RMHS Community Partner Teaches Those with Disabilities Business Basics
RMHS client Hannah Simons attended the Celebrate EDU Kindling Workshop on Aug. 6 to sharpen her business skills, learning about fundamentals like branding, customers and competition.
Three types of popcorn lay on tables inside the Autism Community Center: buttered, kettle corn and gourmet. Though these tasty tidbits would soon be eaten, they weren’t just snacks. They were business products.
The popcorn donated by Popcornopolis was part of the Celebrate EDU Kindling Workshop. Celebrate EDU is a nonprofit organization that provides interactive entrepreneurship experiences for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Celebrate EDU and the Autism Community Center are both Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) Mill Levy Program partners. Through the program, RMHS receives a portion of Denver property tax revenue dedicated to Denver residents with I/DD to support community partners that provide unique services and supports, such as entrepreneurship education.
At the Kindling Workshop, attendees reimagined popcorn as their own business product. They collaborated with a team to come up with a company name and logo and discover their customers, competitors and their company’s competitive advantage.
Over the past two years with help from Denver Mill Levy funds, Celebrate EDU has provided 11 Kindling Workshops in the Denver Metro Area, educating 100 Denver residents with disabilities. On Aug. 6, one of those attendees was RMHS client Hannah Simons.
Hannah is an entrepreneur herself and joined the workshop to complement her own business experience with her natural cosmetics company, HANNAH's Essentials, LLC. She started the company with her mom, Helga, who said the inspiration came from Hannah’s affinity for smells.
“I love selling my stuff,” she told her peers before the workshop started. “I like our face masks, and I like our lip balms and our essential oils.”
During the workshop, Hannah picked the gourmet popcorn team, partnering with five other attendees to learn more about starting a business. They worked together to examine their product and come up with a name for their brand. The team wanted their company name to show that their product was fancier than other popcorn, so they called the company The Great British Popcorn, and Hannah came up with their slogan: “It’s extraordinarily better.”
Later, Hannah and her team learned that their intuition to emphasize their popcorn’s quality was wise, because quality was their business’s competitive advantage. The group used what they learned through different games and exercises to develop a well-rounded business plan, deciding to sell their gourmet chocolate and caramel-covered corn in airports, which would appeal to travelers who want to buy gifts for family and friends.
The goal of Celebrate EDU’s programs is to teach these business fundamentals. The organization was founded by Jenny Anderson, who watched her brother Brent work together with their mom, Linda, to write and sell his own book, Unintentional Humor. Brent is on the autism spectrum and wasn’t happy with traditional employment, so he took the dive into entrepreneurship. Jenny wanted to help others with I/DD, like Hannah, do the same.
The organization offers two other entrepreneurship trainings. Discovering Entrepreneurship is an online course free for anyone in Denver County to access until the end of this year, thanks in part to Denver Mill Levy funding.
The Spark Program, offered online or in a classroom, is available to RMHS clients for a minimal fee of $100 and provides courses that will sharpen business skills by teaching things like customer service, how to plan for a business meeting or phone call, ways to talk with others about your ideas, and how to build a support network. Without support from mill levy funding, the course costs $875. Hannah plans to continue learning through Celebrate EDU’s Spark Program.
The Kindling Workshop not only provides education, but also an opportunity to connect with peers. Hannah spoke to attendees about her experience with business ownership, sharing her knowledge and taking questions. Though she explained that business can be tough, it’s worth it in the end.
“I love what I do, and I’m really proud of what I do,” Hannah said, receiving a round of applause.