As a motivated 23-year-old woman, Alison Shuback had her whole life ahead of her. But when a near-fatal car crash left her partially paralyzed, her life changed in an instant.
But she never gave up, and as her medical bills mounted, she looked for an entrepreneurial business idea to make the money she needed to pay her bills. The child of entrepreneurial parents, Alison invented a transparent bib for adults with disabilities and began marketing the idea. Though the idea initially flopped, she will be featured by PBS in June and received some reincarnation funds from a Fortune 500 executive. For this reason, Alison has been name Inc Magazine’s entrepreneur of the year.
Confined to a wheelchair, Shuback is looking toward the future, and isn’t done yet. “People think someone like me is doing well if they are only stuffing envelopes,” she told Inc. “Well, I am not a person who is satisfied with that.”
With some money left from the settlement (but experimental treatments not covered by insurance still looming), Alison began exploring ways to create a transparent bib for adults. After struggling with tacky aprons that she would buy from stores, Alison was looking for a way to keep her clothes clean from an unsteady eating hand, but keep her dignity in tact.
Selling the bib through a smaller company called Individual Empowerment that she started, Shulback had the sort of false start that many entrepreneurs have, making her story especially relevant to many. With only $20,000 in sales, the company was forced to close its doors. It was unable to make big sales, and mostly saw small orders made by individuals at nursing homes and centers for the disabled.
After the first run at selling the Invisibib, Alison decided to try out for Everyday Edisons, a reality show on PBS about entrepreneurs. As she pitched her idea to producers, an executive from Bed Bath & Beyond heard her story and decided to get involved. He pitched the idea to Bed Bath & Beyond executives and a deal began to take shape. The company would help sell, market, and even manufacture the bibs.
She will head up the reinvigorated company and lead around 100 employees in preparation for the bibs to be rolled out into stores next fall.
“Just showing up for the audition was so far-fetched — whoever could imagine this?” she said. “All people like me get are the jobs no one else wants. That my product could employ all these people in jobs that really use them… “Well, that would be immeasurable if I could do that.”