20 episodes

Hello and welcome to the Autism Advantage Podcast where we sit down with some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs dedicated to proving how capable people with autism really are.

Our team believes that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many businesses and this show is dedicated to proving that it is not only possible to employ people with autism, but in doing so you can create a business with real competitive advantages.

The Autism Advantage Podcast will not only inspire you to see the possibilities but will also help teach how you can join the autism entrepreneurship movement.

Autism Advantage RisingTideU.com

    • Business
    • 4.2 • 5 Ratings

Hello and welcome to the Autism Advantage Podcast where we sit down with some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs dedicated to proving how capable people with autism really are.

Our team believes that individuals with autism are an incredible untapped resource for many businesses and this show is dedicated to proving that it is not only possible to employ people with autism, but in doing so you can create a business with real competitive advantages.

The Autism Advantage Podcast will not only inspire you to see the possibilities but will also help teach how you can join the autism entrepreneurship movement.

    Lessons From the Trenches – A Follow up conversation with Brewability Labs

    Lessons From the Trenches – A Follow up conversation with Brewability Labs

    Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri. Throughout the first seven episodes of season 2, we chronicled the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism. If you tuned in, you heard all about how we planned this location, interviewed and trained our fantastic new employees, how the opening went, and much more.
    For the final three episodes of this season, we’re changing things up a bit! We want to revisit some of the incredible entrepreneurs who we featured in season 1 to hear about how their journeys have progressed since we last heard from them. Today, we’ll be talking to Tiffany Fixter of Brewability Lab. When we last spoke in season 1 episode 7, the company was dealing with red tape and hadn’t quite opened yet. Go listen to that episode for some background, and then tune in here to learn how much has changed!
    As a quick refresher, Tiffany was a special education teacher who was disappointed to find out how few people with autism have jobs. So, having the entrepreneurial spirit that she does, she decided that she would do something about it! After a successful crowdfunding effort, Tiffany found a turnkey brewery and put down a deposit on it. That’s when they ran into some red tape -- and when we had our last conversation!
    Now, Brewability Lab has been open for just over a year. Tiffany’s employees have experienced incredible growth since then, thanks in large part to the systems she has set up to facilitate the process. For example, there are braille labels on the bar taps so that a bartender who is blind can function at his best.
    Because of their hidden location, Brewability Lab is still struggling to keep up with bills. The alternative to this location, Tiffany points out, is a downtown location that costs tens of thousands of dollars per month. In our conversation, she explains various other ideas she has for how to make the business more profitable, while making clear how difficult the financial aspect has been. This is a great reminder to entrepreneurs that you should always budget for the unexpected and expect your costs to be higher than your initial projections.
    In our conversation today, Tiffany and I will talk about lots of other topics including various kinds of advertising and marketing, some tools that can help you drive more traffic to your business (and one strategy you should definitely avoid), and what advice we can give to entrepreneurs in the early stages of opening a business. Tune in, enjoy this final episode of season 2, and don’t forget to come back when we return with season 3!
     
    In This Episode:
    [00:54] - Tiffany takes a moment to explain what Brewability Labs is, and why she started it, for listeners who may not be familiar with the venture.
    [01:31] - We hear about where Tiffany’s company is now, and how it’s been doing. She also talks about what she’s done to facilitate the incredible progress that her employees have made since the opening.
    [03:17] - Money is still a struggle after being operational for over a year, Tiffany reveals.
    [04:11] - What are Tiffany’s next steps? She explores both the reasons why it’s so hard to make any money in her business and the ideas she has for increasing profitability.
    [08:44] - Tiffany has sold off everything she can other than the absolute necessities to be a brewery, she reveals. She then addresses whether she has sources to get grants from, and invites listeners to email her if they have ideas.
    [09:43] - We hear Tiffany’s thoughts about opening a pizzeria.
    [11:04] - Tom brings up two important points related to what Tiffany has been saying.
    [12:15] - What has Tiffany learned from the brewery and transferring to the pizzeria idea? She talks specifically about the location issue.
    [13:04] - The company’s advertising is pretty much word-of-mouth at this point, Tiffany reveals. She discusses whether she has considered online advertising.
    [

    • 31 min
    Diversifying Impact – A Follow up conversation with the Chocolate Spectrum

    Diversifying Impact – A Follow up conversation with the Chocolate Spectrum

    Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri. Throughout the first seven episodes of season 2, we chronicled the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism. If you tuned in, you heard all about how we planned this location, interviewed and trained our fantastic new employees, how the opening went, and much more.
    For the final three episodes of this season, we’re changing things up a bit! We want to revisit some of the incredible entrepreneurs who we featured in season 1 to hear about how their journeys have progressed since we last heard from them. In today’s episode, we’re featuring the awesome Valerie Herskowitz, founder of The Chocolate Spectrum Cafe and Academy. If you haven’t already heard her in the fifth episode of season 1, go listen to that now and then come back here!
    You may remember that Val was inspired to expand her sweet hobby into a business as her son with autism, Blake, was graduating from high school. After expanding their chocolate venture online, they opened a brick-and-mortar cafe just a couple of months before our previous conversation. All of the employees had autism or were otherwise differently abled.
    Since our last conversation, there has been a huge change in the training side of things. Val explains that she has mostly just gone with the flow with the business, following the opportunities that presented themselves, instead of having a huge long-term master plan. She explains in this conversation that it occurred to her that they should see if the coffee industry could possibly be something that would work for individuals with autism. With the right equipment and support systems, they found that their employees can be very successful in this role.
    The strongest revenue stream has continued to be online shopping, while retail continues to be weak and disappointing in terms of walk-in traffic. The levels haven’t reached what they expected, which Val attributes to location. In response, Val sends out flyers and came up with the idea of developing a Facebook page just for the retailers in her shopping center. Another strategy for increasing their revenue has been branching out into wholesale.
    In addition to talking about all of this, Val speaks with great detail (and passion) about her new training program for teens with autism, explaining why it’s so necessary. Tune into this great episode to hear this and much more!
     
    In This Episode:
    [01:05] - For listeners who didn’t hear our previous conversation, Val explains what The Chocolate Spectrum Cafe and Academy is and what inspired her to start the company.
    [01:50] - How has the company grown over the last year since our previous conversation? In her answer, Val talks about the company branching into coffee.
    [06:45] - Val discusses taking the skills that their employees were learning in their coffee training program and put them into an employment situation.
    [08:30] - How many people are working at the satellites Val has been describing, and what is her vision for them?
    [11:05] - Tom clarifies: Val is using her primary location as a hub and for training, with satellite operations around it to increase distribution and employ more people.
    [11:27] - Val talks about how she plans on managing all of this.
    [14:35] - We back up a bit to hear how “home base,” the Chocolate Spectrum retail store, is doing these days.
    [18:18] - Tom has a couple of suggestions for ways that Val (and listeners, of course!) can market online. He recommends using Mogl and geofencing.
    [21:36] - Val shifts into talking specifically about employee growth, and discusses certifications for training and placing people in the community.
    [24:53] - The biggest thing that Val’s company provides is teaching their employees how to be employed, since they don’t typically have experience in what is involved in the process and what the expectations are.
    [26:04] - Val has always

    • 39 min
    Growing Smart – A Follow up conversation with Katie’s Snack Cart

    Growing Smart – A Follow up conversation with Katie’s Snack Cart

    Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri. Throughout the first seven episodes of season 2, we chronicled the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism. If you tuned in, you heard all about how we planned this location, interviewed and trained our fantastic new employees, how the opening went, and much more.
    For the final three episodes of this season, we’re going to change things up a bit! We want to revisit some of the incredible entrepreneurs who we featured in season 1 to hear about how their journeys have progressed since we last heard from them. Today, we’re featuring Wendy Kohman, who you’ll remember from the third episode of season 1. (If you haven’t already heard it, go listen now and then come back to this one!)
    In our last conversation, Wendy described how she came up with the idea of Katie’s Snack Cart, and why it was a good fit for Katie, her daughter who has autism. In short, the company sells more healthful alternatives to the junk foods that are typically available in offices. Workers with autism push food carts from desk to desk in offices, selling these foods.
    Katie’s Snack Cart has grown wonderfully since it opened with just Katie and a cart. The company now employs six adults with special needs on the team. Their roles are split between baking snacks to sell and pushing the carts, which now operate in nine businesses. The employees are deservedly proud of themselves for their role in creating a successful small business.
    When we last talked with Wendy, the products sold through Katie’s Snack Cart were premade products that they bought to sell, with the exception of Wendy’s banana bread. Now, they make lots of their own baked things, and employ several more people to help in the kitchen. This allows them to hire people with very different abilities, skills, and strengths.
    Wendy also talks about the process of finding new employees, how work support roles have functioned for their employees, the ways in which the company has grown since our conversation a year earlier, how customers at their various client businesses react and respond to the social mission, and much more. If you’re ready for inspiration on how successful a small business supporting autism can be, even for someone without experience as an entrepreneur, don’t miss this episode!
    In This Episode:
    [01:00] - Wendy reminds listeners what Katie’s Snack Cart is, what the company does, and what inspired her to start the company.
    [02:06] - We hear what’s been happening with Katie’s Snack Cart in the year or so since we first talked with Wendy.
    [04:10] - Where has Wendy found these employees, and how has the experience of expanding gone for Wendy?
    [05:37] - Tom reveals that they had over 600 applicants for their second store, but held people off until they had legitimate jobs for more people.
    [06:38] - We hear more about the shift from prepackaged snacks to more of their own baked goods on the snack carts.
    [08:46] - Wendy describes in more detail how she runs the operation, specifically in terms of having support people for her employees with autism or special needs. She discusses one of the complications, but overall thinks it’s a great choice.
    [10:44] - Where is Wendy going to find clients, and how does she define who their potential (and ideal) clients are?
    [13:14] - We learn Wendy’s plan for how to reach out to potential new clients, and mentions how important it is to do a trial run so that the business can see how much value Katie’s Snack Cart offers.
    [15:55] - Wendy talks more about the customers’ reaction to the social mission.
    [17:59] - Recently, the company went and Christmas caroled at one of their client businesses, Wendy explains.
    [18:59] - One of the things that’s sold on the snack carts are cards featuring artwork by another person with autism. We hear about how this went, why Wendy thinks more cards di

    • 24 min
    Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

    Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

    Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.
    We’ve been making great progress throughout this podcast. In the previous episodes this season, we’ve talked about planning our second location, the interview and training processes, our successful opening, and the role of our employees who don’t have autism. Now we’re going to talk about digital marketing.
    One important thing we’ve noticed that we’re lacking is continually engaging with our community and customers, and telling our story. We realized that, while many of our customers understand exactly what our company does, there are quite a few who had no idea. This was our fault for not being clear and outgoing enough with communicating our story, and so we decided to change that. We decided to do this through digital marketing instead of opting for standard car wash marketing techniques, such as door hangers or printouts.
    We estimate that about half of the people who come through our car wash don’t know about our social mission, despite many million views on our videos online. Now, we’re figuring out how to tell our story to our audience, meaning anyone over 16 years old who lives within five miles of either of our locations.
    To achieve this, we’re using Facebook, Google Adwords, Yelp, Waze, and more. We’ve been emphasizing sharing our story and mission, because that’s what sets us apart. Instead of just trying to compete on the standard categories of speed, quality, and cost, we’re giving customers something else to engage with. With that said, we also have great service; that’s why half of our customers keep coming back despite not knowing our mission!
    We’ll dig into all of these topics in this episode, as well as much more. You’ll hear about why we focus our energy (and ad dollars) on Facebook instead of Yelp, what we do on location to drive home our mission, how we bumped up our Facebook performance, and what tools you can use while starting your own enterprise.
     
    In This Episode:
    [00:30] - Tom S. talks about digital marketing! He discusses the need to engage with customers and tell the company’s story.
    [02:15] - For a company that has a collective 65+ million views on their videos, it’s amazing how many people in the local market don’t know about their social mission, Tom D. points out.
    [04:02] - Tom D. explains that they’re finding the most effective way to get the word out is digital marketing. Tom S. digs into what this means, what techniques they use, and why digital marketing is so powerful now.
    [06:42] - We hear about some of the interesting things that they’ve been finding through using digital marketing.
    [08:31] - Another interesting thing that they’ve found is what type of content is engaging on Facebook. Tom S. talks about their experience with letting people in the local community know about their special offers.
    [10:57] - Telling your mission in an authentic way is the best way to create lasting clients, Tom S. points out, and talks about some reactions to their Facebook post.
    [13:30] - Tom D. draws out some of what Tom S. has been talking about. He points out that every car wash talks about price, quality, and speed.
    [15:45] - Tom S. talks about the importance of targeting ads. They have found that their ad dollars are much better spent targeting women than men, for example.
    [16:31] - We hear about something that didn’t work out very well for Rising Tide Car Wash: advertising on Yelp.
    [18:01] - Tom D. brings up another point: what they’re doing onsite after driving customers into the store through digital ad campaigns. Tom S. then digs more deeply into their onsite marketing techniques and strategies.
    [21:18] - We hear some tactics and advice for those who are starting their own ent

    • 27 min
    Typical Staffing Needs – Recruiting Training Deploying

    Typical Staffing Needs – Recruiting Training Deploying

    Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.
    In the first half of this season, we’ve already covered a lot of ground! We’ve discussed planning the new location, interviewing dozens of people in one day, the pre-training process for our new employees, the live training process, and the successful opening of Rising Tide’s second location. Now, moving into the second half of the season, we’re ready to talk about the other 20% of our staff -- the employees who don’t have autism.
    These employees are incredibly important to the overall structure of the organization. They help coach and train the rest of the employees, and are generally the frontline for customer experience. They navigate the communication, explain the service, and set expectations. While they’re vital to our organization, it can be challenging to find typical people who want to work at a car wash and see the work as an opportunity to grow and have impact.
    When we’re looking for our typical employees, we want two main traits: someone who has both grit (as defined by Angela Duckworth) and assertiveness, or the ability to advocate for their own and others’ rights. We always have two interviewers present so that we can have different perspectives on the interview. Once it’s over, we score the interview on a scale of up to 40 points. We typically hire people at 28 points or better; our all-time record so far is a 36. 
    We’ve had a lot of good luck with two social archetypes. The first is opportunity youth. These people might have just graduated high school, or be a year or two out from it. They’re typically people who have found that college isn’t for them at this point, for one reason or another, and who often need a job to help support their families. The other social archetype that tends to work well for us is high school students looking for their first job. 
    Listen to this episode to hear the details on all of these subjects! We also chat about the overall structure of our organization, how we scale culture with a framework called “disciplined compassion,” and why it generally doesn’t work well for us to hire college students or recent college grads.
     
    In This Episode:
    [00:31] - Tom S. talks about how the employees without autism are, in many ways, the backbone of the company who support its structure.
    [01:58] - Right now, all but two employees on the management team are typical.
    [02:38] - Tom D. points out that they don’t have any job coaches on their staff for a very specific reason.
    [03:42] - We learn about some of the ways that they go about finding typical employees. Tom D. talks about the interview process and how they decide whether to hire a particular applicant based on a scoring system.
    [05:23] - Tom D. discusses the role of talent in their roles for both typical people and people with autism. He then reveals that there are two typical archetypes that typically work well for them: opportunity youth and high school students.
    [07:53] - Tom S. talks about where the company is right now in terms of their overall organizational structure.
    [10:13] - It was right as they were about to open the second location that they started to see some issues with some of their typical employees. We lost two of our supervisors in the weeks leading up to the opening of the second location, and had to let go of a third right after the first week of the second location.
    [12:24] - How do you ensure that you have the right culture fit when hiring typical people, and what are you looking for in the interview to make sure they’ll be successful? As he addresses these questions, Tom D. talks about how they scale culture.
    [13:39] - Tom D. lists the six different pillars of disciplined compassion.
    [16:12] - We hear more

    • 30 min
    2nd Store Open – Frontlines from 1st week

    2nd Store Open – Frontlines from 1st week

    Welcome to the Autism Advantage podcast! I’m your host, Tom D’Eri, and my co-host for this season is Tom Sena. Throughout season 2, we’ll be chronicling the process of opening a second location of Rising Tide Car Wash, where we employ people with autism.
    In the first four episodes of this season, we discussed our plans for our new location, the day of nearly a hundred interviews, our pre-training process, and how we proceeded with live training. With our amazing new employees trained and ready to go, we did it! We opened Rising Tide’s second location!
    In this episode, we’ll be talking about the process of opening the new location. Now that we’ve finished up the first week of operations with both stores running, we’re ready to talk about how things went! Instead of putting all the new employees in the new location, we knew it was vital to have a mix of experience levels. We moved about half of our experienced employees to the new location, so each of the two locations is now staffed by half experienced employees and half new employees.
    This meant our existing employees really need to step up and take on more responsibility and leadership, and they’ve done such a great job. The new employees have been fantastic too, as they learn all of the other parts of working with us that weren’t specifically covered in the live training shifts. 
    Our approach involves three facets that we envision as being a pyramid. At the base is the process of cleaning the car. Once our employees understand this basic process, we move up the pyramid to the next layer: quality. We ensure that all of our employees understand just how clean a car needs to be. Finally, at the top of the pyramid is speed. This is the phase we’re currently in, as our employees learn to clean cars in 20 minutes or under.
    Tune into this episode to hear much more about all of this! You’ll also learn about how we addressed some issues with some of our employees not understanding the need to be on time, why we see scripts as an important part of the business, and that some of our employees without autism have been more of a challenge than the ones with autism.
     
    In This Episode:
    [00:21] - Tom S. reveals that the opening of the second location wasn’t completely smooth, partly thanks to Hurricane Irma.
    [00:57] - How are the employees -- old and new alike -- acclimating to the situation with the new location?
    [02:26] - Tom S. digs deeper into the differences between live training shifts and full shifts now that the second location is open. He also discusses how they’ve addressed tardiness among some of the new employees.
    [04:52] - Tom D. explores one of the strategies they used to correct tardiness.
    [05:18] - We hear about the three-pronged approach involving the basic process, quality, and speed. Tom D. explains this as being like a pyramid, with the basic process as the base and quality as the next step.
    [08:25] - The peak of the pyramid is ramping up the speed. Tom D. talks about some strategies they use to encourage their employees to work quickly and ensure customers aren’t waiting around too long at the car wash.
    [09:40] - If you’re interested in creating your own enterprise, Tom S. offers some tips on where to focus your attention.
    [10:36] - Tom D. compares the process of opening and growing the first store with the experience of opening this one.
    [11:37] - Their employees with autism have been the least of their problems, Tom S. points out. He explains that everybody who they brought into live training has worked out and shown an eagerness to be a valuable team member.
    [12:37] - One of their employees has some behavioral issues involving outbursts. Tom D. talks about how they’ve handled this.
    [15:02] - Tom S. talks about how important it is to be direct and make sure employees know exactly where they stand.
    [16:15] - Tom D. talks about customer reactions. Overall, the customers are really happy. He also explains that they

    • 25 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
5 Ratings

5 Ratings

Wee Tah Did ,

I got fired

You fired me Tom for no reason. I will never forget this.

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