Jenny McKenzie lost her job in 1999, which she says, “forced me to reevaluate my employability.” She ended up focusing on her artwork instead and excelled in ways she never thought possible. One of her greatest accomplishments was to have her artwork on display during a few General Assembly meetings. She then moved on to creating textured pieces in order to reach an audience never reached before. After selling a few illustrated Brailled poems at the American Association of the Deaf/Blind, she was “encouraged to buy a device that helps create tactile pictures so people who are blind can access [her] artwork.” At the AADB conference, Jenny remembers how satisfying it was to have a Braille reader stand at her table, read her poem aloud, and then be given a description of the painting by a helper.
On her journey towards successful entrepreneurship, Jenny faced numerous obstacles: she did not drive, she has physical limitations, and she has impaired hearing and vision. Of these challenges, Jenny declared, “It isn’t wrong to cry when you feel the world is turning upside down. Find a good friend and talk about the problem. Sometimes another person’s input can open your eyes to new ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” And ask for help is precisely what Jenny did. Her vocational counselor sent her an email with information about EWI’s Entrepreneur Training for Success, and Jenny realized she did not have to struggle alone any longer. EWI helped her create a portfolio, write a business plan, and launch her business as an artist.
Jenny credits EWI as having played a crucial part in her success, “EWI helped me see that women from all backgrounds are impoverished and oppressed due to lack of education and discrimination. It does not matter what your skin color is, what language you speak, or if you have physical or mental disabilities. We are all equal, God made us all. EWI works hard to break down barriers that separate and prevent people from building friendships. When we open the door to communication and freely exchange ideas without fear, there will be peace in the world. EWI is a peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers, and peacekeepers.”
Since graduating from EWI’s programs, Jenny continues to give back to her community by regularly donating artwork to the VA Association of the DeafBlind silent auctions. She also gives artwork to scholarship funds and participates in many fundraising events for other organizations. Her favorite way to give back, however, is to give friends illustrated poems when they are going through an especially hard time in their lives. Jenny is a beautiful example of an entrepreneur who truly pays it forward. She is a conduit for EWI’s values of generosity, compassion and hard work, spreading positivity throughout the entire community with her art.
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