The career of Lisa Radcliffe (MBA ’17) is all about fun and games—with a healthy dose of business acumen.
She is the founder and CEO of PunkinFutz, a Brooklyn-based company that designs toys and accessories for children with adaptive needs. Inspired by the struggles of her own son and daughter, who have disabilities, Radcliffe launched the company while studying in the Evening MBA program at Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business.
“I found this huge market gap in the space my kids lived in,” Radcliffe says. Products for children with adaptive needs typically come from medical supply stores and are utilitarian and uninspiring, she adds. By contrast, the aim of PunkinFutz (named for a sweet childhood nickname coined by Radcliffe’s father) is to bring creative play to children who are often excluded from it.
Its colorful, whimsical products—wheelchair bags, compression vests, water bottles, fidget toys, and more—use accessible designs to appeal not just to children with disabilities but to all children. In 2021, the company partnered with Sesame Street to launch a line of products featuring Elmo, Big Bird, and other familiar characters from the popular children’s TV show.
In recognition of her career and her inspiring business venture, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business honored Radcliffe as a 2023 Influential Leader.
“I would not have founded my company if it weren’t for my experience at the Zicklin School,” notes Radcliffe, who enrolled in the Evening MBA program after a 25-year career leading technology organizations. “Zicklin was incredibly receptive to me as an older student.”
The PunkinFutz concept developed from a business idea Radcliffe originally pitched for
an entrepreneurship class; eventually, the professor of that class and another Baruch
colleague joined PunkinFutz’s advisory board.
Radcliffe’s goal is to create a new type of sustainable model for a company: PunkinFutz designs its ethically sourced and manufactured products with input from occupational therapists, people with disabilities, and other experts, and it exclusively employs adults with disabilities. Radcliffe also recently launched Powered by Inclusion, a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that provides after-school programs for children in special education settings.
“PunkinFutz produces exceptional products for children today, while creating meaningful employment for those children tomorrow,” Radcliffe says. “Some of our customers will be business leaders themselves one day.”
—Sara J. Welch