Why Entrepreneurship Works for Me as a Person With Hemophilia

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by Jennifer Lynne |

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Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, I saw the world through a self-employed lens. My grandfather sold and repaired typewriters, a business he started in downtown Chicago in 1951, a time that must have been most colorful. My family settled in Milwaukee, where my father became the largest independent distributor of office equipment in the Midwest.

entrepreneurship | Hemophilia News Today | A sepia photo of Jennifer's grandfather smiling as he stands in front of his office equipment store in Chicago in 1951.

Grandpa Irv, right, stands outside Irv’s Office Equipment in Chicago in 1951. (Courtesy of Jennifer Lynne)

Small Business Week

Each year, the U.S. Small Business Administration designates the first week in May as National Small Business Week. Self-employment has many advantages when dealing with chronic medical issues, such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease, or when providing care to an elderly mother. I have always felt an affinity for self-employment. I’d imagine it’s the same as medicine to a doctor’s child or education to a teacher’s child.

In my junior year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I set myself up with some highly desired internships. One was at The Wall Street Journal. Upon graduation, I had multiple offers, but I chose self-employment.

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Through my business, I help nonprofits and small businesses create and execute digital marketing programs, including websites and social media. I love both the technical and creative sides of a project, and I am good at what I do. The clients I adore.

The hospital room office

2006 was a horrible medical year for me and nearly cost me my business. Keeping my business afloat during a frustrating three-week hospitalization was almost impossible without hospital Wi-Fi or a reliable cellphone. (I’m looking at you, Blackberry and Nextel, circa 2006.) I remember taking a call from my biggest client and trying not to lose the sale while being carted off for surgery.

Thankfully, technology has come a long way since then. 2019 was also a horrible medical year for me. Seven hospitalizations and three surgeries left me depressed and pissed off most of the year. The sixth floor at Tampa General Hospital became my second home. There is little doubt in my mind that a traditional employer would have said adiós and fired me. However, I can’t fire myself, so this part of my story ends well.

I discovered it is possible to run my small business from a hospital room, so long as the hospital room has Wi-Fi. My clients had no idea I was hospitalized so many times that year.

An IV machine, which gives medicines or fluids through a needle or tube inserted into a vein, was my frequent companion. I learned to type with an IV in one arm but realized it’s challenging to use a computer with an IV in both arms. Movement causes the IV machine to beep, which invites death stares from the nurses — not good when confined to a hospital bed. I successfully kept up with emails and texts by using my iPhone and iPad.

Be ready for a challenge

I was working remotely long before COVID-19. My schedule affords me the utmost flexibility. I’d imagine I’d look pretty stupid with my foot elevated with an ice pack in a traditional office. Need to sit at my desk and ice my knee at home? Not a problem.

There are drawbacks, indeed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of their fifth year, roughly 50% have faltered. After 10 years, less than a third of businesses have survived. That’s a 70% failure rate looming over my head. Every day I am grateful.

I have to hustle to keep the business going, and I am responsive to my clients 24/7. It’s not uncommon for me to receive a WhatsApp message at 11 p.m. from a client in India or for questions to arise on the weekends. I am constantly on the lookout for new opportunities.

Health insurance is always a headache for the self-employed. I have devised a workable and affordable solution thanks to the HealthCare Marketplace and hemophilia premium assistance grants from the Pan Foundation.

I often joke that because I live in Florida, I end up on everyone else’s vacation. I haven’t had an actual holiday in many years. I often fantasize how my life would have been different had I taken a position at the Journal, with paid vacation, sick days, and a 401(k).

They say if you are an entrepreneur long enough, you become unemployable. Maybe that’s true, but I’m not ready to trade self-employment for a full-time job, at least not now. Here’s to you, Grandpa Irv.


Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.

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