One year ago today, on March 14, 2015, I officially launched Aunt Laurie’s at the women’s business expo in Bluffton, South Carolina (pictured above). Channeling my long held passion for helping others, I embarked on this journey with the goal of creating a business that supports individuals with disabilities and inspires others to acknowledge their value.
I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished in one year, thanks in large part to the many organizations that employ the disabled persons who make our themed gift baskets and many of the products that go in them.
In just 12 months, we received significant recognition from the local community –named the Bluffton Business Start-up of the Year, the SCORE Lowcountry Chapter Client of the Year, and nominated for Woman of the Year by the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of the Lowcountry – and participated in numerous events – from luncheons and markets to film festivals and the Special Olympics – making for one successful year.
To celebrate this milestone, I’d like to share three of my most treasured moments during Aunt Laurie’s first year in business. These are moments that have happened “behind the scenes” and provide insight into the difference we all can make in the lives of others, particularly those with disabilities.
A Huge Hug
I regularly visit the Programs for Exceptional People (PEP) vocational center on Hilton Head Island, where members with disabilities hand paint many of the ceramic dishes and products that go into our gift baskets. After several months of visiting, one day I walked in and was pleasantly surprised when one of the members ran up to me and gave me a huge hug. Then another member proudly showed me her purple beads and purple shirt. It was very touching, as they typically are very shy with me.
2. The Big Swing
In September 2015, I volunteered at the National Special Olympics Golf Tournament, a wonderful event, where I watched and worked with all the athletes while they were practicing, playing and having fun. Participating in this event made me appreciate all of these wonderfully special people and their families, as well as all of the blessings in my own life.
3. Gratitude & Blessings
Several times over the course of the year I explained Aunt Laurie’s business model to people, most of which were complete strangers. They often looked me straight in the eye, shook my hand or hugged me and then offered a heartfelt thank you for my efforts. Each time this happens, I feel truly blessed and am reminded of the important work that is being done by many individuals and organizations throughout the country who are helping disabled people feel valued and loved.
Finally, I’d like to extend a special thank you to all of Aunt Laurie’s friends – that is, all of the organizations that provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities, who hand make our gift baskets and many of the products in them. We wouldn’t be successful without them!:
South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Center (baskets and assembly)
Programs for Exceptional People (PEP) (ceramics)
Waggies by Maggies & Friends (dog biscuits and bites)
Our Coffee with a Cause
Lambs Farm (dog biscuits and candles)
Extraordinary Ventures (candles, scrubs, soaps)
Berry Towne Crafts (Lowcountry snacks, soaps, soaks, lotions)
Life Roots (greeting cards)
ScentsAbility (hand sanitizer, candles, favors)
The Chocolate Spectrum (chocolate treats)
Additional friends include:
Leader Dogs for the Blind (% of profits donated)
Heroes on Horseback (% of online sales donated)
Live to Give (supports women and children in need on Hilton Head Island, SC)
Soar Special Recreation (organizes Special Olympic programs)
Palmetto Animal League (no-kill animal rescue shelter)
Action for Autism (helping autistic children learn and grow)
SCORE (business mentoring)
To celebrate our one-year anniversary, we’re also offering customers free shipping, now through March 18th, on all gift baskets and products. Start shopping here. We’re also working on a few other ideas like loyal customer rewards. Our way of thanking all our awesome customers and friends!