Local women driven to provide ‘purpose’

Help seniors and families stay connected

WARREN — Holly Masters and Ali Izzo started their company with a purpose — help senior citizens and their families stay connected and provide items useful for the seniors’ emotional and physical well-being.

Purpose Therapy Box was born from the experiences Masters of Gustavus, and Izzo of Hermitage, Pa., had while two years ago completing their occupational therapy assistant clinicals at senior care facilities while students at Penn State Shenango.

They said they saw sadness, loneliness and social withdrawal caused by a disconnect with loved ones, and decided to do something to restore those relationships.

“Some patients didn’t really have much to look forward to … you know, these people lived an awesome life and have awesome family, but no way to keep that connection,” said Masters, a 2015 graduate of Joseph Badger Schools.

It works like this: the subscription box comes four times per year and can include up to five products, three photos and a custom message. The products in each box focus on a theme for the quarter, either fine motor skills, strength, cognition or self-care.

For example, an item in the fine motor skills box is a universal built-up grip that helps people with issues gripping and holding items, or the strength box that arrives this month contains an exercise program, Masters said.

The boxes can also contain fun, seasonal activities like flower growing kits, Masters said.

Purpose also offers a variety of special occasion boxes, including for birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s days and Christmas. Subscribers can be billed quarterly or for the year.

“We want to use our education, clinical experience and resources to help parents, grandparents and any other older loved ones all over the United States and eventually the world,” said Izzo.

And now the company is generating a tremendous amount of buzz.

Masters and Izzo, who also graduated from Penn State Shenango’s human development and family studies programs, recently won $15,000 in a “Shark Tank”-style competition hosted by the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP).

And that was the second big win for the duo, whose startup is located at the campus’ Venture Pointe incubator at the eCenter@LindenPointe in Hermitage.

Earlier this year, the young entrepreneurs won another $15,000 and $1,000 in printing and marketing help through FedEx’s Small Business Grant program.

As part of PenTAP’s competition, Masters and Izzo competed against five other students companies across Pennsylvania. In the FedEx competition, Purpose Therapy Box was among 10 bronze level winners from more than 13,000 entries, according to the shipping company’s website.

Said Tim Kerchinski, PennTAP innovation team lead, “Purpose Therapy Box stood out during the video competition phase due to their passion, enthusiasm and commitment to solving a unique problem. It was a scalable solution, and they were already generating revenue at the time of the competition. Their ideas for expanding their product line and markets were also impressive.”

The plan is to invest back into the website and undertake an advanced marketing campaign “because a lot of people still don’t know about us,” Masters said. In the year Purpose Therapy Box has been in business, the company has done some paid advertising online, but most of it’s growth has been organic through word-of-mouth and comments on social media.

So far, the company has delivered more than 80 boxes to 14 states as far west as Arizona.

“The funding we received will help us with website design, functionality and marketing,” said Masters. “By adding details like a secured and protected subscriber survey to our website, we will be able to further personalize our product and provide a more personalized experience for the customer.”

So what’s next?

The two planned attend a subscription box conference Wednesday to Friday in New Orleans where they hoped to build connections with leading subscription box providers, Masters said. Also, she said with fulfillment she and Izzo eventually want to employ adults with disabilities to ready the boxes. Now, Masters said, she and Izzo do it themselves.

Growing personalization of the boxes is another goal.

“We would love to kind of do boxes based on diagnoses. I think that would be extremely beneficial and adding upgrades, adding photos in your ‘thinking of you’ box and adding maybe a smaller cognition box,” Masters said.