The Aha Moment: Brittany Déjean
As I continue to feature badass women in The Aha Moment, my excitement and passion mounts. With every new woman I speak to, there is an even more amazing story attached — both personally and professionally.
Brittany Déjean is not your average human. From the ivy league to a social anthropologist, to Founder; she really covers a lot of ground in the rock star category. As the Founder of AbleThrive, Brittany works to connect people with disabilities and their families with resources and works to change the perception of disability in society.
Brittany Dejean is 31 years old and lives in San Francisco. She attended Harvard for undergrad and studied Linguistics and Chinese during her time there.
Brittany also studied abroad in China, which proved to be more of a life changing trip than she bargained for.
First, the Backstory
Brittany is also no stranger to heartbreak. When she was young, her Dad and brother were in a car accident. Her Dad broke his neck and was paralyzed from the chest down. Her brother, unfortunately, did not survive the crash.
Brittany was studying abroad in China in 2006 and staying with a host family. Her host Dad was an amputee. Brittany would spend time on the phone with her Dad back in Pennsylvania, and her “two dads” would speak and communicate with her, fascinated by each other’s life with a disability.
(Wait for the BIG Aha Moment here...)
It got her thinking… “How can they meet?”
Keep in mind, this was 2006 and social media was really in its infancy. The internet then was not the internet now. Brittany knew that the likelihood of these two men meeting in person was slim, however, her quest was only just beginning. The very notion that there are people all over the world with disabilities, and some have very limited access to resources and support was the beginning of The AbleThrive journey as we know it.
The Wheels are in Motion
Brittany returned from China and enrolled in a course on social enterprise to write her first business plan for a website to use the internet to connect people with disabilities to resources. She started working on the idea on the side, eventually graduated, and decided to go to Madagascar and Senegal to work with individuals with disabilities, and gaining further insight into her blossoming idea.
She returned from Africa and didn’t have the stability or means to take on her venture full time. She became a Chinese teacher still working on her website on the side. As many of us who have Aha Moments, there comes a point where we just have to take the final leap and put everything into what we want.
That is exactly what Brittany did. Ready to move on from teaching, she wanted to see this through and put all of her blood, sweat and tears into it.
So what is AbleThrive?
AbleThrive is a one-stop platform for people with disabilities and their families to access curated and customized resources from around the world.
They are not reinventing the wheel, rather taking content that is already out there, and making accessible and easy for users to find, as a one-stop shop. They do this by building relationships with bloggers, hospitals, and relevant organizations that are sharing content on related topics.
“If Netflix can pick movies for you, there is no reason people need to figure this out on their own,” Brittany says.
The goal is to become a household name for people and families with disabilities. Much like Google is the search engine go to, AbleThrive will strive to become the go-to for disability resources.
Does Brittany have Haters?
While Brittany is fortunate to have a great support system in her life, she admits that finding the right people to support her entrepreneurship journey isn’t easy. She credits Echoing Green, a social enterprise seed fund, as the place she found her tribe. She was surrounded by like-minded people, all with a vision and purpose to do something great and dream big.
So many truth bombs here. It's OK to have different tribes that are dialed into different aspects of your life.
the Wind Beneath Her Wings
Brittany affectionately cites her father as being a source of inspiration and guidance for her. His resilience and adaptability have helped her feed her vision and what she stands for today. (#aww)
Brittany also cites her Coach, Sharon as well as her peers as being sources of influence and support. I have said this before, but I think it is perfectly ok to have more than one mentor. The more the merrier!
brittany's Advice for the Ambitious
“Go with your gut.” Absolutely. The gut is your biggest truth-teller. Brittany also advises to really prepare for your next move; do your research and start building your network.
That’s my jam
Brittany doesn’t have just one theme song, but a whole PLAYLIST. A girl after my own heart.
Brittany has a playlist on Spotify called “Moving” which has a collection of songs that just do just that — move her. (Spoiler alert, it is pretty Enya-esque)
Shout out to Brittany for taking a personal and challenging situation and turning it into an opportunity to help others. We like to call that making lemonade. Thanks for following your gut, girl. So many people are benefitting because of you.