as well as our websites. The APH Connect Center, providing resources to guide children, parents, adults, and job seekers who are blind or low vision to greater independence and success in their lives. Call 1800-232-5463, or visit
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for more information.

 

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Male Announcer: Is there something you’d like to talk about? Visit
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Chris: I’m here with Edward Cowen. He is the creator of a large print, daily planner, and he did this to solve his own problem, and found that other people were interested in having it too, and that turned into a business for him. So, Edward, it’s nice to meet you.

 

Edward: Thank you. And you as well.

 

Chris: So tell me your story.

 

Edward: My elevator story. Well, as you said, in 2014, I could not find a weekly planner that met my low vision needs, so I made my own, and started using it. In the next year, people saw it, asked me where they could buy one, and now, going on nine years, I’m still making them each year and selling more each year.

 

Chris: So, can you describe the planner a little bit and what kinds of problems you had with the things that were on the market and how you solved them?

 

Edward: Sure. It’s a great question. Well, it’s 8 and a half by eleven, it’s spiral bound, each of the daily cells are equivalent to about two three by five cards. So it’s a huge amount of writing space. I use all black ink, which a lot of them didn’t. The fonts are about fifty point, and the only thing that’s there is the date and the number. You know, “Monday the twelfth” sort of thing, occasionally a holiday, but the rest of it is wide open space, and I put a black edge around the outside of the pages because I would write off the paper, and I’m told that’s not an uncommon thing to do. So with that black edge, it just prevents it. Some people call it a “pen bumper,” which I thought was cute.

 

Chris: That is cute. And it’s a problem that I would never … That would never have occurred to me that that would even be a problem, but that’s really interesting. Um, I have my hand on, I think, one of your planners, out on the table here. How many pages is it?

 

Edward: Well, in printer talk, it’s seventy pages.

 

Chris: Okay.

 

Edward: But that’s because it’s printed on both sides.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Edward: It starts in the December of the current year, runs all the way through next year, and ends in the middle of the January of the following year. I include, besides each of the left page being Monday through Wednesday, and the right facing page being the rest of the week, in the beginning, each month have their own page, so if you need to see a month at a time, it’s there, and in the back are a number of lined pages, if you’ve ever used any bold lined writing paper, that’s what’s in the back, and you use that for notes. It’s got a laminated cover, and um, it’s just a very simple, but utilitarian, way to manage your daily schedule.

 

Chris: Yeah. It is very simple. And, it also feels very high quality. It feels like a notebook. The cover is very glossy and thickly laminated. The paper feels … (Sound of paper being handled.) Feels like good quality paper, not something that’s gonna rip real easily. How did you go about, once you decided that you needed this, how did you go about getting it made?

 

Edward: Well, the first step was to get my wife’s permission to do this crazy thing.

 

(Chris laughs.)

 

Edward: And then, I kind of have a background in project management and creative things, so I didn’t start off without a sense of how to get things made, but I started locally, I used a local printer, and did the first year, and found that there would be much less expensive ways to do it, and started calling around, but I used a lot of resources. I used Score, I used any resource I could find out there. Because I had never done a business like this, and there’s a lot to learn. I’ll tell you.

 

Chris: I’m sure. Um, all of that sounds kind of expensive. Was it kind of risky, or did it feel kind of risky to get this started?

 

Edward: Certainly there was a small amount, but I started off small; I only printed four hundred, and I managed to get a contract with the state, where I sold some, and then I started calling the companies that sell products online. Independent Living Aids, lighthouses for the blind, and once they saw it, they would order them, and I remember getting my first order for a hundred calendars, and I was so excited that, “This is actually gonna work.” So I broke even and a little bit. My wife thinks I make about twenty-five cents an hour doing this, though.

 

Chris: Okay. Well, that’s not nothing. Um, what’s it like to get a contract with the state? That sounds like a complicated thing to start with.

 

Edward: It is. I used to be on the other side, reviewing these, so I expected it to be a long, convoluted process, a lot of paperwork, and it was, but that’s only the first step. After that, you have to let people know who would want this that it’s available. And that’s where the real hard work comes from, and I’m always looking for help, for people who are good on the phone, and good with their computer, that might want to help me.

 

Chris: So talk to me about how you’ve let people know that this exists, and how you kind of decided that this was worth doing as a business in the first place.

 

Edward: Well, I’ll take the second question first. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to get where I am, and have what I have, and I saw this as, producing this, as my way of giving back to the low vision community. I was legally blind at the age of 45, and I’m now in my early seventies. So, besides just donating money and going to conventions, making this has been my way of giving back. And then the other products that I’m making and working on. As far as letting people know, it’s, well, in a way, we are doing one of the things that I used to do. Is I would shamelessly say, “Hey! Have you ever seen a product like this?” To the right person, and you were lucky enough to sit next to me, and have an inquisitive enough mind to follow up on it, but, um,  once you’ve been in the blind community for long enough, you start knowing that there are all kinds of outlets. Before there were podcasts, there were … uh, every state library puts out a newsletter, and there’s those kind of organizations. And now that the world of the internet is, is, we’re hip deep in it, there’s podcasts, and uh, you name it. And of course I have a website, and I am on Amazon, EZ2see Products, and, so that’s where most of my sales are now. You just have to hustle. In life, you don’t get very far if you stand still.

 

Chris: So you talked about other products that you’re, you have or that you’re developing. You want to talk more about that?

 

Edward: Well, I’ll talk about the one that’s currently on the table, and that is high contrast sticky note pads.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Edward: We’re all familiar with the 3 M Post it Note, which is a 3 by 3 yellow pad, and they’re very functional for all kinds of things, but they didn’t work for me as well, because, again, I would write off the edge.

 

Chris: Mhm.

 

Edward: So, these are the same sort of pads, but they have a black edge. So I call them “high contrast.” They fit precisely on any of the daily cells in my calendar, or if you use them anywhere else, they jump out at you with that black edge. So that was just another  example of something that’s out there, but let’s make it low vision friendly.

 

Chris: And I’m guessing that was a little bit easier to develop because you already knew how to get a, a notebook printed. Sticky notes can’t be that different.

 

Edward: True. True. Um, there are certain special printers who like to do this type of work. So when I found out that the fellow who, the company that did the calendars said, “No, you might try this others,” I tried them, they didn’t do it, I kept running, being persistent, in business and in life, pays off. I did eventually find a company that specializes in these sorts of things.

 

Chris: So, how did you decide on things like pricing in order to get this out on the market?

 

Edward: Um, if you ever listen to any TV ads, everything is “Nineteen ninety-five.”

 

(Chris laughs.)

 

Chris: Yup.

 

Edward: So, that’s how I started off, selling the first 2015 calendar. Fortunately, I didn’t have to live off the proceeds. And so, my margin between what I paid, and all my costs, and what I charge, was not that large. But I also knew that within the low vision community, a lot of people don’t have that much expendable income.

 

Chris: Yup.

 

Edward: And I did not want to price people out. Now over the years, the price has increased, but I’m always trying to keep, keep that in mind. I want, I don’t want people to be unable to buy something that would really help them.

 

Chris: Makes sense. Well, why don’t you go ahead, you started talking about this earlier, but why don’t you go ahead and shamelessly plug yourself now, and talk about all the places that people can find this, or get in touch with you if they want.

 

Edward: Very well. All right. Begin shameless plugging. Um, obviously, most people like to buy on Amazon, and if you search for my website, I’ll give you, I’ll spell the name of it. The letter E, as in Edward, Z as in Zebra, the numeral 2, and then see, as in see the pretty flower. S E E, all followed by, products.com

ez2seeproducts.com

on Amazon, my website is

ez2see products.com

we also have a phone number, which is 1800-234-8291. If you are with any kind of a large organization, we can also work out a deal as a fund raiser by calling that number, and what we can do is, we can set up something where there’s no money out of your pocket to set up this fund raiser. You’re not gonna be stuck with a box of M&M’s that you didn’t sell by the middle of the year. Those are the main things. You can reach me at info, I N F O, at ez2seeproducts.com

 

Chris: I noticed you had an 800 number. And not every small business does that. How important do you feel that is as a business owner to have an 800 number these days?

 

Edward: It is … it’s a juggling act. I only have that because I have a group of people who are helping me, and they set that up. But before that, I could not take phone orders. We also take mail orders. And many of my calendar sales were mail order sales to begin with. And if you call that phone number, they can give you the, the address to use, and we actually take checks, which I hear most people don’t do either. But that, again, is thanks to the company that I’m now working with to take some of the weight off of my shoulders.

 

Chris: Okay. Well Edward, thank you. This was very informative, and uh, uh, I hope that people that will find this planner to be useful will reach out to you and contact you. It seems like a great product.

 

Edward: Well thank you for this opportunity.

 

Female Announcer: Do you know the difference between a savings and money market account? When you’re in an unfamiliar financial environment, and need a hand understanding the lay of the land, Penny Forward is here to help. Our online courses, members only group chats, and access to one on one coaching, help you build your own bright future one penny at a time. It’s easy to sign up or cancel at any time, and memberships are just 9 dollars a month, or 99 dollars a year. Visit
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Chris: The Penny Forward podcast is made possible by a sponsorship from Dennis and Nicole Malinis. They sponsor the Penny Forward podcast because they believe in Penny Forward’s mission; to help blind people navigate the complicated landscape of personal finance through education, mentoring, and mutual support. Thank you, Dennis and Nicole, for your generous contribution to sponsor the podcast.

 

Chris: The Penny Forward podcast is produced by Liz Bottner and Chris Peterson, audio editing and post production is provided by
superblink.org
and transcription services are provided by Anne Verduin.

 

Liz: Penny Forward is a community of blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. Visit
pennyforward.com
to learn more about who we are and what we do.

 

Chris: For all of us in the Penny Forward community, I’m Chris Peterson, …

 

Liz: And I’m Liz Bottner.

 

Chris: Have a great week.

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