(WPRI) — It’s fitting that Paige Santos weaves survival bracelets, along with other creations.
A bit of at-home therapy for her struggling left hand has now blossomed into a confidence-building business for the Bristol Community College student.
Her success makes her giggle in a way that’s as unique as her business.
“It’s the para-giggle,” she said, punctuating that with another giggle.
Survival bracelets can be unwoven into a long cord for hikers and campers in case they need to pull themselves out of a precarious situation.
Santos understands surviving. She was born with cerebral palsy and has dealt with all sorts of mental and physical hurdles throughout her life.
The often physical pain was underscored by inexplicable taunts by classmates.
“I was so upset,” she recalled.
Some snubbed her.
“They would not include me in play at recess.”
The cruelest called her names.
“I hated going to school. No one wanted to be my friend.”
A short time after her parents gave her a bracelet-making kit as therapy for her left hand, a classmate asked Santos to make her one.
Soon, she gave away a second, a third, a fourth, with her mom realizing they couldn’t keep giving them away.
Now, about six years later, Paige’s Paracords and more, including keychains, doormats, and other custom items, are sold in 16 stores across the area.
Last year, she sold about $10,000 worth of merchadise created with her hands, with some help from her mom.
“Nope,” Santos said, grinning, when asked if she ever imagined that first bracelet would lead to profits. “I’m super excited. Ready to go to the next journey.”
Santos would tell you “the next journey” into the often brutal business world is nothing compared to what she’s been through.
“The business is helping my confidence because I’m out there and able to talk to people without getting criticized about how I’m talking, or how I’m doing things,” she said.
Santos said the struggle to find this path proved something she was always told.
“Ability versus disability,” she said. “Show your ability, not your disability.”
Her goal: An actual store, and maybe more.
“I’m excited,” she said with a “para-giggle.”