Marie-Christine Goupil: A Mother's Journey to Inclusive Entrepreneurship
Interview with Marie-Christine Goupil, founder and owner of Produits Adaptés Handy Inc.
Some people inspire respect instantly. That’s how I felt when I started talking to Marie-Christine Goupil. This mother of three recently started a business based on the reality she must face since the birth of her daughter Jeanne, who has atypical RETT syndrome.
Meet a fighter that will move the needle for what she believes in: the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
THE MOST NOBLE OF MOTIVATIONS
Jeanne is now 6 years old. When you browse the Produits Adaptés Handy website, you will discover her cute face and big brown eyes. Yes, she models for the products her mom designs.
At six years of age, Jeanne’s development is not the same as other children her age. She deals with global developmental problems, does not walk, does not speak, needs assistance to feed herself, and has a profound intellectual disability. She also suffers from refractory epilepsy, a form of the illness resistant to medication.
Needless to say, her parents spend much time caring for her, and that’s without counting the numerous medical appointments.
Yet, in spite of all this, the mom, Marie-Christine, found the time, the energy, and the will to launch a business in June 2019.
Marie-Christine is not a woman to be flailing in the wind. Noticing the lack of resources for basic necessities for children with severe disabilities, she figured she would be the one to change this.
“There isn’t much available out there. And aesthetically speaking, adapted clothing is pathetic,” says Marie-Christine. She feels her daughter should be able to have clothes like everyone else, with fun and colourful patterns, even if these are adapted to her reality.
Discussing with other parents and wandering social networks, she realizes she is far from alone in this situation… So, she decides to make her own adapted clothing for children and open a store offering personal care and hygiene products – for gastrostomy, among others – for different types of disabilities.
For now, the store is only in its early stages, but there is no lack of ideas. Marie-Christine plans on adding many more exciting products in the fall and of course, her objective is to widen her offering to cover the needs for the most physical and intellectual disabilities possible… I won’t steal her thunder here though!
MORE THAN A BUSINESS… A MISSION
Of course, the store is a business first and foremost; Marie-Christine hopes to make a living out of it. A former licensed optician who quit her job to care for her children, she must continue to work, considering the financial burden that comes from caring for a disabled child and the meager government support.
Marie-Christine decided to start her own business in order to be able to work from home and have a certain flexibility in her schedule to be able to support her daughter daily.
To make it happen, she participated in a contest to obtain a grant by the Ministère de l’économie et de l’innovation in 2019. To give you an idea of her resolve, there were 700 submissions province-wide and Marie-Christine qualified for every stage of the contest to end up among the five finalists, out of 45 candidates in her region, Chaudière-Appalaches. She won a $25,000 grant and a full year of mentoring. On top of getting support in her business development, she enrolled in a business start-up class at the Centre Formation Affaires de St-Anselme.
It’s been non-stop since then. She creates her own designs and works with a pattern maker in Quebec before sending her designs to be tailored.
“Entrepreneurship has become a real passion for me. I love it, plus I am in a domain that I can relate to directly day in and day out.”
Beyond the entrepreneur aspect of it, Marie-Christine also hopes to endow her business with a social mission. She wants to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in our society and give them greater visibility. She is bang on! Why don’t we ever see children with disabilities in advertisements, for example?
Her dream is that stores for children, such as Clément in Quebec, use some of their retail space to offer adapted clothing for children with special needs. Marie-Christine explains her reasoning: “It would be so helpful to parents to shop in one place for all their children. Plus, children with disabilities would feel more included.”
That is why she also collaborates closely with the foundation she set up with her mother-in-law, Marthe Laverdière, to help parents of disabled children. In this respect, Marie-Christine highlights the involvement of the Clément stores who have donated to many foundations close to her heart, such as the CHU Sainte-Justine and Les Enfants d’Amour.
SPREADING THE WORD
One thing that stood out for me in my conversation with Marie-Christine is her desire to talk about the disability to as many people as possible, to tackle taboos and combat discrimination against persons with disabilities. She hopes her store helps families affected by disabilities in a practical way but she really wants to use it as a stepping stone to go further and be present on different platforms so that society as a whole is made aware of the various needs of persons with disabilities.
In the meantime, Marie-Christine hopes that her message can be heard now and that stores will offer her opportunities to sell her products short-term. Every little bit makes a difference!
She wants her brand to be made known where families dealing with disabilities are found – in associations and organisms, as well as where social and medical services are provided, such as CRDIs (centres de réadaptation en déficience intellectuelle), the CHUL de Québec, the Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal, and clinics specialised in long-term palliative care for children.
If you evolve in one of these fields and you are reading this, spread the word!
A BENEFICIAL ENCOUNTER
I am so happy that Marie-Christine came to the Journée eCommerce 2019 in Quebec City last April. She came for the training and since Buster Fetcher was a sponsor for the event, we were able to tell her about our services. She signed up on the spot!
Initially, she thought there wouldn’t be much for her there since she was just starting, but she quickly realized she had nothing to lose since signing up is free and we take care of all claims. Even if she doesn’t have a huge amount of shipments at the moment, she stills gets the money she is entitled to. Every dollar counts!
Marie-Christine is happy with the simple and warm contact she had from the beginning with Buster Fetcher – and continues to have with us. That makes me happy because I think it is very important for me that businesses dealing with Buster Fetcher see themselves as partners rather than clients. The fact is, we don’t sell anything; we offer a service, one that we know for a fact helps businesses grow.
For us, it is an honor to deal with such a beautiful and caring business as produitshandy.com!
Want to know more?
Want to discover another wonderful business that does things differently? Read our article on applecheeks.com and see how two women have launched a business that offers environmentally-friendly products adapted to all, like produitshandy.com.