Brittany Déjean, CEO and founder of AbleThrive, has transformed the way we approach personal care for disabilities. Her company aggregates information about disability along with various products, services, and resources to make the transition to life with a disability as smooth as possible. This tool is invaluable to people who are living with any type of disability, as well as their loved ones who want them to enjoy a full, thriving lifestyle.
AbleThrive was the result of Brittany’s personal experience with disability when her father was paralyzed after a car accident when she was just 12 years old. After years of struggling to find the support she and her family needed, Brittany came up with the business plan for AbleThrive when she was a junior in college and ran with the idea until it became the invaluable resource it is today. Brittany’s impact has touched the lives of thousands in need of this kind of tool to make living with a disability (and being an ally) that much easier.
Name: Brittany Déjean
Title: Founder & CEO
Current home base: San Francisco, California
Originally from: Bucktown, Pennsylvania
Your superpower: Empathy
A woman in history you admire and why:
I very much admire J.K. Rowling. She spoke at my college graduation and listening to her story showed me that you can come back from the lowest lows and really do incredible things with your life. I also admire that she dropped off the billionaire list due to her charitable donations and she uses her platform to stand up for what she believes in.
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain
What inspired you to start (or get involved with) your current venture?
My dad was paralyzed in a car accident when I was 12. We had a strong support system of mentors and resources, allowing my dad to adapt. He lives independently, drives himself to work everyday, and danced with me at my wedding – a happy and fulfilling life. However, I realized as an adult that we were some of the lucky ones, and that most people with disabilities don’t have access to the resources and tools they need to thrive. I started AbleThrive to make the process of adapting to a life with a disability more equitable for the billion people in the world with disabilities.
What are you/your company doing to make history today?
Netflix tells us which movie to watch next and Amazon knows what we want to buy, yet families like mine are left to figure out [everything related to living with a disability] on our own. AbleThrive is a one-stop platform that aggregates information, products, and services and delivers them to people with disabilities and their families based on their needs and interests.
What is one thing you and/or your company have accomplished that you are most proud of?
We’ve come up with content that has broken into mainstream media and brings visibility to disability in ways we don’t traditionally see there. I’m most proud of our voice and brand that humanizes disability and makes it relatable to people, even if you don’t have experience with disability.
What is one project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
Our main focus for 2019 is to build early stage education modules for people with new spinal cord injuries. We’re pulling together the information people need and putting it online in a way that people are guided to the information that’s relevant to them without getting overwhelmed. We did some early tests last year and 94% of those we surveyed wished the modules had existed when they were first injured, so I’m really excited to see what we can create.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
The disability community is subjected to antiquated stereotypes and stigma that lead people to make misinformed assumptions that impact the inclusion of people with disabilities in society. There are still many people who don’t understand that people with disabilities can and do live meaningful lives. It fuels our mission to equip people with disabilities with the tools they need to live their lives to the fullest and have more representation in society.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
It’s encouraging to see technology being applied more and more in the social change space. The rest of the world’s technology is advancing so quickly, and it’s important that these advancements also benefit marginalized and/or stigmatized communities.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
I used to think contracts weren’t always necessary. Suffice it to say, I learned the hard way that it’s always best to outline expectations and put things on paper to avoid miscommunications, hurt feelings, and unnecessary hangups. I learned to now make sure to have contracts for everything and it’s made a huge difference.
What were you doing before your current role?
I wrote my first business plan for what is now AbleThrive when I was a junior in college. After graduating, I spent most of 2009 living in Senegal working with people with disabilities while working on my idea part-time. I wanted to take it on full-time, but needed some stability, so I became a middle school Chinese teacher and high school rugby coach for three years before starting AbleThrive.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
Find your support system. I’ve had plenty of people tell me my idea was too big or that it wouldn’t work. I’ve had people try to undermine my skills or my ideas. Over time, I found the people who have my back, who I can trust, and who believe in me, and that has made all the difference.
Are there any great resources you have discovered (programs, websites/apps, groups, classes, etc.) that you would like to share?
The Echoing Green fellowship was life-changing for me in many ways. Also, Asana changed how I managed my day to day tasks. The book The One Thing hugely impacted how I envision my plans and productivity.
Fun fact about yourself:
I was once an extra in a Bollywood movie!
Is your company is currently hiring or looking for partnerships? If so, where can readers go to find more information?
Check us out at AbleThrive and click ‘Contact’ to send me a note if you’re interested in investing in our work and/or joining our team.
For more on Brittany Déjean and AbleThrive: