Motivated by local business, DECA students start campaign to hire students with disabilities


Veronica Teeter

Caiden Wetherald, No Label at the Table Food Co. employee and junior, takes money from a customer at the farmer’s market. According to Shelly Henley, owner and founder of No Label at the Table Food Co., the bakery’s mission is to provide job skills training for people on the autism spectrum.

Natalie Khamis

     At No Label at the Table Food Co.—a gluten and-dairy-free food company located on 111 W. Main St.—employees take on tasks that range from packaging and labeling bakery items to making cereal treats. Unlike most businesses, employees at No Label at the Table Food Co. who help run the business are on the autism spectrum.

Veronica Teeter
Here is a display of baked goods at No Label at the Table Food Co. The business’s employees, who are on the autism spectrum, take on a variety of jobs such as making treats like cupcakes and packaging and labeling bakery items.

“Our mission here at No Label at the Table Food Co. is to employ people and provide job skills training for people on the autistic spectrum,” Shelly Henley, owner and founder of No Label at the Table Food Co., said,“We find what’s motivating for the employees and customize their work experience to fulfill that.”
It is this philosophy—and a speech Henley delivered at a Best Buddies event late last semester— that inspired Claire Given, Libby McGuire and Srineeth Challa, seniors and DECA members, to create The Ability Campaign as a part of a DECA project to encourage businesses to hire employees based on their skills.
McGuire said, “No Label at the Table strictly hires people on the autism spectrum, which inspired us by showing us, ‘Hey, this business can fully run on people with special needs. Why can’t other businesses hire employees with special needs?’”

Both Henley and the students who created The Ability Campaign said hiring individuals with disabilities is beneficial to businesses, which is something employers often do not realize.
“The number-one cost to most small businesses is retraining, rehiring and recruiting their employees as another walks out of their doors,” Henley said. “My employees are drama-free. They are honest, and they do their jobs Individuals with special needs are ideal employees, especially to small business owners.”

To match people with special needs with job opportunities, Given said the team recently hosted an event where 20 local business owners met individuals with special needs looking for job opportunities.

“We actually had some students who said that a business owner reached out to them to try and brainstorm places within the business the student could work,” Given said.
Moving forward, Henley and the students who make up The Ability Campaign all said businesses should recognize the strengths of individuals with special needs rather than how their disability will impact their work ethic.

“Autism isn’t a tragedy, but a whole different way of thinking,” Henley said. “It really is a pool of potential that I’ve tapped into, and when you tell someone that they are valuable and capable, incredible things happen.”