Michele Walker launched the first product for Bee Visual, LLC in February 2007, although it was in the works for a year before that. Her partner in the business is her husband, Jeff.
"Our business creates visual supports that are affordable, easy to use, and cover behaviors parents/caregivers need help with the most," explains Walker, who has an M.S. in Applied Educational Psychology. Bee Visual's primary product, the Choiceworks Visual Support System, is made up of a Feelings Board, Schedule Board, Waiting Board, and 40 Visual Magnets to place on them to promote self-control, sequencing, and choice making. The system sells for $79.95 and also includes a storage easel, companion books, and digital timer. The company has also developed a Choiceworks app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, available at the iTunes Store for $14.99.
The Walkers have a child with a developmental disability, and drew on that experience when developing the Choiceworks concept. "No matter what we do as a family, we always have to consider how it will affect our child. It is very helpful to have a schedule of events, and pictorial representation reduce anxiety. It's important to have breaks or down time during the day and to avoid large groups, so we plan accordingly. What seems easy for us can be very difficult for kids with developmental differences."
Being a mom is Walker's first job, she says; Bee Visual "is my other job." The best thing about that other job is "I'm in contact with the top experts in the world." The worst thing: "Marketing. Unless you have a big marketing budget, it is very hard to tell a lot of people about your product."
Walker hopes to "expand our current system with additional magnet sets and boards based on customer feedback and look to add more complementary products" in the future.
For other parents planning to start a business, Walker advises: "If you truly believe in your idea, go for it! Just understand that the effort will be a lot harder and cost a lot more than you could ever imagine. We have had several people ask us about ideas they had and when they hear how much it costs to get a patent, the conversation seems to end."