WILLIAMSTON, Mich. — There's usually risk involved in opening a small business and far more doing so in the midst of a pandemic.
But Angela Bowersox doesn't shy away from a challenge. Just months after she lost her job as an in-home behavior modification therapist due to the pandemic, Bowersox opened Bauersachs' Behind the Times, an antique store in downtown Williamston.
Q: Angela, you mentioned you are disabled. Would you mind sharing?
A. So I have disability related to chronic illness. I have an autoimmune system, which means that my immune system is on autopilot and attacks healthy cells. So, the illnesses that I manage are Crohn's disease, lupus and then also hypothyroid. And then from there, after having years of medications, it's (caused) some degenerative issues with my spine and other joints.
Q. When did you receive that diagnosis?
A. So I was actually diagnosed first with Crohn's disease during my pregnancy (with) my daughter...she'll be 17 now...soon. In 2003, I was just a couple weeks pregnant and developed Crohn's disease. During my pregnancy, first trimester, I lost 30 lbs. in the first 30 days of my pregnancy and spent three weeks in intensive care in Grand Rapids like, fighting for our lives. So, after that I had been medicated on a very potent drug for Crohn's, and it induced lupus, and my physicians couldn't diagnose the lupus for many years, so ultimately it became full-blown lupus instead of just drug-induced lupus. So, what I've learned from my doctors is that, generally speaking, autoimmune kind of all runs together, like, once your immune system is on autopilot and causing havoc in your in body, it's just natural to develop more autoimmune diseases.
Q. So when the news of COVID-19 hit, I'm sure you were a little scared?
A. Sure, absolutely. Well, with autoimmunity, you have to take immunosuppressant drugs, and I'm on a very strong immunosuppresant drug for Crohn's and because of that, I would be at higher risk for not only contracting illness, but then also having less of an ability to fight the illness off, so, certainly. When COVID hit, I had been working part-time. Being on disability in this country, you have to work part-time if you're going to work at all. Otherwise, if you're able to work full-time, there's no need to be on disability.
So, I had been working part-time, going in and out of a home providing behavior modification therapy, and the family that I worked for was more concerned about having someone in and out of the home. So, ultimately, I lost that position because of the virus.
Q. But, now here we are. So, what led to this? When did you decide you wanted to open a store?
A. I have been selling antiques on and off for the past 10 years. Selling antiques came about as a result of my disability. I graduated from MSU in 2011, and within two weeks I had to have major surgery related to Crohn's disease. And, it was suggested to me, "Why don't you just start selling antiques until you can go into your career field?" So, I started selling antiques in 2011, and I've had a couple different businesses at some of the local malls, but realized, in order for it to be a career, to make real money at it, with real connections in the community and what not, you have to have your own store.
So, I'd been thinking about this for the past couple years, and...after losing my job because of the pandemic...I did the unemployment thing...and, just made the decision that, either I was going to go find another position working with disabled children, or I was going to open a store. So Aug. 1, I just made the decision that I was going to live the dream and open a small business.
A lot of people questioned my sanity...they said, you know, "You're autoimmune, you're chronically ill—do you really want your income coming from small business?" But, from my perspective, it allows me the flexibility to do what I'm able to do when I'm able to do it. So, any amount of income is a result of my effort, my work and my ability. And it also keeps me from letting anyone down.
It's very hard, when you're working for an employer and you're chronically ill, to be calling in sick, to be canceling with your employer. You feel a lot of shame and guilt, like you're letting your employer down, you're letting the child down, you're letting their family down. So, this kind of saved me from those things.
Q. Will you explain the name of your store?
A. Yeah! I named the store after my dad's lineage, which I'm really proud of. The Bauersachs family goes back 600 years to Germany, and so I'm a daughter of the American Revolution. And, we're all one family. So, if you have the last name Bauersachs, whether it's spelled the American way (Bowersox) or the German way (Bauersachs), you can find yourself in this family tree.
Because of that, every year we have a family reunion--one year it'll be in the states and the next year it'll be in Germany—and I was fortunate enough to go to Germany twice to visit my family over there. So, I'm really close with them; we keep in touch. But, yeah, we're just proud. We look at our family—there's an astronaut, Ken Bowersox, in our family...an American Idol runner-up, Crystal Bowersox...that's all us. So, I'm really proud of it.
My grandfather was my greatest inspiration. My grandfather worked for NASA. He worked for the CIA. He was very intelligent, and it was actually his collection of antiques at the age of 16 that drew me into wanting to collect antiques. So, I kind of named it after him and my whole family. Hopefully I'm make them proud!
Q. So, what was opening your store in a matter of months like?
A. So, it took a lot of work, you know...to paint the whole thing, to buy all the inventory—I've been traveling all over the state...people ship me things from different parts of the country and the world. But, it's been an adventure! And I can't say that I would want my life any other way right now. This is an adventure and I'm loving it.
Q. What advice do you have for those who can relate to your situation, or who might be feeling a little stuck right now?
A. Just believe that you can do it. You know? For me, I do a lot of dreaming. Like, I see in my mind what I want my life to look like. So, whether it's been traveling over seas, or starting a business, or for working for the president at Michigan State, or developing a non-profit for the army. I see it in my mind, and once you dream it and imagine it, then you can start making progress towards it.
So, you know, in our country, only 20 percent of people who are deemed disabled work. And, all of those people, in order to gain benefits from our government, they have to live in a certain level of quality of life. You have to walk this very fine line of poverty if you're disabled, and I hope to show something different. I hope to show that people with disabilities can have just as much energy, just as much desire, just as much commitment—to their personal development, to the development of their communities, their families—as anyone else. So that's kind of what my store is hopefully a reflection of. It's a store that's been built in love, and on this ideology that I can create my future—I can do whatever I dream I can do as long as I'm committed to putting forth that effort.
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