Utah State

Blind Man's Whips

Easy as Basketweaving 101?  Not when your basket is the diameter of a Hot Dog, 6 feet long…and you’re blind.

Jeremiah Espinoza has always had a love of martial arts and a love for his country.  His love for country took precedence over everything else for a time in his life as he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the first gulf war.  After his tour of duty he was ready to resume his other pursuits which included braiding whips for self-defense.

Shortly after returning home his vision started to fade.  He soon found himself “completely in the dark”.  It was never determined if it was service related or something else.  However, Jeremiah determined that it wasn’t going to stop him.  He found he could still feel the braiding.  He also found there’s a market for high quality whips and other braided items.  When asked about “then and now”, Jeremiah responded “Everything I do now is by feel.  As for the difference, I think I make ‘em better now than when I had my sight.”

“My very first sale went to Canada and I sell all over the U.S. through my website.” he says with a smile.  He’s made sales to CA, NH, PA, TX, OK MN, and AR.  At this writing in July, he’s sent out about 40 whips for the year.  That’s not a large number by corporate America standards but, these aren’t just any whip.  Made of thick high quality parachute cording, it takes about 12 hours to braid a standard 6 foot whip.  They come in…well, what color do you want?  Maybe you want one of the new glow-in-the-dark models.  How about one of the pink whips that are currently being braided to donate to a Breast Cancer Awareness Auction?  Where else are you going to find that level of customization?

On the horizon, Jeremiah is planning to braid the nose pieces for another person that makes hackamores for horses.  At some point in the future he hopes to teach braiding so the art isn’t lost.

“Jeremiah and his wife first came into the Vernal Small Business Development Center as a referral from Vocational Rehab.  He needed a business plan to get some funding, which we helped them with.  Later, we also helped them with some of the Vocational Rehab paperwork that related to the business.” says, Mark Holmes, Director of the Vernal SBDC.  “When a blind guy came in the office and wanted to start a braiding business, I was skeptical.  I can’t braid and I have perfect vision.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Jeremiah does excellent work.”

When asked how the SBDC helped, Jeremiah says “When I first started this whole business thing, the paperwork threw my wife and me.  We didn’t understand it at all.  Mark helped us with the business plan and gave us some ideas that I ran with.  Not a lot of people said it would work.  He said it could with a lot of hard work.”

Visit him on Facebook at Blind Man's Whips. To see a news story done by KSL-TV...Click Here


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