When I (Jane) started Eyeth Studios, over ten years ago (yes, I’m that old… or a better way to look at it, yes I started a business that young!) the key to our success, especially in our early days, was the support of the Deaf community. I can’t count the number of clients that were referred to us because they wanted to work with a Deaf company, and that continues to this day. The intentional investment of our community into my business has enabled me, in turn, to invest in our community. This includes mentoring both Andrew and Shawn, my current partners in Lost River Vacations, as they established their own businesses several years ago (before LRV). Things like the ins and outs of taxation, getting a business license, how to write scopes of work and much more… Historically, there has been very little information out there in American Sign Language, and not much support to intentionally grow Deaf entrepreneurship.
Today, we are fortunate to have the fledgling Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute, run by Ryan Maliszewski at Gallaudet University. I have been heavily involved with the Institute since day one (a little more than a year ago), supporting student entrepreneurs in many different ways, from judging to giving workshops to one on one consultation. I look forward to seeing GIEI grow and expand. There is an increasing community awareness of the need to support Deaf business owners, promote each other, and most importantly buy from each other. By investing in our community and in each other, we all rise. When we first came up with the idea of Lost River Vacations, one of the main goals was to invest in our community from day one, and we did so, with some fantastic results. Let us tell you about some of the Deaf companies and individuals that helped with this project. Get ready, it’s a long list!
The very first Deaf business that we worked with was NSH Properties, the renovation/remodeling company owned by Shawn and his brother Nick. Shawn, with Nick’s help, as well as other Deaf friends and family, built our tiny house from scratch, completely customized. You can read more about that in our three-part blog entry series “The Build”.
Kissfist Deaf, owned by Megan Malzkuhn and Scotty Keller, supported us with logo design and development. Nick Perepelkin, a Deaf woodworker who creates custom cabinetry, furniture, and other items, contributed a custom ladder and drawer. Deafroot, owned by Sheri Youens-Un, contributed a custom wood sign for the road entering our property. Catalyst+, with Keith Doane, will support us in planning trails and how to be eco-conscious in our future development.
Ashley Hannan, deaf artist, provided beautiful artwork for us to sell in our online shop and through Kickstarter, as well as to display in different houses at Lost River Vacations. Calvin Young, owner of Seek the World, created our beautiful Kickstarter video which tells our story in an incredibly engaging and insightful manner. He also has photographs that will be in our shop, as well as part of our Kickstarter campaign. Route 66 Promo is helping us print some of our apparel and other items, both for Kickstarter and our store.
Think we’re done yet? Nope, not even close! Johnny Arkoosh, Jr, woodturner, made beautiful wood bowls for our houses, Kickstarter, and store. Kelly Simpson also contributed to our store. We had planned to host our launch party at Streetcar 82, so a shout-out goes to them, even though the original plans were foiled. GIEI also gets a shout-out for their fantastic collaborative efforts with student entrepreneurs Matt Sherman, and Ariella Dramin. We also want to thank Convo Communications for sponsoring our launch party. While we’re on the subject of the launch party, can’t forget Gabe Arellano and his wonderful STEMS, LLC team and their awesome activities for children, along with Susie Corona-Esparza‘s support with art activities. Rosemary Latin of Rosemary’s Fabulous Cakes served scrumptious cake and cupcakes.
We had over 25 prizes for our raffle, mostly contributed by Deaf-owned businesses (we’ll recognize all contributors here): Route 66, By Mara, Convo, The ASL App, To Sign is Human, Kissfist Deaf, Sorenson, Global Deaf Women, Ashley Hannan, Seek the World, Nathalina, PhenomWorks Productions, DeafTax, Deafroot, ReFort, Guesthouse Lost River, Top Lounge, Barrel Oak Winery, and Kim Thornsberry. Thank you all, fabulous people!
Are we done?! Hardly. We have new Deaf partners working on more custom wood projects (grab those benches and tables while you can– a little over a week left on our Kickstarter!) and we have hired a Deaf caretaker to support us – he’s native to West Virginia and owns his own handyman business. We’re very excited to work with him! In addition, we will work with Deaf quilters, Deaf disc golf pros (for course design), and continue to intentionally invest in our ecosystem.
The more our Kickstarter raises, the more we can do. Back us today: http://bit.ly/-LRV