Brain injury hasn't stopped Port Hood woman from crafting successful business

Joanne Schmidt was told to give up her Port Hood, N.S., business after a car injury left her with a life-changing brain injury. Schmidt refused and is now being honoured by the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network.

Joanne Schmidt proved naysayers wrong by continuing to run Galloping Cows Fine Foods after a brain injury

Entrepreneur Joanne Schmidt (bottom left) is pictured with her husband, Ron (bottom right), and children Frank (top left) and Courtney (top right). (Galloping Cows Fine Foods/Facebook)

Joanne Schmidt of Port Hood, N.S. has proven the value of never giving up, even when confronted by a potential career-ending brain injury.

Schmidt, who runs Galloping Cows Fine Foods, was badly hurt 11 years ago in a car accident. 

She was stopped on a highway where some roadwork was being done when her car was rear-ended by another vehicle. The impact drove her car into the vehicle in front of her.

"My seat broke upon impact and I kind of went smashing around the vehicle," recalled Schmidt, who was recently named entrepreneur of the year by the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network in Halifax.

"I couldn't read afterwards," she continued. "I couldn't do math anymore. I really couldn't carry on good conversations with people. I couldn't follow directions. I would sleep all the time. I was a mess."

Told to give up business

Schmidt wondered how she could possibly keep running a labour-intensive business which involved making and selling jams, jellies and fruit preserves among other things.

She consulted the medical community and other business people to see what they thought.

"It was a very definitive 'no,'" she said. "It was very disheartening."

But a close friend persuaded her to go on, arguing Schmidt could do it. Plus, her friend noted, the business was Schmidt's only source of income.

"We really didn't have a choice," Schmidt said.

Persevered despite 'very rocky years'

As it turned out, she did manage to keep the business going, but it wasn't without its challenges. 

"We had to change everything. Before the accident I did the cooking, I did the bookkeeping, I did the marketing, I did the sales."

Some of her retail customers cancelled their accounts because they assumed she would no longer be able to run her business. Additional staff were hired at Galloping Cows to help out.

"There were some very rocky years — don't get me wrong on that," she said.

These days, she works mostly in the marketing end of things with her daughter's help.

Schmidt, who didn't always feel comfortable talking about her brain injury, now speaks freely about her challenges and triumphs.

"I really think times have changed," she said. 

"I think it's much better to be transparent and honest about things like this now."

with files from CBC's Information Morning