When things get tough, the tough get going and after suffering a head injury Lucy Fouasse found healing by helping others through interactions with animals
When Lucy Fouasse suffered a major head injury she was not able to work at her job for a few years. During that time, she spent much of it with two miniature horses on her farm near St. Malo, Manitoba. Fouasse found great solace and healing through interactions with these animals.
Ready to return back to work and armed with a counselling background, Fouasse saw an opportunity to help others who have suffered from trauma, to heal through interactions with farm animals. Since her company, Lil’ Steps Wellness was founded, she has helped hundreds of community members on their journey to improved mental health.
Community Futures and the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program caught up with the Manitoba entrepreneur to learn what has happened to Fouasse and her business, since participating in the Just Watch ME! Video Contest in 2017.
The Early Days
Fouasse was enjoying a successful career in the mental health industry, working at the Department of Justice for 11 years, when everything changed. A serious head injury sidelined her from her career and required a change in lifestyle, as she worked to get herself healthy.
As Fouasse spent her days with two miniature horses, she quickly realized they were playing an integral role in her return to health. The business was bootstrapped in August 2015 with little money, but an abundance of hard work and dedication.
“I remember distinctly working for 26 days in a row without taking a break,” Fouasse said. “My original client was a boy with autism that worked at my farm for the first few years. It was the first clients that made a big impact and proved to me that there was an opportunity in this business.”
Like many entrepreneurs with disabilities, Fouasse did not start the business with a goal to make millions. She saw a need and used her capacity and available resources to fill it. Along the way it helped her integrate further into the community and demonstrate that anyone can be a business owner with a disability.
The Just Watch ME! Video Contest
Fouasse learned about the Just Watch ME! Video Contest through the Elevate program. She grabbed a camera, surrounded herself with many of her animals and told her story, reflecting on her journey and why entrepreneurship was a good fit for her.
“When I found out I was a finalist, it was very humbling. The best part of it all was that it showed me that my entire community was behind me and ready to support Lil’ Steps,” she said. Fouasse advanced to the final four and was eventually crowned the 2017-18 winner. “Winning was great. It gave my idea further validation and helped promote my company,” she added.
How Has The Business Grown Since The Contest?
Fouasse feels her business has not changed since the company was started, rather, has grown. “We offer the same programs that we did when we started, but now we just do a lot more of them,” she noted. In addition to animal assisted therapy, Lil’ Steps Wellness has branched out to other directions. Fouasse published a children’s book titled Cindy and Cristabelle’s Big Scare, which was launched, Oct. 19, 2019. She also sells weighted blankets and other sensory products on her website, as well as various retail stores in Manitoba.
Another large part of Fouasse’s business is youth camps that offer students an opportunity to visit her farm to learn about stress reduction and other coping skills through interactions with the animals. Always looking to give back, Lil’ Steps Wellness donates 10 per cent of its profits to support youth that can not afford to visit her farm.
Fouasse believes her business has succeeded, due to her positive attitude. “It’s because of my mentality. I never questioned if I would fail, it was always, how can I grow and how can I succeed with positive thinking and problem solving,” she added.
Goals For The Future:
Excited about the future, Fouasse looks forward to growing all aspects of her business and impacting people through interactions with the animals on her farm. Her intention is to follow up her upcoming book launch with a series of books that offer easy-to-understand lessons on mental health issues. Fouasse wants to publish more books, to help people with a variety of mental health needs, as well as provide education and support for parents and care givers. Additionally, she is considering more programming and more sensory products.
Advice to others:
Networking, Fouasse noted, is a vital part of any small business and urged other entrepreneurs to get out there and meet people in their community. “You never know what impact a relationship with the right person can have on your business,” she said. Fouasse also recommended using free marketing tools, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “They are an affordable link to your clients and a great way to share your story and build a following,” she explained, adding is it important to share your story. “People like to follow the story, the animals on the farm, the progress we are making here.”
Fouasse also urges entrepreneurs to go for it. “When you have a dream, go full force into it. Have the confidence of believing in yourself. Don’t question yourself, just do it,” she said. “When you start to dream big things will follow you along.”
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