If you want to really change the world, then consider getting some moms involved. Not only are moms incredibly hard workers (seriously, you should see a mom rage clean), but they’re also smart, resourceful, and filled with the exact kind of passion it takes to create the tidal waves of support needed to make the world a better place.
That definition certainly describes Jacquie Mahan and her two friends, Meghan Klein and Kathy Borkowski, who realized not too long ago that they could solve a real-world problem: how to give people with autism meaningful and productive employment opportunities in a job market that seems to leave them out.
Enter, The Awesome Company — where job-seekers with autism can find positions that fit their talents and abilities. The Ohio-based company makes “awe-inspiring goods” ranging from onesies and T-shirts to pillows and totes, and gives employees with autism responsibilities like printing tees, buttons, and tags, counting inventory, packing boxes, data entry, quality control, cleaning, graphic design, running errands, and more.
For Mahan and Borkowski, their passion for making this company a success runs especially deep. Both women have children with autism — Mahan’s son, Lincoln, is 8 and Borkowski’s son, Matthew, is 18.
Given Borkowski’s son’s age, the possibilities of his post-high school career had been a worry; but that’s part of what drives her.
“Like many of his peers, he will need employment after high school is done,” explained Jessica Hofmann, a spokesperson for The Awesome Company, who spoke with Babble on Borkowski’s behalf. “He loves to count inventory and help construct tags for tees. When he graduates from high school, he will be working more and more at The Awesome Company. He is a exceptional young man.”
So how does a company like this find its employees? It turns out, the process is much more hands-on and personalized than the typical job-hunting experience.
“The Awesome Company believes in neurodiversity and teamwork,” Hofmann explained. “They approach hiring with that in mind. That’s why there are no formal interviews. No pass or fail tests. What they do is meet their employee and have a conversation. They find out what they like to do and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. After that, both The Awesome Company and their employee can work together to custom build a job that will be successful for everyone.”
So far, The Awesome Company has had plenty of success stories — and one in particular highlights just how much a bit of empathy and creativity can change the life of someone with autism. Speaking with Babble, Hoffman shared the story of 21-year-old Sarah, who was struggling to find a job after being let go from a bakery. Her mom Stella was busy advocating for her to every potential employer she could find, but her daughter kept being turned away. Luckily, Stella eventually found The Awesome Company, where Sarah was a natural fit.
Not only do the founders of The Awesome Company want to help solve a serious employment problem for people with autism, but they also want to the world to open up and be more receptive to the many talents and strengths of those with special needs.
“True innovation happens when you take chances and leave your comfort zone,” Hofmann tells Babble. “Do that with autism. Take the time to meet a person with autism and find out what they have to say. Too many times we as a society do all the talking and not enough listening. Listen. Listen, listen.”
“Oh, and don’t ever be afraid to jump to the autism side of life,” Hofmann adds. “It’s way more fun over there!”
We couldn’t agree more.