"The love of my life is my Downs Designs business," says entrepreneur and philanthropist, Karen Bowersox. "I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing."
The 65-year-old grandmother has been making clothing for children and adults with Down Syndrome for four and a half years, after she realized how much her granddaughter, Maggie, was restricted by the lack of properly fitting pants.
Bowersox is now an expert in providing stretchy jeans without buttons or zippers that are easy to put on and take off. The "Maggie" jean is scheduled to be introduced this month after two and a half years of perfecting the fit.
Maggie is now nine and when she was born with Down Syndrome, Bowersox admits she didn't know much about it. "I noticed her clothes were always dragging and her sleeves were always in her cereal," she said. "My daughter was so frustrated with everything being too long.
With frustration mounting, she decided to order Maggie something online. When that search came up completely empty, she knew it was time to take action. She spoke to a design school in Cleveland on where to get started. Hand in hand with Jillian Jankovsky Downs Designs was off and running.
The growing business is busy keeping up with orders and with popular sizes dwindling, Bowersox decided to launch a Kickstarter program to raise funds in order to support production and an expansion of the line. She calls it an opportunity for people to "donate a little and those with Down Syndrome to gain a lot." Her goal is to provide much more than jeans. Men's and women's shorts, tops and black dress pants are her vision for what's to come.
"I'm hoping to get the support from our community to help me continue on with this clothing line," Bowersox said. "I feel that once I have more to sell, sales will increase because they'll have more selection to shop from."
After researching the market, she found that there are about 30 million men that struggle with buttons for a various number of reasons and disabilities. She decided to launched a new business about three months ago called NBZ Jeans for men which includes designer jeans that are stylish, durable and comfortable. With that number of potential customers, the market is far bigger. One out of 68 newborns are born with autism. With these statistics, she felt the need to provide jeans that they can pull on and off by themselves without worrying about their zipper being down or not making it to the bathroom on time.
With an everyday wake-up call at 3am, Bowersox says she somehow never feels tired. "It's never work for me. In my life, I would have never thought that a pair of pants could change a person's life so dramatically. My life will never be the same."
To donate, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/2005207412/downs-designs-special-clothes-for-special-people. Downs Designs, 8796 Tyler Boulevard, Mentor. 877-390-4851. www.downsdesigns.com. www.nbzjeans.com.