Deaf businesses and Deaf women

Karli Dettman
Owning and running a business isn't easy. You must be hard-working and creative. You also need to communicate well. Some Deaf people may feel disadvantaged in selling their business idea. They have to find ways to communicate their ideas. I spoke with Lisa and Asphyxia who are two amazing Deaf women. Both own and run a business. Lisa travels around Queensland teaching Australian Sign Language, art and drama workshops and yoga classes. Asphyxia is a performer and has a puppet show. Sheperforms all around Australia. Internet technology like email and Skype help them to work.
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Karli Dettman on 12/09/2012
A gothic looking female puppet at an old-fashioned sewing machine in a bright room of pink, yellow and red colours.
velvetta_sewing_Artist Asphyxia

Asphyxia's "The Grimstones".

Owning and running a business requires personal discipline, commitment and passion. It is a bonus if you have a creative mind with good marketing skills, including good communication and networking skills. You also need the confidence to sell your products or services.

Some Deaf people may be disadvantaged in selling their products or services. They have to find ways to sell their ideas, especially when they are unique.

Lisa and Asphyxia are two amazing and determined Deaf women who discuss the successes and challenges of owning and running a business.

Skills and background

Asphyxia describes herself as a Deaf performer and a puppeteer. She has loved the arts for many years. She is also passionate about writing children's books and keeping a sustainable lifestyle with her hearing partner and eight year old son in inner-city Melbourne. She has been running her own business for 12 years now.

Lisa was born and bred in Maroochydore, Sunshine Coast, where she now lives with her new husband who is Deaf. She works as a drama teacher and has a background in theatre. In 2010 she returned from London with her seven-year-old Honeybee Theatre business under her sleeve. She re- established and renamed her business, now called Honey Creations.

What exactly do they do?

Asphyxia travels around Australia directing the puppet show The Grimstones, a gothic fairy tale story. She also performs her own circus shows.

Lisa travels around Queensland and provides three training components. They are Auslan teaching, art and drama workshops, and yoga classes. She has also written and published a book called Deaf Awareness.

How did it all start?

They both say they were influenced by their personal ambitions and deafness limitations.

Asphyxia has always been interested in ballet but was unable to be a professional dancer because of her Deafness. She studied computer science but admits she didn't like sitting at a desk all day in front of a screen. When she found the circus it felt like she was coming home.

At last I found a physical discipline like ballet that celebrates 'difference' and 'freaks'. Instead of trying to hide my Deafness, I incorporated sign language into my circus performances and carved out a small niche for myself.

Lisa explains how she often spent time alone growing up on a farm making art creations and playing drama with her three sisters. She also helped her mother run her fashion clothing shop.

Communication was difficult for Lisa at her mainstream school and at hearing social events. However, she has discovered if she works independently in a structured environment, her ideas cannot fail.

Lisa says, My experiences with the Australia Theatre of the Deaf and Honeybee Theatre were inspiring and fulfilling.

Her work with non-verbal children who have Asperger's syndrome is proving to be successful because of her unique repertoire of skills, combined with her personal experience in communication challenges.

Business challenges and successes

Initially Asphyxia tried registering with arts agencies but never got any work through them. So she decided to pay someone to telephone festivals to sell her performances to them. She started to get more work using this method. She now runs her own business entirely by using email, which when she was starting off was not a good networking tool.

Lisa explains some mothers wanted to call her to have a chat about their children's needs but this proved to be a challenge for her. However, she invested in a bluetooth neck loop to assist with hearing her mobile phone. She also recently set up Skype, which has visual image and sound. It means Lisa can use lip-reading skills along with her residual hearing to follow conversations.

Lisa says, With improved internet speeds and technology, Skype for me, now exceeds the phone. Sound and video quality is clearer and excellent.

They both enjoy being their own bosses and Asphyxia enjoys the deaf friendly approach in her work. Lisa enjoys having the freedom to set up her own deaf-friendly work environments, attracting deaf-friendly people in business and getting paid to do what she loves.

Valuable business advice

Be prepared to go the extra mile to compensate for being Deaf, says Asphyxia. She also stresses it is important to have correct English skills and for marketing materials to be professional and competitive.

Some companies find it difficult to accommodate Deaf members so it works well if you find your own way to make your business work, she adds.

Lisa's advice is to think twice when starting up your business. Make sure you are very passionate with your work and do your research properly to see if there is a demand for your services or products. Also it is important to have balance in both business and life.

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