Granola and laundry couldn’t be more different. But last year Spectrum Designs expanded its brand into two additional nonprofit entities—Spectrum Suds and Spectrum Bakes. While both Suds and Bakes act as learning experiences for the Nicholas Center, Spectrum hopes to employ one individual with Autism in both entities by next year, and begin to grow the nonprofit similar to Spectrum Designs, where 75 percent of employees are on the Autism Spectrum.
Currently, participants in Spectrum Suds and Bakes come from the Nicholas Center, whose mission is to assist people with Autism in leading full, productive and meaningful lives. Participants rotate throughout the day through Suds, Bakes and Designs to learn a bit about each area. The hope for Suds and Bakes—and of course, Designs—is that once the participants age out of the program, the nonprofit will hire them in areas they enjoy and excel in.
“Our goal is by this time next year to employ individual in Bakes and one in Suds,” said enterprise coordinator Deana Nissen. “That’s how Design started and now 75 percent of the employees are on the spectrum so we’re following the same model for Bakes and Suds and we’ve been doing really well so far.”
While Suds and Bakes are quite different, both were chosen as the additional brands because they each have a clear-cut process, explained co-founder and CEO Patrick Bardsley.
“It was a response from some of the parents,” said Bardsley. “We realize T-shirts aren’t for everyone so we thought of what other businesses we could go into that were similar in process to Designs in that there’s a recipe to follow. There’s steps that are very concrete. There’s something quite reinforcing in that. If one of the diagnostic criteria of Autism is social impairment, putting someone in a situation where they have to answer lots of questions is not ideal. They’re not in a business that’s customer facing. They’re able to work in an environment that’s integrated and challenging but at the same time they’re not expected to do things that are not in their skill set.”
In Bakes, participants follow the process of following a recipe for granola-based products, baking the products and then packaging them. Bakes offers products like Cups of Love filled with signature granola, chocolate granola bite tins, granola bars and Socially Good Wishes Boxes filled with granola bars and bites, chocolate covered pretzels, mints, a mug, candle and card.
Most of the Bakes business is done online to residents and some local businesses who have taken a liking to the sweet treats. Granola bar display boxes have been delivered to Port stores like Harbor Deli, Schmear and Harbor Links. The nonprofit has also gotten orders from Uber’s headquarters in Manhattan to supply break rooms with the three flavors—chocolate chunk, sweet cranberry and pumpkin sunflower. In Suds, a boutique laundry service, participants follow a process from sorting incoming laundry based on colors, washing the clothing, drying it and hanging or folding it. Each station is labeled with a symbol and a name. Customers’ names are placed on a card and brought through the process at the different stations with Velcro to make sure all laundry is labeled at all times
“We have a van that does pick up and drop off,” explained Nissen. “We call them the navigators. There is a coordinator who drives the van and she takes the adults with her. We have a schedule for our local customers. We have some biweekly and some weekly customers. Pick-ups happen in the morning then the navigators go about their schedule and then in the afternoon when the laundry is done from the day before. We have 24 to 48 hour service.”
For residents, the service is $1 per pound and that includes the delivery.
“We pride ourselves on our quality so yes, we do have a mission and yes, we’re a nonprofit but it’s important to us that our product that leaves here is just as good as any other product in any store,” said Nissen. “Our quality and customer service has to come first. If we don’t provide a quality product it doesn’t do anything for us. The plus is that it goes to a good cause.”
“I think the product we have for Bakes is absolutely incredible,” said Bardsley. “I think the product we put out for designs, the quality is perfect. The service we offer with the laundry is also really high standard. Those are really important principles because people are then challenging their preconceptions or preconceived ideas of what people with disabilities can do. What we’re showing with these products it’s a standing example of what these guys can do.”
For more information or to order, visit www.spectrumbakes.org and www.spectrumsuds.org.