Justin Farley, founder of UNlimiters, is a passionate advocate of unlimited living. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and every day is determined to find ways to live more independently and confidently, and share that knowledge with others living with a disability.
Here is Justin’s amazing story:
I went through grade school wearing sweatpants. Which was not cool, but since I struggle with zippers and buttons, they were pretty much my only option. In middle school we came up with the idea of adding elastic to a regular pair of blue jeans. And for the first time I dressed like everybody else and still kept my independence.
I have always known I wanted to run my own business. I had always loved talking business with my dad and even ran a small vending machine operation while in high school. Then somewhere along the way, my dad and I realized that, although products were available to assist in overcoming physical limitations, they were hard to find. This was an opportunity for me to help other people living with these limits and realize my goal of starting a business. After months of discussing it, my dad and I thought of the name (unbelievably available), and in 2009 we bought Unlimiters.com as a domain name. I owned it, I knew I wanted to do something with it, but I was busy with school and it just sat there.
“I don’t let my disability limit me, and I don’t think other
people’s disabilities should limit them, either.”
In 2011, I accomplished something that had been a dream of mine for a long time. I was accepted into the number one rated entrepreneurship program in the nation, the University of Houston’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. With the backing of the Program Director, Ken Jones; the Director of Mentoring, Dave Cook; and my assigned mentor, Kaye Patterson, I began to resuscitate and reimagine the idea of “UNlimiters.”
With Kaye’s connections, she helped me put together a “Board of Directors” consisting of Dick Lew, Jackie Townsend, Christine Stevens and herself. The willingness of this extremely talented group of people to sit down on their own time and share their knowledge and experience in putting together a business was unbelievable. With help designing our logo, putting together presentations and slideshows and most importantly providing a sounding board for ideas and activities with people who understood the market. UNlimiters started to sound like a real company.”
The idea of UNlimiters was so well received by my classmates, I was approached by one of the class’s business plan teams about joining them and using the UNlimiters idea to compete in a series of national business plan competitions. My team members Randy Hannemann, Louis McEneny, Tattiana Reznick, Adam Trojanowski and myself prepared a formal business plan to use in the competitions.
During that time my mentor, Kaye, set up a meeting with the University’s Director of Industrial Design, Eunsook Kwon PhD, and proposed the idea of adding an UNlimiters project to her design curriculum. Much to our amazement she not only added it to her curriculum, but she had her whole class use me as a subject for a user oriented design project. All of the sudden, I had a large group of talented students following me around and filming my every move so they could come up with awesome designs to help me with my daily activities. They even filmed me in the shower. All this filming, while kind of intrusive, had the goal of designing products that would make my daily life easier. and using the UNlimiters idea to compete in a series of national business plan competitions. My team members Randy Hannemann, Louis McEneny, Tattiana Reznick, Adam Trojanowski and myself prepared a formal business plan to use in the competitions.
The members of the Industrial Design program put together designs for thirteen different UNlimiters products ranging from bottle openers, to a custom shower system to ways to easily deal with electrical outlets. All thirteen of the projects were extremely inventive and at the end of the term the class put on a demonstration of the products for me and my friends and family.
“The last semester of the entrepreneurship program
was the time of my life.”
It was quite a semester and, in fact, was one of the best times of my life. Unfortunately, when it was all over I still had four classes to go and UNlimiters once again moved to the back burner while I finished my last semester and graduated in December of 2012. Since school has ended, all I have done is work on making UNlimiters a reality and I am as excited as ever about the possibilities for the company.
As you can see, the first chapter of the company’s history involved a lot of really excellent people. In order for the company to be successful, the next chapters have to be written by our customers, friends and associates who find value in our site and its offerings: both social and commercial. We want UNlimiters to be a product designed not just by us, but by everybody involved. If the next couple of years are near anywhere as exciting as the last couple, success is certain. We look forward to working with you and we will keep you posted on our progress.