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William Donohoe turned an ostensibly fatal ailment into an opportunity to make his dreams come to life.
In January 2002, Donohoe was diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari malfunction (ACM), a congenital brain anomaly, which rendered him futile during the course of his operation and recovery.
He used his amelioration period to plan his shipping business aptly named The Shipping Shack.
With the assistance of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation program, William Donohoe eventually established his company in September 9, 2005.
In addition, Donohoe was granted the SEE program by the Department of Human Resources for the state of Hawaii where minimum or 14 per cent of overall employee wage were reimbursed, significantly reducing costs, thus, increasing company viability.
He claims that there are government programs out there, designed to assist the public, which do not get proper publicity.
“I think that the word is not out there that some of these programs exist and a lot of times government money is not used. And I think the government in the State of Hawaii has these programs,” Donohoe said. “They need to publicize it more and let the private sector know that there is help available, which I believe they are starting to do now.”
Hear more about William Donohoe’s humble transition from employee to employer, as he talks about how he has overcome disability and be the man he only once dreamt of.
William Donohoe’s story in his own words:
I am 48 years old. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Single father of four sons. They were 6, 5, 4 and 2 when I got divorced and custody of them. They are now 25, 24, 23 and 21. All are on their own and doing extremely well. Their jobs include warehousing, working for NASA, a firefighter, and my youngest son attending HPU majoring in marine biology and also studying his first year of graduate school concurrent with his senior year.
For the past 19 years, I was employed by Federal Express. Started with FedEx in ‘ 86 in Columbus, Ohio. Approximately in ‘ 92, I transferred to Orlando, FL with my sons going with me. In April 2001, I transferred to here in Honolulu with Federal Express. My dream has always been to live in Honolulu, on the beach in Waikiki, and starting my own business after raising my sons. My youngest son Sean came over here with me to do his senior year in high school. He attended Mililani High School. His lifetime dream was to move to Hawaii and to do his senior year of high school to be considered as a Hawaiian resident for he wanted to attend college here in Hawaii and to major in marine biology. Upon completing his senior year at M.H.S. He was awarded Valid Victorian and offered full scholarships from UH Hilo and HPU both. He had done as to what his brothers had done. To receive full financial support to attend college. When Sean moved to HPU’s dorm, I moved down to Waikiki. At this point 2 of my 3 dreams had become a reality. My final dream of owning my own business came about in strange way.
In mid 2002, I started to experience extremely severe headaches and numbness on the left side of my body. Also, while driving, I started to have periods of blackouts and numbness going down to both feet. There were times as to where I could not feel the brake and/or accelerator. My job with federal Express at that time was handling restricted articles such as radioactive material and explosives primarily to the military bases. Due to being a risk to the public and myself, I had to report my conditions to my supervisor at FedEx. This was after being seen by a neurologist. The neurologist located a Lipoma Tumor at the base of my brain. In fact it is still there. FedEx had me go see the company doctor. He immediately placed me on medical disability pending the outcome of my medical situation. My neurologist said that this Lipoma, a fatty tissue tumor, was not the cause of my symptoms. After more tests it was determined that I had Arnold Chiari Malformation of the brain. This is where you are born with part of your brain stem missing and your brain “is falling” and hitting your cervical spine. Here the fluid was building up around my brain and a syrinx, blister, had formed on my cervical spine. I went back to Orlando, FL to have my operation for two of sons lived there still and one is a Firefighter/EMT. During my brain operation, a large mass of scar tissue and arachnoids adhesions was discovered around my brain. All of this was removed at that time. It was determined that this was from where I had been bitten by a deer tick back in ‘ 89 while in Ohio. I contracted Lyme disease which led to spinal meningitis which was almost fatal.
While recovering from my brain surgery, I had episodes of my legs collapsing from underneath me, causing me to fall backwards without any control. After further medical evaluations it was determined that I had severe case of degenerated disc in the lower lumbar area. Over a period of time the occurrences of pain and falling backwards greatly increased. It got to be where I could walk only 1-2 blocks before collapsing. A few times this occur while I was crossing a major intersection, falling backwards in the middle of the road. At that time, I told my doctor that something had to be done. So this past April, I had the disc removed between L-2 and L-3 along with the disc between L-3 and L-4. Six screws along with metal bars/plates and a bone graph from my right hip were inserted into my back to replace the disc.
When I went on medical disability back in October ‘ 02 from FedEx, I made the determination then to start my own business. I made this decision for I knew that there would be a good possibility that I would not be able to return to work at FedEx. While going thru medical test, traveling from here back to the mainland, before and after my brain and spine surgery, I continued in pursuing my final dream of starting and being successful in my own business. I chose the business of a package/shipping store due to my knowledge of the business among other reasons. Even though not nearly as severe, I still have symptoms today. My doctors said that my symptoms will probably never go totally away for irreversible damage has probably occurred. This did not deter me from reaching my final dream. In fact, it made me more determined.
I then heard of The State of Hawaii’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) having a program for those being disabled to help them return to work and a normal life. This is what I needed the most. To have a direction put back into my life and to be productive in society again. I then called DVR and made an appointment to go to their office.
My first visit to the DVR office is where I met Supervisor Susan Foard. Susan had myself fill out the necessary paperwork. She asked me as to what exactly I wanted to do for employment. I explained to Susan that I wanted to start my own business, a package/shipping store. I informed Susan that I had an associate’s degree in Business Administration and several years of management experience. Susan informed that DVR was starting a new program for individuals that qualified to start their own business.
I was given a future appointment at DVR. This was the start of final dream coming true. My caseworker at DVR assigned to me was Lorene Gokan. Lorene informed me that DVR was willing to pay for me to attend a business/entrepreneurship business class at The Hawaii Center for Entrepreneurship. I started my entrepreneurship class approximately in February of this year. There is where I met my instructor, Hal Fraser.
Hal Fraser took on the challenge of meeting each one of his students outside the classroom to personally instruct/coach them. When Hal and I had our first meeting, Hal was impressed as to what my business plans and dreams consisted of. From that point and still, Hal has been there to coach and give me advice. Hal has helped me tremendously in preparing my business plan, cash flow, break even analysis, etc. This was a great asset in helping myself achieve my dream. Hal personally coached me in a mock interview to prepare myself for my business plan presentation before The Grant Committee at DVR. Hal is still my business consultant. I totally respect his advice.
My presentation to The Grant Committee consisted of individuals form local bank(s), SBA and DVR. I presented my business plan to the committee on September 1st of this year. My business plan was approved on September 9th and the grant in the amount that I had requested was awarded. The grant amount was $35,176.76 Hal also introduced me to two of his students attending his class at Chaminade University. These two students are Jadine Lee and Beaudine Ma, both sisters. Their other two sisters are Nadine and Codine. All four sisters are my landlords. They own the brand new building,
The Kaimuki Entrepreneurs Center, here at 3569 Harding Avenue. The Kaimuki Entrepreneurs Center is a great asset also the business community
Here businesses are able to rent office space and/or conference room space by the hour and/or day. Small businesses owners will have a location to fulfill their needs that they might not have available due to long term leasing cost.
To be able to place a package/shipping store in such a building is such a great business opportunity. Here businesses are able to rent office space and/or conference room space by the hour and/or day. With such a large number of businesses coming in and out of the building will add greatly to the need of my store’s services. This is tremendously better than having long term established businesses in the same building.
The services that will are being offered by The Shipping Shack, Inc. include packing and shipping. Shipping services being offered are UPS, DHL, FedEx and USPS. other services being offered are faxing, copying, money transfers, mail box rentals and an Internet Cafe. The need for an Internet Cafe has been proven to being a plus in the package/shipping service. Products being offered are shipping supplies such as boxes, tape, packing peanuts, etc. Other products are gift wrap, gift cards, office supplies, and business software in “The Small Business” section.
“The Small Business Section” is what will put The Shipping Shack, Inc. above its competition. Here business owners will be able to not only purchase product needs but be able to market their own businesses. Business owners that join The Shipping Shack’s Loyalty program will be able to display their business cards and brochures to tell about their businesses’ products and services. Also loyalty card holders will receive discounts on products and services provided by The Shipping Shack, Inc. In the very near future a website will be built for The Shipping Shack, Inc. Not only will the products and services that are being offered by The Shipping Shack, Inc. will be found but loyalty card holders will be able to place their businesses on here as well. This will give them greater exposure at the fraction of the cost of going and building and maintaining their own website. This concept will help create a “Business Melting Center” for all business owners in the Kaimuki area. The Shipping Shack’s clients will not just be coming and picking up and/or dropping off their packages and then walking out the door. Everyone involved will benefit from this concept.
The store’s interior decor will also entice clients to tell about their experience at The Shipping Shack. Here the interior will not be done in your U.S. Post Office dull colors or our main competitor’s commercial look. Instead it will be done in Hawaiian/Tropical style with wood floors, thatch, bamboo, surf boards for signs, etc. This alone will help market The Shipping Shack, Inc.
In my business plan, I have put into effect every possible avenue of reducing expenses. From using an ATM Script machine to eliminate merchant fees, free paper shredding to help reduce packing material cost, ceiling fans to eliminate air conditioning, design own company logo, design own blueprints, to joining the Associated Mail Parcel Center (AMPC) which is an organization of private package/shipping store owners. The AMPC is what FTD is to a florist shop owner or ACE is to a hardware store owner. By being a member to AMPC, it reduces tremendously the wholesale charges charged by the major courier services such as DHL. Also for each line of product, I have contacted 3 to 5 different suppliers to get the best lowest price. In fact, I even had the lowest bidder reduce their price even more by persuasion. This is without risking quality of service and/or product. This should be known to the public since it is their tax dollars at work here. They should know from the very beginning and now forever this is how The Shipping Shack, Inc. will conduct its business.
The Shipping Shack, Inc. has also acquired its employees thru The State of Hawaii’s Supporting Employment Empowerment, better known as the SEE Program. Imam Choate SEE Program’s Employer Relations Specialist has worked with me in obtaining my employees. Here as an employer, the State of Hawaii pays my employees up to the minimum wage portion of their pay plus heir complete medical benefits. In addition, The Shipping Shack, Inc. will be reimbursed 14% of its employee’s taxes. This program not only helps a small business as The Shipping Shack with its expenses but more importantly helps those that are seeking reputable employment. This is where everyone involved wins being the employee, the employer and the taxpayer. In having this money available enables The Shipping Shack to raise the pay level for its employees since a large portion of employees’ wages are covered. This enables an employee to raise their standard of living. Here again the employee and taxpayer benefits by giving an individual an incentive to return to work.
In conclusion, I like to thank all of those that who have been there to help me. This includes Hal Fraser, Lorene Gokan, Susan Foard, The Grant Committee, The See Program and DVR, my vendors and suppliers my accountant, financial advisor, and most important my family and friends who not only gave their support financially but also their free time and services along with their moral support and wishes as well. As I look back as to what has happened in the last 3 years of my life, one can only say that there was a definite reason for all of this to occur and for all the people that I already knew or became to be known in my life to step forward from the crowd to lend their support. It was meant to happen without a doubt. The final outcome is very clear. I have started the first step in accomplishing my final dream.
My grand opening was Monday, November 21. On Saturday, November 19 my landlords and I had a Hawaiian Blessing. It is a tradition to do so here in Hawaii to please the Gods and for a successful future. The Blessing consisted of the blessing service, and hula dancing, and local Hawaiian artists playing music. Also, even though nothing is written in concrete yet the mayor, the Lt. Governor and other government were in attendance. This was due myself receiving governmental funding due to my medical disability. I am the first person to make it through a new program for an individual on disability to complete this particular program. I have been labeled “the poster child” for this new State of Hawaii program.
The Shipping Shack