5 Questions With: Patrick Bardsley

January 29, 2019
by Taylor Chapman
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5 Questions With: Patrick Bardsley

Q.

What problem are you solving today, and why is solving this problem personal for you?

A.

It is estimated that the unemployment/underemployment rate facing adults with autism and developmental disabilities is upwards of 70%. That means that of 10 disabled adults only 3 are getting access to authentic employment opportunities that allow them the opportunity to contribute to our society. Furthermore, the opportunity to experience independent living, choices, structure, socialization and the inherent feeling of self worth we all get from our vocation are missed. No matter what side of the aisle you sit, I think we can agree that creating jobs for an underserved and underestimated population is good for economic and social reasons.

It is personal for me because one of my oldest family friends has autism as well as my brother in law. They both have jobs because of Spectrum Designs and I know them well enough to know they value it. They may not fully comprehend money and its abstract nature but I know their lives are infinitely better because of it. Each day I see them hard at work I imagine how different their lives would have been if they were born in 1970 vs 1990, it makes me shudder. Thankfully, the days of ‘Willowbrook’ and mass institutionalization are mostly gone in this country and yes, we have come a long way.

The truth, however, is that we still have more to do to recognize this group as a valuable addition to the workforce. With 500,000 people with disabilities graduating in the next decade, that 70% unemployment rate will have to change.

Q.

How does your work cut across traditional sectors or industries?

A.

Our main business is apparel customization so we work with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Uber, Facebook, JPMC, etc., as well as local private businesses such as delis and family events. We are proud members the promotional products industry and make it our business to get to know the needs of all our customers. In fact, the majority of our customers do not know about our social mission and are always pleasantly surprised when we tell them after they have placed their order!

We also work very closely with local and national 501c3 non-profits for their printing needs and make every effort to partner, sponsor and save them money as so many of our causes overlap. For example, our cause is autism but people with developmental disabilities are also disproportionately affected by poverty or in the prison system. If we zoom out a little we can see that almost all non-profit causes overlap in numerous ways and we should all work together.

Q.

What role has the NationSwell Council played in your life + work?

A.

I think NationSwell had a huge role to play in my biggest lesson learned. Being exposed to countless like minded and progressive thinkers from all different sectors and industries was so good for me. It got me away from my desk and made me realize that there were numerous causes out there that were just as worthy as ours. And that our causes more often than not overlapped, so why couldn’t our solutions?

Q.

If you could pick one other NationSwell Council member and say, “I wish more people knew about the great work they’re doing,” who would it be?

A.

I think what Catchafire does is fantastic. Knowing that there are entire organizations founded and thriving out there that have the sole purpose of connecting professionals to help non-profits is heartening, to say the least! Having founded a non-profit and struggling through the first few years and not knowing which way to turn, I can appreciate first hand what Catchafire does for non-profits across the country. Just knowing that there is a large and ever growing pool of passionate, pro bono professionals out there seeking non-profits to help is nothing short of incredible. I think I speak on behalf of all non-profit founders when I thank organizations like Catchafire!

Q.

What piece of impact are you most proud of?

A.

I would have been proud of creating just one job that wasn’t there before for someone who would never have gotten the opportunity. Instead we now have one booming business that employs 24 adults with autism and 2 different growing businesses that are on track to do the same but in totally different industries. I’m proud that we didn’t stop at one job. That I won’t stop at 24 jobs. I don’t know how or when I will but I’m proud (and perhaps cursed) that I am never satisfied or satiated when the day is done.

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