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Michelle Adams, 34

Owner and Occupational Therapist, Pediatric Therapy Solutions Inc.

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  • | 12:50 p.m. October 4, 2013
  • 40 Under 40
  • Class of 2013
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The fun and games Michelle Adams plays at work every day belie the serious business she founded.

That’s because the games are ways to help young children learn and communicate, in addition to grow and mature. Adams’s business, Sarasota-based Pediatric Therapy Solutions Inc., helps parents help their children develop. It’s challenging but rewarding work, says Adams. “I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for a child with special needs.”

A New Jersey native, Adams founded the company in 2002. It now has six employees, including Adams. She basically started the business right after she graduated from the University of Florida. She had been advised if she was going to work on a contract basis for families and therapy providers, it made more sense to have her own business.

While that was true, for Adams, trained in science and therapy, not business, it was also a sizable risk. “It was daunting,” says Adams. “It was like nothing I’d ever done before. But I had confidence in my abilities.”

Adams also had inspiration from her late father, who died when she was 15 years old, of a sudden brain aneurysm. Adams’ father, Gary Matteoli, had moved the family from New Jersey to Florida to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. He had worked for other companies up north, but in Sarasota he founded his own engineering and valve machinery business.

The work Adams does with children and families today remains her passion, but she has also grown to enjoy some of the business side of working for herself. She especially appreciates the freedom owning her own business provides. “I got into this business to help change people’s lives,” she says, “not just to make a buck.”

— Mark Gordon


City of residence: Sarasota

Birthplace: West Milford, N.J.

Years on the Gulf Coast: 27 years

Best place to network: In my line of work, the best source of networking is done within the families we treat.  If satisfied with our services, they market us through word of mouth within their schools, day cares, specialty doctors and services, community sporting agencies, extra curricular activities, religious groups, etc.

Her coolest business experience: There is a special needs prom held on a yearly basis for Sarasota and Manatee residents over the age of 16. It was amazing to see how the community donated services and merchandise and members volunteered their time for such an awesome event.

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: First and foremost my father, he was an amazing businessman and was taken from us too soon. Secondly, Jean Ayres, a Ph.D., who was a pioneer in the field of sensory integration, one of the primary principles I base my practice on.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned:  How precious time is. Families of children with special needs are just trying to keep their heads above water. Asking them to complete various therapeutic activities on top of their already rigorous daily routine is quite a daunting task. Understanding that time, patience, and persistence will allow a child to achieve their goals.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Sandra Bullock; she is the perfect balance of serious and funny and seems to be able to laugh at herself easily, especially in the roles she plays as an actress.

If I had a magic wand I’d: eliminate ignorance and increase tolerance of children and adults with varying abilities. I’d place a heavy focus on social acceptance as well as introducing more grants, government involvement, and third-party coverage of necessary medical and therapy needs.



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