It was Andrew Ziccardi’s last call of the day, and it was hot.
This was August 2010, and Andrew had a job selling durable medical equipment, which included delivering the equipment to clients and training them how to use it. But on this Chicago afternoon, the humidity overwhelmed his client — a woman in her 80s — as she tried out her new walker. She took a bottle of water from the refrigerator and held it up to him.
“Andy,” she said, “I can’t open these. Can you open it for me?” As he twisted the cap off, it dawned on Andrew that his client probably wasn’t the only senior who struggled to uncap a water bottle.
“I have an 89-year-old mom, and she has difficulties, too,” he remembers thinking.
That realization set Andrew on an unexpected path. Five years of research later, he developed the Ergo Opener, a small tool that fits over bottle caps and enables people with hand-strength issues to open water bottles with ease. Portable, recyclable, and made in the USA, the Ergo Opener is engineered to let users open about 95% of generic water bottles.
Entrepreneurs like Andrew are brimming with ideas and motivation. Often, though, they need help getting their ideas off the ground.
For Andrew, that help came in the form of AARP Foundation’s free Work for Yourself@50+ workshop, taught at Northeastern Illinois University by a childhood friend of his. The workshop centers on the Five Simple Steps to Get You Started toolkit, which includes detailed lesson plans and worksheets. Participants gain free tools, resources and guidance, as well as connections to peers and to additional program support.
You have the power to change the lives of seniors in poverty
1 in 3 older adults struggle to meet their basic needs. Your gift can help seniors secure good jobs, get the benefits they've earned, and stay connected to their communities.
Andrew says the workshop emphasized the importance of doing extensive market research on his prospective industry. From there, he learned how to refine his business model and develop a full-fledged business plan, including, he says, “what I think I’ll generate the first, second and third year. What costs are involved — not only the product and manufacturing, but other things like advertising, trade shows and travel.”