One Green Bay man’s business helps people with disabilities be independent

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In his 13 years as a social worker and care manager for the disabled population, Greg Maloney of Green Bay saw the need for a program that would develop more functional adults.

He had worked with various groups, but felt his strength was helping people with mental illness find employment in the community and move on their own. As he developed programs and saw results, he also felt frustration at not having the flexibility to do more.

“I thought about starting a business for about six years,” Maloney said. “When I first met an adult with a disability, I would gather details about where they are currently in their life. After that, I tried to create a plan that would help them create their own desires in life.

But he found that most providers and caregivers focused on the status quo. They helped with daily needs, but did not go beyond helping a disabled person to become more independent.

Maloney thought he could fill that gap. In 2017, he set a plan in motion. He met with David Stauffacher, a business consultant at the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, and worked on a business plan.

“The hardest part of the plan was determining timelines and revenue projections,” Maloney said. “There were a lot of unknown factors in starting this business because everything was new.”

He had previous business experience years earlier when he owned a residential rental business, but it was none of that. His concern was to learn the administrative and financial aspects. He also had an important decision to make on whether to be a non-profit or for-profit company.

“I know I’ll never be rich,” he said. “Being a non-profit would have offered the benefit of being able to fundraise, but I wanted to have less paperwork that would be required. I’m in business to work directly helping individuals rather than doing administrative work.”

At the end of 2017, Promoting Abilities, LLC, was created. Maloney’s decision to move into the Startup Hub, a program of the economic development arm of the Greater Green Bay Chamber, proved ideal. Maloney met the owner of Badger Window Cleaning there, and not only considered him a mentor, but also went to work for him part-time as he built his business. There were also other advantages.

“The Startup Hub has been wonderful,” Maloney said. “I would challenge anyone to find a more profitable option as a startup. They had a direct link to my overall success with top notch equipment and free mentorship and consultation.

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The growth of Promoting Abilities has been tremendous, and in October 2018 Maloney was able to quit his other jobs and work full-time in his business. He said it was a “leap of faith” that paid off. The connections he made earlier in his career also helped him, and he got referrals from other companies to fill open positions.

The program is designed to accommodate up to eight participants per day, and although it has a program assistant and additional staff from next month, Maloney prefers to be directly involved. He says his gift is working with people and his focus is different from most vendors.

“I have individual plans and my program is designed to help participants grow to the point where they no longer need my support,” he said. “There will always be a starting point and an ending point. Competitors try to keep them on the same level, but I try to get myself out of a job.

He does this by focusing on rehabilitating adults with disabilities so that other people take care of everything and they slowly transition into this role. He points to his success rates and claims that 100% of graduates have obtained community employment, are able to use public transit and have improved their financial skills. Of its current participants, five will move into apartments next month and six or seven will be employed.

“These are milestones that every adult needs,” he added.

Promoting Abilities addresses issues that can feel overwhelming – areas such as using a bus, working full time, or living independently. These obstacles are successfully overcome, and for some, college becomes an option they never dreamed of before.

Maloney encourages personal growth with two options. These include a day program with skills building including grocery shopping, physical activity, money and time management, team building, interviewing, problem solving, preparation and meal planning, and more. There is also home support care that is offered on an individual basis to help develop independence at home and in the community.

The rewards for the participants and Maloney have been enormous. At the end of the program, each participant, guardian, and care manager said they would refer people to the program. For Maloney, it has been personal.

“It’s the greatest feeling to get to that point where participants are able to overcome what others have told them they weren’t able to do,” Maloney said. “To see them not just do it, but exceed their expectations, like getting that job or an apartment, or going to college, it’s amazing.

Additional information is available at www.promotingabilities.com.

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and former district manager of SCORE, Wisconsin.

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