Losing someone close to you is heartbreaking. Losing a parent to Alzheimer’s is devastating. Finding a way to help others through that loss is simply amazing. Amy Jacobs and her mother, Ingrid, have done just that. Amy’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when he was in his late 60s. Amy and her mother searched for ways to make him comfortable, especially as the disease progressed. What they discovered about Amy’s father and other Alzheimer’s patients led them to starting a mother-daughter small business that specializes in texture blankets for Alzheimer’s patients.
Amy, tell us about the business you and your mom started.
I started a small company with my mother called The Fidgit Shoppe. We sell lap-sized activity and texture blankets made especially for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other sensory disorders.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease, and we want to provide not only a product for those fighting the disease, but also be a resource to the amazing caregivers who give away their time, energy, and love every single day.
Where did the idea for The Fidget Shoppe come from?
A year and half ago, I lost my dad due to Alzheimer’s disease. During the course of his disease, my mom and I saw how Alzheimer’s disease takes over a person. The loss of memory, of course, is huge. But the loss of fine and gross motor skills, inability to complete everyday activities, and decrease in interaction are just as hard. My mom was his primary caregiver, and she was absolutely amazing!
We began to notice he would fidget with a lot of textures. If he had a jacket or a sweater, he would fiddle along the edge by the seam or zip and unzip the zipper. He was never very tactile before the Alzheimer’s, but we noticed he started doing this or rubbing the arm rest of the couch. It was almost like an unconscious movement or self soothing like a kid with a baby blanket, but it seemed during these times he would be more calm or a little more interactive. We just happened to mention to the occupational therapist who suggested making something for him.
We went home, and my mom began to look online for ideas, but she couldn’t find anything like what she had in mind, so she just started making a blanket for him herself. She didn’t get to finish it before he passed, but a couple months later, she finished it up and donated it to the nursing home he had been in.
After that, we both tell the story differently. I swear back then I said, “We could make and sell these.” She doesn’t remember that. She says she had the idea a few months later.
Wow, Amy! I love that she chose to keep working on the blanket even after he passed. What a beautiful way to honor your father. I imagine there have been some struggles.
In what ways have you found yourself struggling along the path of this current adventure?
Keeping up courage when we have decreased sales, especially as we are just getting started. It makes us question, at times, whether we should continue.
I have to constantly remind myself that Bill Gates initially failed in building his first company. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job. Fred Astaire was told that he couldn’t sing or act. Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was rejected by 27 different publishers. These people, who went on to be extremely successful, were initially failures. But these failures started them on the path for success. And that’s what I have to keep in mind. I am on the beginning steps of my path.
I love that! What is the best choice you have made, in regards to The Fidget Shoppe?
I am so proud that we had an idea, started a company, and actually stuck with it. It’s so easy to have a brilliant idea and just let it sit. But besides that, branding.
Having a cohesive and clear brand makes a huge difference when starting a new business. I worked with one of my best friends, Sarah K Asaftei (skaMEDIA), who helped to develop the branding of The Fidgit Shoppe. Having a clear strategy and target audience has guided everyday decisions and helped to keep a clear focus on our goals.
Finish this sentence:
The best thing I have ever done for my dream is…..Start. Obvious, I know. I hate the thought of starting because I know initially there will be failure. I tend to sit quietly waiting for the planets to align perfectly before I will attempt a new adventure. But things grow quickly, and even though there is failure connected with starting, in 6 months, I will have made tremendous progress, and I will be so much farther than if I hadn’t started. This business adventure has taught me that to improve and grow I just have to take that first step.
In honor of the year 2015, if you could hop into the Delorean and go back in time (or to the future), when/where would you go and what would you do?
I would choose to go to England in the late 1780s to early 1800s and work with William Wilberforce. He was a key leader in the abolition of slavery in England. I love that he didn’t give up during the 27 years he spent campaigning against slavery. And then he went on to advocate for improved working conditions of textile workers, encouraged prison reform, supported education, and was incredibly giving with his personal time and money. I think it would be amazing to be a part of reform that made such a lasting difference.
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Only three things!? I can’t believe I am admitting this but I have a seven page bucket list. It’s had some fine-tuning in recent years, and I feel like I’m always adding as I learn about new places to visit or fun things to do.
If I have to pick three…
- Go on a mule ride down the Grand Canyon
- Learn American Sign Language
- Visit Machu Picchu
Where can we find out more about you?
Our website takes you directly to our Etsy shop so you can see all the blankets currently in stock.