Kate Grathwol, Ph.D is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Vision Loss Resources, its partnering social enterprise Contract Production Services, and DeafBlind Services Minnesota LLC. Vision Loss Resources is Minnesota’s leading provider of support, information, rehabilitation, and referral services for people living with vision loss or blindness. Their mission is to create a community of service, skills, and support for people with vision loss. She attained her Doctor of Philosophy in Health Services from Walden University and her Master of Sciences in Vision Rehabilitation from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. Kate is a remarkable woman leader of an organization whose work is critical to helping people experiencing vision loss or blindness lead a full and rich independent life.
What You Will Learn:
- Kate discusses how she came to lead Vision Loss Resources, and she shares the unique business model and the relationship between Vision Loss Resources and Contract Production Services, where the for-profit business funds the non-profit work.
- Kate describes the stigma associated with vision loss and she discusses the challenges people dealing with vision loss have to cope with. She shares how her organization assists people in adapting and works to destigmatize vision loss.
- Kate discusses why sighted people often feel fear toward people with vision impairments, and she talks about why a sighted person jumping in to “help” without being asked is seldom actually about helping.
- Kate shares her personal challenges with impaired vision related to albinism, and she shares how this sparked her interest in vision medicine, led her to her current role as a woman leader and gives her a unique perspective on her work.
- Kate discusses her organization’s current efforts to prepare to relocate to a larger property that can better accommodate its size, and she discusses approaching changes in the manufacturing world that she is preparing for.
- Kate explains why she believes the most important part of working with clients is meeting them where they are, discovering what they specifically need, and helping them reclaim the things they most want to do.
- Kate Grathwol’s LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kategrathwol/
- Vision Loss Resources website: www.visionlossresources.org
- DeafBlind Services Minnesota website: www.dbsm.org
- Contract Production Services website: www.contractpros.biz
Intentional Greatness as a Woman Leader in Vision Loss Support
You’re here because you know that learning never ends. You’re the kind of entrepreneur, business owner or leader who realizes that the pursuit of a perfect life, while a worthy goal, is also an impossible one. You know there is no end to the race, and you’re ready to power through anyway. You know that the climb to the top is endless, and you’re going to make the climb anyway. In short, you’re ready to become an unf♥<kwithable leader.
Not long ago, I was joined by my friend Kate Grathwol for an episode of the Intentional Greatness podcast. Kate is the President and CEO of Vision Loss Resources and its partner social enterprise, Contract Production Services, as well as serving as the President and CEO of DeafBlind Services Minnesota. Vision Loss Resources works to help people with vision impairment with counseling, life skills classes, support and education, and more. Contract Production Services is a for-profit business that channels 100% of its profits back into Vision Loss Resources, financially supporting the non-profit organization in a unique relationship.
In this episode, Kate discusses her organization’s important work to help improve the lives of people with vision impairment and blindness, and she shares how her own vision impairment challenges led her to pursue her Ph.D. in Health Services and ultimately brought her to her current role. Kate Grathwol isn’t just a remarkable woman leader, she has a unique perspective as someone who has experienced the challenges of dealing with vision impairment and now works to better the lives of others with the same challenges.
More than a Woman Leader
One of the things I find truly remarkable about Kate Grathwol is her unique perspective on the work she and her organization do. Kate was born with a high degree of albinism and as such experienced the associated vision impairment that often accompanies that condition. She was considered “legally blind”, although she did have a degree of vision. However, dealing with this medical condition didn’t limit Kate; on the contrary, it caused her to develop a scientific interest in vision impairment conditions and ultimately led her to pursue a doctoral degree in Health Services.
Luckily, Kate’s vision has improved dramatically since she was younger and now nears the range of what is considered “normal” vision. However, her own experiences with vision impairment have been a core component of what drives Kate to do the work she does, and it gives her a truly remarkable perspective and understanding of the people she is helping as both a successful woman leader and as someone who has experienced the same difficulties she is helping others to overcome.
Leading Multiple Organizations in a Unique Relationship
As Kate explained during our discussion, the relationship between the organizations she leads plays an important part in their success. Contract Production Services is the for-profit part of the relationship; this company works in production, assembly, and packaging of products for major brands like Caribou Coffee, and 100% of the profits are then poured into the nonprofit, Vision Loss Resources. This powerful relationship financially supports the 100-year-old nonprofit to help even more people.
However, the 2008 economic crisis took its toll on the organization, as it did in every aspect of the business world. The economic collapse took effect right after Kate took her leadership role within the company, and one of her first challenges was to find a way to steer Contract Production Services through the crisis. She did so through smart leadership and through finding ways to save money everywhere she possibly could. Because of this, the unique partnership between organizations was able to survive. Kate’s incredible stewardship of her companies shows us that women in leadership positions are capable of truly remarkable things, and I hope Kate’s story will inspire leaders everywhere to achieve the success they want, regardless of the challenges and difficulties they have to face.
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