It all began when 23-year-old Jacob Kiefor was looking for a job. At the time, he had entered a program that allowed him to rotate between different jobs, but there was a catch – Jacob was never paid a wage for his contributions to the program, and instead was given a plethora of job training. Eventually, he began to question why he was contributing to the program at a high level for free. “I was looking for a job, and it wasn’t really going so well,” Jacob shared in an interview, “So, I gave up on that program and decided to start my own business instead.”
Around the same time that Jacob had elected to start his own business, his sister was searching for a new rug for her front door but was having trouble finding one that wasn’t too expensive. Thus, the idea for ‘This is Jacob’ was born – Jacob had been taking art classes and had a lot of fun participating in them, so he decided to try his hand at hand-painting a customized doormat for his sister.
“I went to my mom and said, ‘Hey, how about I make my own business and call it ‘This is Jacob’?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, let’s make it happen!’ After that, we created a website, made a Facebook page, and designed business cards.” Jacob explained.
So, how does one go about placing an order? First, Jacob has his customers send him a description of a design they would like painted onto a rug via e-mail. Then, Jacob and his mom, Melanie, create a proof of what the rug will look like and send it back to the customer. If the design is approved by the customer, Jacob is able to make it into a stencil and hand-paint the design onto a coconut-fiber doormat. Afterward, the finished product is sprayed with a seal to protect against the elements.
“Jacob has learned a lot about business just from him and I doing this. [He’s learned] about communicating with customers, customer service, shipping, pricing, finances, and marketing.” Melanie Bennitt, Jacob’s mom, told me.
When ordering from This is Jacob, customers can choose between two rug sizes – small (15.5″ by 24″) or large (23.5″ by 36″). Prices range from $25-$55 depending on the size and complexity of the design, and for an additional $10, customers can add their own wording and details. Jacob has many of his custom designs featured on his website, with phrases such as ‘Welcome to Our Home’, ‘Gone Fishin’, ‘You Better Have Tacos’, and ‘Bee Kind’. Not only does Jacob sell rugs, however, he also prints his own “Be Kind” t-shirts to sell.
“My goal for my business is to create awareness [about Down Syndrome] and to make people feel happy when they receive their rugs,” Jacob went on, “My favorite part of owning my own business is being my own boss. [My business] makes me feel happy inside.”
When asked if he had any advice for individuals with IDD that wanted to start their own business, Jacob had some incredible insight: “I say go after your dreams. Show people that we can [create businesses], we can do lots of things. Make it happen.”
Make it happen, indeed – from being unable to find a job to now being his own boss and a successful business owner, Jacob has taken his own advice to heart. Be sure to check out his rugs – they make a great addition to any front porch!
To purchase a customized rug from Jacob, click here.
Photos courtesy of Jacob Kiefor and Melanie Bennitt.