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Lorraine Woodward: Triple Business Leader

Lorraine Woodward, a N.C. multi-entrepreneur, mom, wife and powerhouse advocate, does her best to roll over as many toes as she can when using her 'Duke blue' three-wheel scooter. And, Lorraine Woodward has a commute any busy mother would envy. A short ride up a home elevator brings her to her office where she services a plethora of accounts from corporate, nonprofit and government agencies. She strives to bring a unique perspective of fun, advocacy and professionalism in to her work. For some people work is a chore,” she said. But for Woodward, each project is a chance to bring magic and joy in the work and lives of her company’s clients.

Woodward has muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscular disorder characterized by gradual irreversible atrophy of skeletal muscle. Her disease gives her an edge in understanding the needs of the disability industry, she said. And, she is the mother to two boys who also have muscular dystrophy, so she is no stranger to creative problem solving for her and others. It is her passion. After an extensive career in communications and then landing in nonprofit, Woodward had been laid off, but that didn’t stop her from taking all of her skills and starting her own company.

As the president and founder of Woodward Communications starting in 1992, she does whatever is necessary to provide professional, polished and easily accessible communications to everyone. She has worked in the communications field for 22 years and held positions on national, regional and state levels. The walls of her office are a patchwork of accolades such as:

• Triangle Business Journal Women in Business - one of 25
• Who's Who Among Executive and Professional Women
• Inductee: National Hall of Fame for Persons with Disabilities
• Inductee: YWCA Academy of Women
• Outstanding Young Women of America Award
• Notable American Women
• Gold, Silver and Bronze Quill Awards (International Association of Business Communicators)
• Sir Walter Raleigh Awards
• Media Access Awards

At Woodward Communications, Woodward and her stellar team have managed the internal and external communications and multimedia projects for UCP Easter Seals of N.C., N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities and the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to name a few. Scott Peek creates innovative and unique web designs and print collateral pieces. Jennifer Springer translates clients' ideas into images and has expertise in marketing and public relations. Sally McCormick, who is the team’s most senior writer, provides professional writing and editing, change and crisis communications, and project management.

If these projects lining her desk and portfolio weren’t enough, the busy mom of two boys also oversees two other ventures – Realistic Reflections and Lorraine’s Canes respectively. Realistic Reflections, founded in 2004, is not your typical stock photography company, Woodward said. Realistic Reflections specializes in a vast array of images featuring people with disabilities in the community, at work, at play and with friends. Woodward says her company’s photos provide a ‘realistic reflection’ of the life of a person with a disability. “Our ‘models’ are real people who share their lives to show how people with disabilities are valuable, contributing members of society and our communities — as well as to show some of the obstacles they face,” she said.

Like many great ideas, Realistic Reflections was born out of a bit of frustration. As a small communications firm with huge ideas, Woodward Communications has often needed photos of people with disabilities to include in projects for client agencies who serve people and families with disabilities, as well as educate the masses about the world’s largest minority crossing all minority groups. Unfortunately, there were only two choices — produce their own or purchase lackluster stock photography that really didn’t capture the fullness of living with a disability. It seemed Woodward could never find more than a handful of images of people with disabilities, many very institutional looking and they often were cost prohibitive or really didn’t effectively portray the vast array of human experiences in the lives of people with disabilities. Woodward, as a natural problem solver, created Realistic Reflections to this problem. “We offer a constantly growing inventory of stock photography at very competitive prices,” she said.

And in 2007, Realistic Reflections’ work was recognized by Getty Images, the world’s largest creator and distributor of visual content. They now partner to offer searchers disability-focused, high-quality, stock photography. “Communications professionals and graphic designers will have images to further communicate the barriers that people with disabilities face and to show how disabled citizens can and do participate in every aspect of society, when those barriers are eliminated,” said Woodward.

Is Woodward busy and fulfilled enough at the helm of two companies? Apparently she’s not. That is not to say she doesn’t have a full, thriving schedule with the first two businesses – quite the contrary! Still, Woodward has created yet another difference with Lorraine’s Canes. The slogan reads, “When life calls for a cane, why not show off your unique personality!” That’s why Lorraine’s Canes was created. Lorraine realized the need for herself and others to have a cane that can showcase personality and flare.

Wheelchairs are increasingly being personalized as are scooters and other adaptive equipment. Why not have a walking cane that speaks to your love of a favorite team, your favorite color, food, animal or anything else? Well....why not indeed! “Assistive devices shouldn’t be dull for any age,” Woodward said.

Lorraine’s Canes offers unique and spirited-themed canes for children and adults alike. Lorraine felt particularly compelled to offer children a cane that is fun and focuses on their individuality rather than their disability. So she created the princess cane, the flame cane and the camouflage cane to bring a smile and delight to a child’s face, to name a few. Adults also need the opportunity to flaunt their style and now you can choose from several creative, seasonal, holiday and sports-themed canes. So when you need a cane, why not be fun and step out in style?

Lorraine’s Canes provides unique and fashionable, Sheppard-styled canes made from the finest hardwoods, and kiln-cured for maximum strength, supporting a 250 lb. weight capacity. Each wooden cane is hand painted and treated with a gloss water resistant finish and an added rubber tip to provide and ensure additional safety.

Woodward said, “Our hand-painted canes provide our customers with the comfort of independent living. They have proved to be valuable to people undergoing physical therapy programs, people with various disabilities, people who are aging, those who have respiratory problems, or those experiencing complications from diabetes.

So, if you need the right way to say something through your agency’s materials, the right way to reflect a message in photos utilizing realistic images of people with disabilities, or you just really want to saunter around with a little personality with a walking cane, one of Woodward’s businesses has what you need.

Who knows? Before long, her fabulously creative nerves may start tingling again to provide the world with yet another of her many talents. Let’s wait and see.

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