We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Isaacs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
There is a balance definition for 2019 and a balance definition for 2020. I used to be able to separate my different roles – entrepreneur, mommy, errand runner extraordinaire – based on time. Mommy time happened before and after school. Work time fell during school, and errands miraculously snuck in. It was a balancing act that didn’t always work – but often allowed us to get what we needed done. Since March 2020 the balance has been different. All roles jumble into one. We are all home. Working. Zooming. And totally blended. The kids virtual school schedule offers 50 minutes of them being occupied before there is a break. I swing from emails to ants on a log very quickly. But it works. I am seeing work/life balance in a different way during this pandemic. It puts things in perspective, and I am more focused than ever on making my kids days filled with love, not stress. Balance is not really work/life anymore. Its about health/productivity. Getting work done, but hugging often, and of course, online errands 🙂
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
While wheel-chair ramps and ADA accommodations enable those with mobility challenges to travel, shop, visit entertainment venues and attend sporting events, what about those with non-visible disabilities, including autism? How can we expand inclusion and opportunity to enable this population to participate in activities that many of us take for granted? For too many children with autism and other sensory processing issues, going to public places such as restaurants, museums, movies, urgent care centers, and hotels, is a significant challenge. It can be overwhelming, causing so much anxiety that many families stay home. In fact, 70% of families impacted by autism feel socially isolated. Pal Experiences addresses these challenges by designing unique digital tools, using evidence-based best practices in behavioral therapy, that help make experiences with businesses and other organizations more accessible to guests with autism and related disabilities. Pal Places have custom videos, digital guides and on-site resources that decrease anxiety by foreshowing what to expect, and support individuals with autism and related disabilities and their families while visiting. Pal’s vision is to create a national network of Pal Places and build inclusive communities where everyone is accommodated. Pal Experiences is working with a growing number of businesses throughout Phoenix to serve the broader community. Phoenix-based museums, urgent health care centers, sporting venues, hotels and others are demonstrating the exciting and positive impact of being a Pal Place. Today, there are 34 Pal Places, with 15 based in Arizona. Over 75,000 people have viewed Pal’s web-based videos. Through creative partnerships, Pal is developing a business model that will eventually lead to sustainability and scale.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When folks visit we like to head to Paige Springs. It is such a beautiful place. We like to camp near Oak Creek and check out the vineyards. A road trip to Jerome and the Haunted Hamburger are musts, as well as a day trip to Canyon Lake to kayak. If we are in town we like to hit up Barrio Cafe for dinner and Char’s Has The Blues for music after.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Pal Experiences simply would not be here without an organization and a person. The organization is SEED SPOT. I enrolled in 2014 for the evening program. I had a nugget of an idea but zero business background. I studied biology and had a lot to learn about starting a business. SEED SPOT met me where I was. They told me I could do it. They guided me, but also let me own the work and truly learn as I went. Without their belief and support I don’t know if Pal would be here today. And the person is Adam Isaacs, my husband. He has been Pal’s/my biggest cheerleader is since day one. His support got me through the initial hurdles of starting a nonprofit, then he joined Pal as the Executive Director for two years. Using his business background, Pal was revamped, reorganized and restructued to help us serve more people than ever. Although he is not with Pal anymore, he still serves on our Board of Directors, plus I know where to find him if I need advice 🙂
Spectrum Inspired Photography Isaac Kiehl Grant Thornton – image of Melanie Isaacs