New Ways to Serve the Mission
Extraordinary Ventures continues to experience rapid growth of its business platforms. EV Laundry is entering another fantastic season and remains the company’s number one source of employment. EV Office Solutions has taken on new customers and is in the process of doubling this year compared to last. Meanwhile, Gifts, Events and Bus Cleaning are all growing to new records highs in terms of job hours and revenues.
For Extraordinary Ventures, the good news doesn’t stop at the numbers. EV employees are seeing opportunities they didn’t have before and navigating those translates into higher workplace confidence and broader and deeper skillsets for employees. New and expanding jobs lead to new friendships throughout the Chapel Hill community, as well.
Meanwhile, it is the entrepreneurial fire of the organization that burns on. Exploring new businesses and activities to meet the needs of the people served remains one of EV’s top priorities.
The latest pilot is EV Pets—a dog walking and cat sitting service. A number of additional ventures are in the works—in various phases of development or trial. “We’re always trying or testing new things,” said Managing Director Van Hatchell. “It’s our goal and we’re don’t get caught focusing on past accomplishments.”
Another project has the potential to expand the EV business model to other parts of the country. EV has entered into a partnership with a select handful of pioneering groups in the autism world for the purpose of helping other communities establish employment programs along the lines of the EV model.
“What we’ve accomplished at EV has not been done before,” said Hatchell. “Being a leader like this is exciting to a social entrepreneur like me. We are drawing interest from a lot of groups around the country who see the need for developing employment options for adults on the spectrum in their home communities.”
The need for a program like EV is very real. Studies show that adults on the autism spectrum and developmental disabilities find it difficult or impossible to get a job in the workplace. The unemployment rate for young adults with autism has been estimated at 90%. EV’s central purpose is to create meaningful employment and help meet the well-recognized need.
“It is important that we periodically take a pause and remind ourselves why we’re here at EV—what this is all about’” said Hatchell. “It’s not about us. It’s not about any fame and heaven knows it is certainly not about fortune! It’s about the people we serve who face a traditional job market that is not prepared to accept them. We are a real solution for many. That’s what it is all about for me.”
Longtime stakeholders remember the crisis they faced when EV was originally formed. “We started EV when we realized that there were no jobs for our sons and daughters. There were programs assisting our children in their transition from high school to the workplace—but when we looked for the actually jobs, there were none to be found,” said co-founder Lori Ireland.
“It has always been especially difficult for people who are severely impacted by their disabilities to find any kind of real work,” recalled founding director Christine Denny. “That’s why one of our primary goals was and still is to include the full spectrum of developmental disabilities in our workforce.”
By expanding current businesses and working on new ways to serve the mission, EV has grown to employ forty individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. The jobs are all selected, designed and organized around the unique skills and interests of the employees, the businesses strive to break even with the support of the annual fund and employees are paid at least a minimum wage at Extraordinary Ventures.