For Drew Ann Long, a “quick trip to the grocery store” is not a possibility, because she has a ten year old, special needs child. Long cannot simply rush to the closest shopping center for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. In fact, any trip to the store for her must be planned well in advance, so that she can be sure that her husband will be home, or a babysitter will be able to keep her daughter, Caroline.
It isn’t Caroline’s behavior which causes the issue. The child has a condition known as Rett Syndrome, a neurodevelopment disorder, which leaves Caroline with several different disabilities. Because of her condition, it is nearly impossible for Long to make a simple trip to the store with her child. Such an easy & everyday task is often taken for granted by many, but yet so many “special needs” moms face this same dilemma.
Long, however, decided to do something about it, and came up with an idea for a shopping cart which would be specially designed to make it easier for those moms to be able to take their children with them to the store. She expressed her frustration as such a simple chore being so hard to carry out, and said that special needs moms have to shop and feed their families just as anyone else does. So she created ‘Caroline’s Cart’.
The design of the special needs shopping cart began to take shape at the Longs’ dining room table. Since then, it has developed it’s very own fan base from all over the world, and has many retailers interested in obtaining the cart. Long explains that her special needs cart will also have a place in the market which was empty up until now. She is currently working with a list of manufacturers, narrowing it down until she decides who she will go with to help make Caroline’s Cart a reality in the market. The cart is expected to be available by the end of this year.
Coming up with new ideas is nothing new to Long, who graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in business. It took some time after becoming the mother of a special needs child for her to step up and begin to put her ideas into action. When her little girl was around six years old, she became too large to fit into a regular shopping cart. It was simply too difficult for Long to push her daughter’s wheelchair, and a shopping cart at the same time, and so grocery shopping became almost impossible. The weekly trip to the grocery store which had become a part of the routine was now very difficult. Long had to plan grocery store trips when her husband was home, or hire a babysitter.
Long began to research, asking around all over to make sure no one else had already seen this need. There were so many different kinds of shopping carts, some with fire trucks or race cars for kids, some with baby carriers…even special needs wheelchair carts for adults, but none for special needs kids. Long says that the longer she looked, the more she realized that there was just no cart built which would help her situation. She saw the huge hole in the market which needed to be filled, as well as the number of moms who would benefit from it.
Like many of us, Long complained about the situation for a while, and then talked about her idea for a few years. Unlike most of us, she finally decided to do something about it in 2008. Long hired a design firm, and created a prototype. She then met with various manufacturers and was given more advice and encouragement. She was her own research and development team as she and her three year old son, Matthew searched the area stores, taking shopping cart measurements and getting manufacturer names from them.
The final design has a five point harness system on its seat. It is capable of carrying up to three hundred pounds, and is made from plastic and steel. By design, it is very difficult to tip over, and features a tilted seat which is beneficial for kids who have very low muscle tone. A marketing campaign was launched in July for the cart, hoping to create a demand for the product. Since then many emails and messages have come to Long inquiring about the cart. Thus, an entrepreneur is born. Mothers everywhere are anxious for the release day. A portion of the sale from every cart will go to the National Easter Seals.
After listening to Long’s success story, many women have realized that it’s not only about thinking of being an “Entrepreneur” which makes anyone to step up & start an “Entrepreneurial venture”, but it’s the “need” which leads to the success of an “Entrepreneur”. The basic needs have given rise to many ideas among different people who are successful “Entrepreneurs” and have laid the foundation to many bigger companies. Angela Kaye Mason is an internet researcher, writer, and contributor at entrepreneurweek.com blog network. She may be reached at email@example.com.
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