Contributing Editor Pamela Miller
“It was heart-wrenching looking into his eyes,” Gina Adams, Founder and CEO of Ware·ologie says of her last visit with her stepfather Tom, before he passed. “He had the face of Parkinson’s. His strength had been stripped from him by the disease. We sat on the deck on a hot August day, Tom unable to speak about what was happening to him. I was recovering from knee surgery. Technically, at the moment, we were both in need of help, but he was truly the vulnerable one. Vulnerability is so often associated with weakness, and that feeling can crush the soul. I felt compelled to do something, create a solution that wasn’t years off in helping people, but something that could bring back a little independence and pride. It would not be in time to help Tom, but it could help millions of other people.”
An idea began to spring up one again, one that had begun to germinate more than 25 years earlier while Gina was living in Breckenridge, Colorado.
“When I was working for the North Face, I was very aware that clothing made for able-bodied people did not work for people with disabilities. Here we have this large, courageous segment of the population seriously underserved and using duct tape to keep mittens on their hands.”
She enrolled to get her masters at Wayne State University. “At Wayne, I developed my business plan, conducted customer discovery, price analysis, marketing development, and eventually product development.” She had her magnetic button adapter idea solidified, and she knew she was on to something significant. So many ideas and solutions seemed to line up behind the buttons in her head. Along the way as she learned more about the field she was entering, she realized this wasn’t just about buttons. Gina felt in her bones this was a concept she could expand into a larger company, offering more “hardware” solutions for wardrobes of the disabled and elderly. “We want to focus on hardware, hence Ware·ologie – accessories and devices to help empower people to carry out ADLs (acts of daily living) like brushing ones teeth.
Since the products creation, Gina has met with countless people, including Team Fox in the D and Rock Steady Boxing Parkinson’s group, stroke survivors, Multiple Sclerosis yoga members, occupational therapists at rehabilitation facilities, and assisted care facilities.
It seems Ware·ology is on its way to finding its niche, creating simple solutions to help people live at home, “age in place,” and regain time. Time is the value proposition; for both caregivers and individual suffering.
Gina notes, “These magnetic buttons offer independence for those who have dexterity issues – empowering them to take part in their self-care again. This provides an additional value for caregivers who recover personal time. By restoring time, we enable people to relax and enjoy the “now.” When people test the buttons – I see big smiles on their faces that they can dress themselves. It is so rewarding. Adults don’t want to rely on others for these simple activities. My stepfather was the breadwinner and always took care of everyone else. When that is taken away, it is devastating. People want to feel good about themselves. Why not accomplish that by making things that look and function beautifully. Our goal is to bring innovative products to market that will alleviate some frustration and help people regain confidence and well-being. That right there! That is what keeps me going.”
It is her passion to serve others that drives her daily. In addition to logging massive hours of research, completing her MBA, launching Ware·ologie, manufacturing the magnetic button adapters, continuing to run her nonprofit of the last 10 years, Peace, Love, & Planet, which focuses on healthy habits for a healthy planet with an education platform for children, she suddenly found herself divorced, a single mother to her son and daughter.
“My kids have seen the roller coaster of emotions. It’s been hard for a few years. I no longer hide my tears or frustration. I teach my kids that life is messy and that having empathy for others makes the journey a fuller experience. I hope I am a good role model. Having my kids help with events for Buttons2Button and Ware·ologie is time I get to spend with them. It opens their eyes to understanding our mission – it’s taking the blinders off illness. In a society of reality TV shows and sexy influencers on social media, it’s good to show them that people can thrive while living life with a disability. It’s a humbling experience that makes you have a more mature outlook on life. We had the wind knocked out of us. We endured and now we are thriving. Buttons2button – this no-sew, magnetic adapter button, this first product of Ware·ologie – wouldn’t be where it is today without my kids and all of the people that have answered my questions and tested the products. I feel like I have a business, but also a community that has come to surround us. As I’ve grown this business, family, friends, and experts have miraculously shown up at just the right time and provided another layer of perspective and more information that was needed to take the next step. I have an amazing village, and together we’re making solutions that will increase the quality of life for people right now.”