EVNY was incorporated in 2015 to respond to both the enormous void in employment opportunities & the vast potential of individuals with autism & other developmental disabilities to work within their communities. Several visits to the Extraordinary Ventures North Carolina (EVNC) program in Chapel Hill provided both the inspiration & the model that EVNY employs as we research & develop small businesses unique to Westchester County.
The population of individuals diagnosed with autism has grown dramatically in the past two decades, from 1 in 10,000 to a staggering 1 in 64 today. Enormous strides in their education has resulted in the vast majority graduating out into the world with great potential, including the earning of a paycheck, if given the opportunity. EVNY was provided seed money through a grant from the Foundation for Empowering Citizens with Autism (FECA). The initial grant was part of FECA’s mission of supporting employment initiatives for adults with autism.
Learning the Business
EVNY’s first venture, EV Gifts, began as an experiment in the basement of our president, Melanie Schaffran. Over the summer of 2015 Melanie taught herself the step-by-step process in the art of candle making. She designed a unique packaging that could be modified depending on the holiday, event, or special occasion. Along the way she taught her son, Brett, how to package the candles.
After building an inventory, EV Gifts was launched for public consumption on November 7th, 2015 at the enormously popular Craft & Gift Fair at the middle school in Chappaqua. It proved to be a spectacular success and EVNY first business was officially on its way!
Since the first sale, EVNY has attended well over 100 sales. EV Gifts launched a new product division with a custom bracelet line in 2017. In the fall of 2018, EV Gifts debuted a customizable Gift Box of Thanks.
Our success at farmers’ markets and local craft fairs has expanded to include private affairs and weddings. Our team of adults with autism participates in all aspects of the candle and bracelet production process: unpacking supplies, assembly, packaging, and delivery. EV Gifts also provides the unique opportunity to train salespeople, highlighting skills in all aspects of the sale: unpacking inventory and supplies, merchandising tables, promoting products, and personally engaging customers. Taking pride in their accomplishment and the satisfaction they achieve is priceless.
A second business was initially developed in yet another board member’s basement. Ann DiChiara, who is currently also our business manager, began exploring the possibility of our employees providing services that are often outsourced by the business community. In 2015, EVNY’s paper-shredding operation was launched!
When EVNY officially moved to spanking new headquarters in Mt. Kisco, New York, the team determined that in order to be competitive a costly TAA government compliant-grade shredder needed to be purchased and employees trained on its use.
Since it’s installation, the machine is rarely silent. Local businesses can bring their work into our headquarters or be treated to the full service of door-to-door pick up. The doors have been swung wide open with a most recent opportunity to shred dozens of boxes of old files from a nationally ranked law firm.
Beyond the shredding tasks, our employees have assembled important patient information documents and holiday greetings for the local hospitals. As we continue to grow this business, the office tasks performed by employees will expand into sorting, packaging, scanning, and related services.
Our most recent success story involves that of our first intention. When EVNY determined a new & larger space was needed, the first explorations always included the necessary zoning permits that would allow for a laundry business. Our mentor in North Carolina has had great success with this, and the nature of the work provided ample reason for matching this business to the particular skills of our population.
It was clear that a manager dedicated to the task of publicizing this business offering would be necessary to not only launch the service but also to be on site to train and oversee production to ensure the quality necessary to compete in the local marketplace.
Andrew Tedder was brought on in March of 2018, and within months the machines were humming. Beginning with a few private customers who were treated to door-to-door pick up & delivery service, Andrew expanded the business to include local spas and beauty salons, all while training a growing employee crew and maintaining quality control.
In the late summer of 2018, an experiment of taking in huge duffel bag laundry that travels with local young summer campers at the end of the season provided ample assurance of a future expanded market.