Kai dreams of being a radio announcer, but until that happens, he’s working on growing his beef jerky microbusiness so his tasty treats can be sold across Australia.
The 18-year-old Sunshine Coast local, who lives with a vision impairment, autism and an intellectual disability, cleverly coined the name, A Blind Man’s Jerky, for his business.
Kai and his mother Kelly recently took his jerky to A Fair Day Out in Eumundi, a market that allows people with different abilities the chance to showcase their creative endeavours.
“The market was a great success, with Kai selling all of his products on the day and lots of people interested in his jerky,” Kelly said.
Kelly first heard about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) when Kai was at school. To find out more she contacted Carers Queensland, Queensland’s largest NDIS Local Area Coordination (LAC) Partner in the Community.
“Kai and I had a meeting with a LAC where we went through many questions regarding his disability and how it affects his and our lives, his interests and the assistance he needs on a daily basis,” Kelly said.
“From there a plan was written up. When it was approved, I received a call from my LAC to let me know.
“She explained everything I needed to know about accessing Kai’s funding, guidelines and suggested what type of service providers may suit Kai. She also said I could call her anytime if I had a question.”
Since accessing the scheme, Kai has access to an occupational therapist, physiotherapist and an orientation and mobility instructor. He’s recently started boxing, which Kelly says has been great for his balance because previously he struggled to stand on one foot.
“The NDIS has made it possible for Kai to access therapists that we could not afford, and this has been an amazing help,” Kelly said.
“They are teaching Kai life skills and helping him to become as independent as possible. They are also teaching us skills to help Kai at home.
“Kai is able to connect with friends and like-minded people through social groups and organised activities. He also has some amazing support workers who take him to his activities and programs and also provide respite for our family if needed.”
It was one of these NDIS-funded support workers that suggested Kai start his own microbusiness, and another, who is a chef, who said making beef jerky was a good business venture.
“Kai is totally blind and came up with the name A Blind Man’s Jerky. He’s also had a T-shirt designed and wants to make stubbie coolers with his logo on it. Kai had never had jerky before, but now he’s tried it, he loves it,” Kelly said.
“He also has a great sense of humour which is reflected in the flavour names of his jerky with each one having a different funny slogan. He also has some crazy ideas for different flavours, for example chilli chocolate jerky and burger ring jerky.”
The slogan for his teriyaki jerky is ‘teriyaki to stop your dad being narky’ and for the non-flavoured jerky it’s ‘no frills, ridgy didge,’ while Kai says in the future his satay jerky may come with the slogan ‘satay might make you fartay.’
Kai’s long-term goal for A Blind Man’s Jerky is to set up a website where people across Australia can enjoy his treats, but in the interim, and with the help of his support workers, he’s selling his products through social media and by word of mouth.
Kelly said while Kai is looking forward to growing his business, his main passion is music and he can play the keyboard by ear and is pitch perfect. He also attends music therapy and has produced a song called ‘I like to jam with my friends’ – with another song in the pipeline.
“I love playing the keyboard and chilling out,” Kai said, who bought a new keyboard with the money he made from selling his jerky at A Fair Day Out in Eumundi.
“Now I have three keyboards and I can make more beats, more music. I want to have a million dollars and get 100 keyboards,” he said.
Kai said while he enjoyed going to school, he also liked being in the real world and hanging out with his support workers and going horse riding every second Tuesday.
“I listen to the announcers on the radio and think I could do that,” Kai said.
Kelly said Kai’s dream job would be working as a radio host on Hot 91.1, the only station the family was allowed to listen to in the car.
“He loves everything music and is very knowledgeable in music trivia. Kai loves telling jokes, so his support workers are looking into radio stations on the coast who might give him the opportunity to have a regular time slot to tell some jokes,” she said.
“Getting access to the NDIS really has been a great thing for our family, but especially for Kai because it’s given him so many more opportunities.”
Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.
If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community.
You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, email@example.com, or sign up to our LAC Connect app here