KPM FLOORING OWNER IS BUSINESS, COMMUNITY LEADER
She drove a taxi, waited tables, and even became a scuba instructor.
Before Kathleen Mayers started her own business — KPM Flooring on Hilton Head Island’s Main Street — out of her garage in 2007 and emerged as a community leader and advocate for Down syndrome awareness on Hilton Head Island, she’d already shown she was willing to work hard.
“Personally, I’m willing to do what I need to do to make ends meet,” said Mayers, who worked various jobs throughout college and spent 20 years as an employee at a flooring store before launching her own company. “I’m not too proud to dig a ditch.”
Mayers’ gritty mindset was tested in 2004 when her newborn daughter, Caroline, was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
The news was surprising but spurred Mayers into action. After the initial diagnosis, she brought Caroline to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she said her family met open-minded people who shared information that made her feel better about Caroline’s future — and she saw a tenacity in her daughter that elevated her optimism.
At 3 weeks old, Caroline was weak and intubated, but she “pulled and pulled until she extubated herself,” Mayers said.
Her daughter was strong.
The experience at MUSC was so positive and “life-altering” that Mayers knew she had to give back. Never one to sit still, Mayers and her other family members decided to help other families affected by Down syndrome.
They founded Caroline & Friends, a nonprofit group that promotes Down syndrome awareness and raises money to help families affected by the condition. The group’s website, carolineandfriends. com, features information about Down syndrome and provides links to clinics and advocacy groups.
In October 2006, the Mayers family hosted their first Buddy Walk, a National Down Syndrome Society program geared toward raising awareness. This month, Mayers will join in a National Down Syndrome Society 3.21-mile run on March 21, as part of World Down Syndrome Day.
Mayers said since its inception, Caroline & Friends has raised $75,000 to support local families living with Down syndrome. The money can help families in many ways, including paying for tutoring or speech and physical therapies.
“We will work with (families) to try to get those things covered,” she said.
Mayers is thrilled that Caroline is thriving. She’s a freshman at Hilton Head Island High School and recently attended a school dance.
While dropping Caroline off there, Mayers and her youngest daughter, 13-year-old Honora, were awed by her confidence. No hesitation. No trepidation.
“It was just one of those moments,” Mayers said. “We looked at each other and — she’s unfazed by so much. Very few 15-year-old girls would have walked in and there was nothing timid about that moment to her. That’s just the amazing thing about her. It’s like, holy cow, if she can do this, I should be able to do this.”
Caroline has a 3.78 GPA, has played soccer, loves to swim and is already thinking about college. She plans to attend Clemson University.
“She doesn’t look at her challenges as challenges,” Mayers said.
Mayers is also reveling in her daughters’ business acumen. Last year, Caroline, Honora, and her oldest daughter, Emma, 18, a student at Columbia College Chicago, launched Wee Three Sisters, a jewelry business in which they collaborate to make and sell their own pieces.
“It’s phenomenal,” Mayers said. “It teaches practical life skills for all three of my daughters: own a business, report your taxes, do whatever you have to do.”
In addition to raising her daughters, running her successful flooring store, and travelling to attend flooring markets, Mayers is a member of the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association. And she’s up at 5 a.m. during the week to teach or participate in a fitness class. Despite her busy schedule, Mayers is a proponent of family time.
“When I’m home, I’m home,” she said. “I’m there. I’m present.”