How did you first hear about occupational therapy and what lead you to pursue it as a career?
Ali: An old neighbor of mine who was a few years older than I am came back to our high school to give a presentation about her education at the University of Pittsburgh. She talked about her major: Occupational Therapy. I had never heard of OT before but was very interested to hear about her life and what she had been up to since I hadn’t seen her in a long time. After her presentation, I stayed and talked with her about OT and what exactly she planned to do with her degree. That night, I went home and researched Universities near me that offered Occupational Therapy, and decided to set my focus on Penn State’s OTA Program. I was able to visit the campus, sit in on classes, and volunteer in my local community before deciding that this career was meant for me!
Holly: When I was a senior in high school my Uncle Joe was diagnosed with (what we thought was) a stroke. He was admitted into an intensive rehab hospital that specialized in CVA and TBI recovery programs. I was able to begin volunteering at the rehab hospital and spent a half day in high school and the second half with my uncle watching his therapy’s (OT/PT/SLP/PSYCH). A few weeks went by and he was not progressing but sadly declining. He was then diagnosed with stage 4 Glioblastoma which is a very aggressive form of brain cancer. He passed away in December of 2014 and I applied for the OTA program at Penn State in January of 2020. I believe that every situation in your life is valuable and gives you an opportunity to grow. While I would never wish this outcome for him/my family/anyone, I am grateful that I found Occupational Therapy.
How long have you been a licensed COTA? What settings and populations do you have experience working with?
Ali: I received my NBCOT certification in January of 2018 and have been a licensed COTA since February of 2018. I have experience working in SNFs, Outpatient Rehab, Acute Inpatient Rehab, Pediatrics, and Lymphedema.
Holly: I became licensed in Ohio and Pennsylvania in February of 2018. Mainly I have worked with the geriatric population in Skilled Nursing Facilities. I also have experience in Outpatient Rehab (specialty hand clinic) and Inpatient Rehab with diagnosis such as carpal tunnel, TBI, CVA, COPD and ulnar nerve transposition.
What is your favorite thing about being a COTA? What do you find most challenging?
Ali: My favorite thing about being a COTA is developing such strong relationships with my patients. I enjoy learning about their lives, hearing their goals, and getting to know them on a more personal level rather than just the information in their chart or on their eval. To go along with that statement, I would say the most challenging is when your patients “graduate” (as I like to call it!) from therapy and are discharged. After making such great connections with patients, it is hard to not see them multiple times per week.
Holly: I absolutely LOVE working in occupational therapy! My favorite thing is watching my patients progress and meet their goals. It is extremely rewarding to watch them adapt to a new environment and lifestyle knowing I could help in their recovery.
One of the most challenging things I have found working would definitely be productivity. It is sad to me how insurance plays such a huge (sometimes negative) role in patient care. It’s hard to juggle your day between treating patients and documenting, I am still trying to find a perfect balance but it’s hard because every day is different.
How did you ladies meet?
We met in our OTA Program in 2015 at Penn State. We were the only “traditional” students in our program right out of high school so we bonded quickly. We both got our OTA degree and continued on for our Bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Studies. We legitimately had every class together and spent time with each other outside of class as well. We bonded very quickly in school and have been best friends ever since!
Holly: I always say Purpose would never exist without Ali- I am thankful everyday I get to run a company with my best friend and how when we have ideas we can turn them into a reality.
What sparked the idea for Purpose subscription box for seniors?
While we were completing our clinicals for our OTA Program in SNFs, we noticed that many residents were isolated and disconnected from their family members. We talked about it often and wanted to come up with a solution. Originally, we created Purpose specifically for seniors. We developed a Quarterly Subscription Box that family members could purchase to be sent to their elderly loved ones. Families can upload photos and messages to personalize the boxes and we also offer one-time purchases boxes such as Thinking Of You and Birthday Boxes. From there, we noticed that we were still missing a large portion of older adults who do not have family, so we created our Sponsor a Senior Program. Our sponsor program allows ANYONE to purchase a box, and those boxes are hand-delivered to older adults in senior care facilities who do not have family or who do not receive regular visitors.
We have always wanted to be more involved in the huge OT Community, which is why we have expanded Purpose to provide a Subscription Box and OT Apparel and accessories for OT Practitioners and Students as well!
Did you face many challenges through the design/creative process?
Ali: Holly is the more creative one out of the two of us, so I definitely face challenges when it comes to that area of our company. I will think of an idea or know how I want something to look and then I try to explain that to Holly and she creates something better than I could have ever imagined!
Holly: I love creating content for Purpose and our various materials. Like Ali said, she will tell me her vision and I will tweak it until we can both say we love it. We have learned over the years that if you do not “love it” you won’t be passionate about spreading the word or promoting it. We will sit down and look at specific months to determine what we want to convey and from there look at ideas and inspiration.
Describe what a typical day on the job looks like for you now that you have Purpose?
Ali: I am currently working 30+ hours as a COTA/L throughout the week and 40+ hours working with Purpose. Holly and I meet in our office two days a week and occasionally on weekends if we are not working as COTAs. It is definitely hectic but we have seen the progress and success due to our dedication and we want to continue to see that success and growth in the future.
Holly: Right now is such a busy time! Similar to Ali-I am currently working 25-40 hours a week (depending on PRN need) and 40+ hours with Purpose. I work every weekend as a COTA and after will go to the Purpose Office if needed! Some days are harder than others but I remind myself how incredible Purpose is and how lucky I am to have this opportunity.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in creating their own product or starting their own company?
Ali: Reach out to your University or even just local colleges near by, because they may offer great resources for small businesses that will help push you forward. Our University has been extremely helpful in providing us an outlet to market our company, grant opportunities, and free legal consultation & graphic design work.
Holly: Find a reliable business mentor who believes in your mission and can help you bounce ideas back and forth. It was challenging when Ali and I started Purpose since we are both healthcare based. We had to take initiative and learn the business side of everything (building a website/fulfilment/marketing/finances..ect) which was hard but necessary. Don’t give up on your passion and take every opportunity given to you!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ali: In 10 years, Purpose will be a full time career for me, however I will still be a practicing COTA/L (I love this profession too much to not practice!)
Holly: In 10 years Ali and I will be running Purpose full time! I would still like to work PRN at a SNF, I really enjoy OT and connecting with patients. I never want to lose that aspect of ‘working’. Additionally, I want to build a house on my grandparents farm and have a greenhouse!
Quote to live by?
Ali: “If you don’t see a clear path for what you want, sometimes you have to make it yourself.”
– Mindy Kaling
Holly: “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” – John C. Maxwell
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Code: Heart15 for 15% off Purpose OT Apparel (including the new releases in April!) Valid: Now – April 30th, 2020
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