The Deaf Adventurer Behind Codfish Adventure Gear

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The Deaf Adventurer Behind Codfish Adventure Gear

Posted March 15, 2024


Posted March 15, 2024

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An ear with sound waves in the background

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How one small business owner is navigating the business landscape as a deaf woman and accessibility advocate.

Starting a business is a challenging — though equally rewarding — endeavor. For individuals with disabilities, the process comes with additional challenges. One small business owner who was born deaf has experienced these obstacles herself. Yet, the small business she started nearly two years ago is thriving. 

Jen Long, Owner and Founder of Codfish Adventure Gear, shares how she’s navigated the challenges of starting a small business as a deaf woman and how she’s turned her unique perspective into a drive for breaking barriers.

Meet Jen — the Creator of Codfish Adventure Gear

Located in Virgin, Utah — just outside of Zion National Park — Jen spends most of her time hand sewing adventure gear for four-legged friends. Her inspiration for Codfish Adventure Gear stemmed from the passing of her husband Ken in 2021. “I asked myself: What is something I can do that would honor him?” Jen said. “He loves hiking and climbing and I wanted to do something that was simple and easy. After he passed, I wanted to expand [the gear I was already making] to make patterns for dog bandanas, and I knew that he would love it.”

She then set to work creating dog bandanas with designs ranging from Star Wars and the Office to college sports teams and outdoor themes. As she was creating designs, she worked with her daughter to create the name and logo for her company. “Codfish’s name comes from Peter Pan’s movie, Hook, with Robin Williams,” Jen explained. “My first date with my husband was to see this movie and from then on, we started calling each other Codfish. I thought this would be a great way to honor him.”

In 2022, Jen launched the Codfish website and started sharing it with family and friends and advertising in local spaces. The positive response led to her first market in April 2023 and she continues to attend local farmers markets. Today, Jen sells climbing chalk bags, dog training mini treat bags, leashes, t-shirts, stickers, water bottles, and more on the Codfish website as well as on Instagram and Etsy.

Overcoming Business Hurdles as a Deaf Entrepreneur

The success Jen has experienced hasn’t come without its challenges. As a deaf business owner, she’s overcome numerous challenges around communication. “Most people are really nice about my disability,” Jen said. “They take the time to make sure I can understand them.” However, to ensure she’s able to communicate with customers at outside markets, she brings her son or daughter to interpret. Though most people are kind, she has dealt with individuals who speak to her children rather than directly with her or ignore the ‘About Me’ sign Jen has displayed that states she’s hearing impaired. 

In the online space, Jen relies primarily on direct messages and emails to interact with customers. When introducing new designs or promoting deals, Jen uses images over videos as she feels the platform’s transcription and subtitles aren’t great. “It’s hard to do because I get subconscious about speaking,” Jen explained. “I’ve done a video [in the past] but it took a few times to get right considering it’s hard to speak and sign at the same time.” 

Even with the challenges around communication, Jen has found creative ways in which to interact with customers and promote her business. With the help of her vast support system, she’s able to navigate in-person events and expand her customer base. As for the online space — she lets the stunning images of her products and satisfied customers speak for themselves.

Advice from Jen: Don’t be Afraid to Start Your Own Business

As Jen has navigated the small business space the last two years, she’s crossed paths with numerous small business owners, disability accessibility advocates, and new friends. Each of them have helped Jen learn how to succeed as a deaf business owner. 

“My mom was really the first woman to really support me,” Jen recalls. “She helped me work with a speech therapist so I could learn how to speak and communicate well with others.” Jen also attributes much of her success to her speech therapist, Doreen Pollock, with whom she met twice a week for an hour for ten years. “She taught me how to recognize sounds and words correctly and how to hear sounds with my hearing aids.”

Another person Jen attributes her success to is Alisha, a hearing-impaired friend she’s known since high school. “She introduced me to tools like Otter which help me transcribe and communicate in the hearing world after my husband passed away.”

“Having a support system around you can really help,” Jen continues. “I’m a really shy person, but two of my friends helped me get [my products into one store] which gave me the confidence to go to the next one and the next one.”

As Codfish Adventure Gear continues to grow, Jen is excited about the opportunities she has as a digital accessibility advocate to make the internet “a place where everyone feels right at home.” She’s hopeful that her work in this online space will help entrepreneurs with disabilities find the tools they need to make their small businesses a success.

“Never give up,” Jen says. “Keep trying to talk to people and get the word out. Make new friends. I have the courage to keep going, so [don’t be afraid] to put yourself out there.”

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