Jenna MacPherson has turned her hobby and physical therapy into a viral business.

The 20-year-old woman from Grimsby started making bracelets a few years ago. She was making them by the hundreds.

The bracelets were not only fun for her to make, but they served as physical therapy for her Potocki-Lupski Syndrome (PTLS).

PTLS is defined as a condition that results from having an extra copy of a small piece of Chromosome 17 in each cell.

Jenna’s mom, Julia, said said she had failure to thrive (a medical term for when a child’s weight or weight gain is significantly low) when she was born. At the age of seven, she was diagnosed with PTLS officially but had been supported with occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology prior.

In addition to some of her physical difficulties, PTLS can come with some learning difficulties.

Julia recalls when Jenna was in high school and her care there was inconsistent.

“Year after year, we were facing different ways of them trying to help Jenna read and write,” she said. “In school, they wanted Jenna picking up garbage and doing recycling. They didn’t push her to what she could’ve done … one high school we were attached to couldn’t teach Jenna reading because they didn’t have her age group books in the library.”

The lack of support for Jenna continued when she was unable to secure an employment co-op placement.

Without her viral brand, Jenna could have ended up like many Canadians with disabilities that are unable to secure employment.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2017, people with disabilities between the ages of 25 to 64 were 59 per cent less likely to be employed than those without disabilities.

“Among those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were not employed and not currently in school, two in five (39 per cent) had potential to work,” the report reads. “This represents nearly 645,000 individuals with disabilities.”

During the pandemic, shortly after graduating high school, Jenna’s older sister Jillian noticed her making these friendship bracelets for fun and thought they were good physical therapy for dexterity.

Obsessed with TikTok, Jenna asked her sister if she would shoot a short video with her.

“So, it was my TikTok (page), and (the video) was just like, ‘Hey, Jenna, question and answer time’,” Jillian recalled. “It blew up overnight.”

Now, Jenna’s TikTok page jenna.makes.bracelets has more than 80,000 followers, with tens of thousands of views on each TikTok.

Besides showing her life, teaching about her disability, and playing with cats on her page, Jenna uses her TikTok to sell the bracelets she makes.

Using the website jennasbracelets.com, Jenna sells the braided bracelets for $10 each, with proceeds going to places like the Potocki-Lupski Foundation, and local organizations such as The Bethesda Foundation.

Julia said Jenna’s community on TikTok has been so supportive it was important to her to give back.

Not only is Jenna focused on giving back, but her TikTok has allowed Jenna to form a community of supporters and learn about running a business.

“I think it’s kind of just empowered her there,” Jillian said.

“When we first started her TikTok, it was on her to build it. She creates the content she wants to post, and we just help her post it. But it’s all her brain and all her ideas, and, you know, how she engages with people to grow her following. That’s all her. She’s in full charge of her TikTok.”

Her mom, Julia, added that she’s getting real, hands-on experience by running her TikTok.

“You try to find a business program or a program that caters to Jenna and her learning, you wouldn’t,” she said.

Right now, Jenna is motivated to reach 100,000 followers on TikTok and wants her account to become a verified page.

“When she has a goal, she lets TikTok know and they’re right there to rally around her and to support her in it, which has been absolutely incredible,” Jillian said.

By Abby Green, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 23, 2023 at 03:00

This item reprinted with permission from   Grimsby Lincoln News   Grimsby, Ontario
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