Growing his business
It’s not often you meet a 25-year-old who owns his own business, runs his own radio show and has a national achievement award to boot. But with support and guidance from ImagineBetter, that’s exactly what Chris has managed to achieve.
Yet, it was only five or six years ago that Chris had come to a standstill. He had finished his high school education and completed a Certificate in Vocational Studies at the Western Institute of Technology Taranaki – but was unsure what his next move would be. “We were struggling,” says Jan, Chris’ mother. “We knew Chris had huge potential but we just needed some help.”
It was at a weekend seminar at that time where Jan first became aware of ImagineBetter. Taken by Lorna Sullivan, the seminar talked about how to achieve a better life. “That seminar came at the perfect time for us. After talking to so many organisations that didn’t offer what we wanted for Chris, to finding ImagineBetter … it was fantastic. We could finally start moving forward.” After the conference, Jan and Chris met with Tony McLean – and as they say, the rest is history.
What struck Jan most about ImagineBetter was the different approach the organisation took to talking and thinking about disabilities, encouraging a focus on community discussion and inclusive opportunities.
ImagineBetter worked with Chris and his family to develop a PATH Plan for Chris. Jan says, “it gave us a direction and set out a plan for Chris to achieve it.” Chris’ love for cooking, his social nature and dream of owning his own business formed the basis of Chris’ PATH. It included plans to have his own radio show and to be self-employed in the food industry.
But it was ImagineBetter’s micro-business mentoring programme that really turned the heat up on his food dream. Chris started making dog biscuits as he thought it would help him to with his fear of dogs – and so ‘K9 Krunchies’ were born in a kitchen in New Plymouth.
Made by hand from peanut butter, rolled oats and wholemeal flour, these dog treats have become a huge hit. Aside from his regular New Plymouth outlets, Chris is now shipping his ‘K9 Krunchies’ right across the country, thanks to an interview on TV One’s ‘Seven Sharp’, organised by ImagineBetter.
“That story generated so much business for Chris. It pushed him to develop the internet side of the business too,” Jan says.
With business booming, it was lucky that a local engineering firm also saw the story and custom-made some biscuit cutters for Chris to speed up production. This also enabled Chris to expand his product line to include kibble-sized treats as well as the original, larger bone-shaped ones.
Having dramatically increased sales and received a New Zealand Down Syndrome Association’s National Achievement Award for his success, Chris’ isn’t about to stop now.
“I want the business to grow. I’m saving money to go flatting – for appliances and rent. So the money I’m making is going towards that,” he says.
Independent living is one of the things on Chris’ PATH Plan that he is still working towards. But considering that Chris has achieved everything else on his PATH Plan to date – and with the support of family, friends and ImagineBetter – it’s only a matter of time until Chris will be able to move the ‘K9 Krunchies’ HQ to his own place.
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