“I had a brain stem stroke in 1988 when I was 26, so I’ve had my physical challenges. My mind is great. It’s just the physical ability. I’m not paralyzed, but I can’t walk because of the stroke. I’m naturally left-handed, but I can only use my right arm. I had to learn how to do everything with my right hand. I didn’t have a choice. Because of the State of Illinois going broke, it affected my disability benefits. I wasn’t able to continue getting all the therapy I needed. Things have been much better in Texas.
“After my stroke I went back to school. Over the course of about eight years I got two degrees, one in engineering technology and one in graphic design. But I couldn’t get a job, so I designed these unique spoons out of my own education. Hopefully, I can make a business out of it.”
How do you spend most days?
“Thinking about how I’m going to sell all these spoons. We’ve sold a couple hundred sets, but I ordered 10,000. I still have a storage unit full of them. I want to get off state benefits. If we can make it, I can get off social security, off food stamps. You know, some people take advantage of having those kinds of things. I don’t want to be on food stamps or medical insurance. Why shouldn’t I try to make myself better?”
— Ken Vantroba, 53-year-old Chicago native, who designed Cuddle Spoons