Social Enterprise Spotlight: Empower, the Disability Resource Centre

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Disabilities affect individuals in a myriad of ways - physically, sensory, neurologically, psychologically, and intellectually. While disabilities may be categorized according to the biological system that is impaired, the person living with the disability cannot be. This is because no two individuals experience a disability in the same way, as each person is affected by their own life experiences. According to Statistics Canada, 14% of the country’s population self-identifies as having a disability. Empower, the Disability Resource Centre formed in Newfoundland and Labrador to address the needs of this sizable demographic. 

People with disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador face barriers to full participation in society, encountering: high rates of unemployment and poverty, limited access to housing, limited access to transportation, difficulty in acquiring adaptive technology, and a lack of supportive services. By providing supports, resources, and opportunities for persons with disabilities, Empower strives to address these challenges.

Persons with disabilities and service providers can avail of resources on accessibility, self-advocacy, human rights, peer support, and more. However, Empower offers a wide array of employment supports covering everything from helping employers create inclusive workplaces, to offering career services and counselling to clients, to connecting persons with disabilities to internships and wage subsidies. This focus is not surprising when you consider that 70% of businesses are not hiring people with disabilities, despite 90% of people with disabilities performing as well or better than co-workers. While Empower and similar organizations have worked tirelessly to educate the public and to support persons with disabilities, this glaring discrepancy shows there is still much work to be done.

Take Two: Gently-Used Clothing & More

The Disability Resource Centre has largely relied upon the hard-work of volunteers, generous donations from the public, and funding from the provincial and federal governments to further their mission. However, Empower recently launched an initiative that increases the organization’s financial independence, while also fulfilling its mandate. Located in Ropewalk Lane Plaza at 38 Ropewalk Lane is Take Two: Gently-used Clothing and More, a second-hand retail shop specializing in clothing and small household goods. Take Two is what’s know as a Social Enterprise, where a not-for-profit organization offers goods or services for commercial sale. Unlike a regular for-profit business, a social enterprise generates revenue for its parent organization, not a CEO. This means all funds raised stay locally to support the organization’s mandate. In addition to raising funds, Take Two also helps fulfill the Empower mission by providing meaningful employment to persons with a variety of disabilities.

Empower hopes their Social Enterprise continues to grow into the future. For other organizations reluctant to take the leap, Kimberley Yetman Dawson, Executive Director of Empower, recommends they conduct thorough research into the venture, and engage their volunteers by setting up a committee with the skill sets required to manage a Social Enterprise.

For not-for-profits interested in starting or expanding a Social Enterprise, there is Support available to make it happen. With up to $50,000 in financing, essential business advice, and skills development opportunities, Metro Business Opportunities can ensure your not-for-profit is ideally structured for Social Enterprise success.