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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Volunteer to Learn

Bill Malleris learned most of what he needed to know to build a profitable residential community by working on a cause for no pay.

Key Question:


Work for nothing in the industry that fascinates you.  Bill headed up an independent living center that provided comprehensive services for people with disabilities before he went off on his own.  As a college student he was a activist for people with disabilities. He became an expert that builders called upon for advice.  Some turned into consulting projects for which he was paid.

Q: Do you think running a non-profit organization as did Bill, really prepares a person for business ownership?

A: Yes and no. Yes, because a non-profit organization is a team of people focused on the same goal, just as a business is.  No, because cash-flowing on work without tax liabilities is much easier than making ends meet when you have to pay the IRS.  Also, your client base will be less demanding than are customers who are paying money for a product or service with the singular purpose of getting what they want.

Personally, when I deal with a non-profit organization, I just don't expect much. I am giving the group a donation because I believe in the cause and want them to use that money to accomplish things that I don't have the time or ability to accomplish myself.

Q: What do you think was Bill's biggest shock when he started his own business?

A: Dealing with loneliness. He made it even harder on himself because he consciously decided not to have a partner.

Q: Does "doing your homework" have to take as long for everyone as it took for Bill?

A: No.  You can do speed homework on the web.  You can focus yourself entirely on the idea of owning your own business earlier than he did, you can read, you can interview other business owners.  But you still have to prepare. Proverbs 16:18 warns us, "pride goeth before the fall."  Bill's first attempt at being a developer has been a total success because he was prepared.

Think about it

What do you need to learn before you quit your job and start the business of your dreams?

Clip from: Maple Court Development

Naperville, Illinois: Bill Malleris builds barrier-free housing for the disabled. When he couldn't find a place in Chicago to live himself, he built Maple Court, a 48-unit residential complex with 20 units designed for people who use wheelchairs or scooters to get around. The happy part of the story is that Bill was sold out before he even finished the construction. Meet an entrepreneur-activist and learn how to do good and make a living, too.

Bill Malleris is an activist turned businessman. Since college he has been preaching about the needs of people with disabilities. His sermon goes something like this: People with disabilities want to work. They don't want to be "taken care of" or felt sorry for. But people with disabilities do need the rest of us to be open to change and to find creative ways to bring them into the workplace.....

Bill's new sermon goes like this: If you have an idea for a business, a disability shouldn't hold you back. Find a need and fill it, get a mentor, access the free and low-cost services from the SBA, start small and network with other small business owners.

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Maple Court Development

Bill Malleris, Founder

1135 West Ogden Avenue
Naperville, IL 60563
630 357 3696

Office: 630 357 3696

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1996

Volunteer to Learn

HATTIE: From Naperville, Developer and general contractor, Bill Malleris wants us to see his pride and joy, his first project, an apartment complex unlike any other.

This is Maple Court. It has 48 units and 20 are barrier-free. Barrier-free means six foot wide sidewalks, no curbs, automatic doors, wide hallways -- enough for two wheelchairs to pass easily -- wide doors, roll-in showers, and lowered switches, thermostats, fuse boxes, shelving and cabinets.

BILL MALLERIS: As you can see I can get to the accessible cook top; the light switches and fan switches are usually up on the top on your hood fans. You can't reach them. Flip the switch here, the hood fan will function. Somebody in a standard chair is able to go underneath right by the cook top. Even the light switches are lower. For me, (demonstrating) being able to swivel, being able to reach the dials, being able to turn, and being able to cook -- these are all crucial functions in utilizing the my kitchen.

HATTIE: The typical developer has one goal and that is to make money. Bill's goal is to make money and at the same time create places for anyone and everyone to live.

BILL: My grandfather came here in 1896, and 100 years later, I got my certificate of occupancy, completed construction on Maple Court, and we opened this building 100-percent full on our grand opening. My father had a wholesale produce business and market in Chicago -- potatoes and onions. My great grandfather was a silk merchant in Greece.

HATTIE: So it's in your blood. Help me understand your progress to this point. You went to college?

BILL: Yes. I went to the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater and graduated in 1978, worked in the family business for a few years and then went and got re-involved with the disability movement; that was important to me while in college.

 HATTIE: What does that mean to be involved with the disability movement? What were you doing?

BILL: I headed up an independent living center when I was up in Minnesota and provided comprehensive services for people with disabilities. We started from scratch. The independent living movement started in the late '70s and early '80s. We were empowering people with disabilities and it was primarily operated by people with disabilities.

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