Maybe not so much a Big Bang, but my goodness, it feels like it.

I am so excited to talk about this new chapter in the life of Branches, but I thought it might be interesting to go ahead and capture the story of our start, too. Things get hazy when they get further away and three years in business feels exactly like an eternity and no time at all.

Just five years ago I was teaching with Jess and Traci and we were so bummed to hear how worried families of our students were at the prospect of graduation from high school and the future of continuing education and support for their people. It felt, for us as teachers, like there was such a disconnect between high school and adult services – be that day programming, higher education, independent living or employment – and that the disconnect felt like a gap.

We felt strongly that there was space there for us, that we could address the fear, anxiety and concern for the future. We also knew that there wasn’t a lot happening at the time for people who experience more significant disabilities, and knew from our experiences teaching that those people are our type of people.

So how did three high school special education teachers leave their tenured teaching jobs at the tail-end of a recession, to start a business? If you’re asking that question, you sound like my parents.

Truth is, it was tough.

We added a fourth partner, Shirley, during the early planning process, the yin to our yang with good business sense, shared ethical beliefs and fiscal foresight, and spent our summers and weekends researching market trends, interviewing community members, service providers, coordinators, families of people who experience disabilities, and people that we wanted to work for. We considered best-practices, took tours and asked questions of companies with the best reputations, and developed our first service, which was day programming, out of Chester, VA.

Next time, I’ll talk about what went into our decision to start with day programming, the licensing process through Virginia, and things we learned about opening a small business. Have you ever started a business? It’s hard, right?

We had no idea.

It All Starts Here
It All Starts Here