Manage episode 318801742 series 2969801
Season 02, Episode 02 Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley Guest: Steven Bier
Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter... here we go!
Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the Disabled Lives Matter Podcast. Let's welcome co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley!
Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone, this is nadine vogel and I want to welcome you to another fabulous episode of disabled lives matter norma norma stanley my incredible co host how the heck are you today.
NORMA STANLEY: i'm great it's great to see you guys everybody and looking forward to 2022.
Nadine Vogel: I know I can't believe we're already like into 2022 and you know it is time flies I know, everybody says that but.
Nadine Vogel: You know I actually I just say I saw a piece of art recently and it had all these clocks on it and butterflies, and the guy said his team was the time flies and said, well then, there you go.
Nadine Vogel: So today we are interviewing really a wonderful gentleman Steven Bier Steven started a nonprofit and a business as a result of having a son, who has autism.
Nadine Vogel: And i'm going to just really introducing all of this i'm gonna let him do it because I just it's so wonderful I love what you've done Steven so welcome to the show um.
Nadine Vogel: You know i've heard P popcorn for the people of her popcorn with purpose tell us a little bit about what that really is so.
Steven Bier: Popcorn for the people, if you want to go into your imagination, for a second and go back in time to the summer of 2014.
Steven Bier: I have a son was high functioning on the autism spectrum and he could not get a fulfilling or meaningful job and here he is pushing he's pushing shopping carts at ShopRite.
Steven Bier: which you know, would be a great fit for some personalities others know him he wasn't no but he was doing it and then one day he forgot to put suntan lotion on the middle of July, he came home red as a lobster.
Steven Bier: My wife will talk about in a minute my wife said, this is ridiculous Steven you're pretty useless to me most of the time, but the one thing you can do is business can get a business going for Sam and the other young men and women in the neighborhood.
Steven Bier: And you know life's funny I saw I don't know right, I went to a to a business directory and online I opened it up and the very first thing on top was a popcorn stand for sale.
Steven Bier: That's interesting popcorn it's not seasonal it's year round it cuts to all social economic barriers everybody's it's not a fad.
Steven Bier: and it's not dangerous to make.and.
Steven Bier: My son's name is sandy said, Sam How would you like to be in the popcorn business and now was it, seven years later eight years later.
Steven Bier: That little stand has grown into a 4000 square foot processing Center.
Steven Bier: and ask me how many kids we have working for us.
Nadine Vogel: How many kids you have working for you.
Steven Bier: Oh it's so funny you should ask that.
Steven Bier: And I use the word kids lightly, because.
Nadine Vogel: I was just going to say young adults.
Steven Bier: Yes, so. um.
Steven Bier: They are We broke the 50 mark we're in the 50s now.
Nadine Vogel: Congratulations, what what is the age range of these folks.
Steven Bier: Oh, the age range is we have people coming from high school, they have more on job training, although they can work also you know after.
Steven Bier: School going up to, I think one man Rich is in his in his 50s.
Nadine Vogel: Okay okay and does everyone that works to do all 50 have autism or on the autism spectrum, or do they have they have differnt disabilities.
Steven Bier: Absolutely not.
Steven Bier: We do not want to close shop, very specifically, we are literally if you go to the dictionary, and you look up the word neuro diverse right because definition, it will say popcorn for the people.
Steven Bier: We are neuro diverse we have we have such a spectrum, we have young men and women, on the autism spectrum, we have some workers with cerebral palsy, we have two workers who are blind, which just amazes me when they're out there cooking popcorn.
Steven Bier: And we have so yes it's a big spectrum and at this point there's no like official statistics, but we're one of the biggest employers of autistic workers in the country pretty sure.
Nadine Vogel: Wow, that's that's fabulous and and you know we know, I mean norm and I are both you know moms who have daughters with disabilities adult daughters.
Nadine Vogel: So we know the unemployment rate of people with disabilities is high exceptionally high, but i've been told that for those with autism it's even higher Is that true.
Steven Bier: Yes, that the the best educated guess is 80-90% I think when you start hearing them was like that young to be exactly you get the picture is. really big trouble
Nadine Vogel: Right So in addition to 50 people with disabilities that work there i'm assuming you have others that provide guidance that do various things to help them So how are you. structuring.
Steven Bier: Okay so just to sit back for a second, this is a nonprofit.
Nadine Vogel: Okay
Steven Bier: But but but but.
Nadine Vogel: But with capital B.
Steven Bier: We run it like a business with all the good and all the bad you know I could tell you some wonderful success stories and terrible situations where we were unable to employ people.
Steven Bier: One person he became violent and we didn't have a capability for that it is a business, it is looks like a almost like a factory with. pots.
Steven Bier: Everyone's gowned up for it forget the virus even everyone's gowned up to make the food, everything has to be you know sterile.
Nadine Vogel: Right.
Steven Bier: So it is a real business with a huge workforce, we have all the way from one end we do allow some schools to come in and do some some simple work.
Steven Bier: You know, go to the high school range, but then after that.
Steven Bier: it's everyone and there's no there's no figuring where someone's going to fit in and until we meet them.
Nadine Vogel: But in terms of running the business aspects do you have besides yourself right helping other other volunteers are there other parents of these individuals other professionals How does that.
Nadine Vogel: structure work.
Steven Bier: I going to turn your question a little bit and put it this way, what would I advise other parents who wants to do something we get this all the time.
Nadine Vogel: Okay.
Steven Bier: it's interesting people reach out to us, and then, when we reach out back vastly over 9% of time it won't go anywhere and nothing will happen, I think, parents are really.
Steven Bier: Working themselves there you know, probably, if not overwhelmed or under a lot of pressure with having a work on the autism spectrum or any disability.
Steven Bier: Right and now here, at the same time you're doing it you're teaching your your son or daughter and you're getting treatments and you're getting therapies.
Steven Bier: And I now you've come to the last step the employment and it's not there and to step into that void and do it and try to create something yourself can seem daunting.
Nadine Vogel: Oh yes
Steven Bier: Right. It can seem daunting, so I would tell everyone one myself, you know people started it have little to no business, I mean just simple business stuff none of us have MBAs or anything like that.
Steven Bier: Volunteers can be helpful, but with volunteers, you have to really find that diamond in the rough.
Steven Bier: Because most volunteers, they mean well it's in the heart but they'll come for a little period of time there and a little period of time here to find you know we've been lucky to find a few incredible people with Mark Katz he's the CEO the CFO and the CEO also Vera Wang.
Steven Bier: We have a present from Vera Wang and he is ours every day.
Steven Bier: But he's an unusual situation most don't So I say to parents that other parents who were willing to work and you guys get together and think about you going to do is terrific volunteers, are good, but the end of the day, you have to do the heavy lifting yourself.
Nadine Vogel: Absolutely absolutely and and it's my understanding that you've had support from the mayor, I mean just from other companies, I think you what I heard now is you're even selling things beyond popcorn like you're making sandwiches did I hear correctly that boards head has now has taken an. Interest in you guys.
Steven Bier: No, no that's the it's actually the other way and, again, I would say this, the parents looking through things we started out and we went through a couple I wouldn't say failures, but things that just didn't work out well, but we learn, so we started out in a mall so popcorn stay in the mall.
Steven Bier: And the.
Steven Bier: best thing happened, it was my son and two other workers and the first thing we learned was that.
Steven Bier: hey here we have we have these students on the autism spectrum personalities mattered where they would succeed or fail so one young man oh my God he spent a tale he could tell a story he was just great and sales.
Steven Bier: And then we had other people who had poor hand eye coordination and we're unable to do jobs, like sweeping cleaning, so we put them in a different part.
Nadine Vogel: Right.
Steven Bier: And then from there, we began the best thing happened to us the mall threw us out.
Steven Bier: Threw us right out on our butts some international popcorn company came in, gave them like a quarter million dollars to set up a stand and we were out.
Steven Bier: And so we went to another mall we came up with this idea of sandwiches and I know a lot of the parents were trying to form things for you know their children.
Steven Bier: tend to drift towards food, and I would say food is really very difficult, you might want to rethink it there's a lot of moving parts, something which has a lot of moving parts.
Nadine Vogel: Yeah, yeah.
Steven Bier: Refrigeration freshness and so forth, so from that, we just kept it simple, so my take home message here is we actually did the exact opposite, of what you were saying.
Nadine Vogel: Oh okay.
Steven Bier: We sell one. thing. which is popcorn.
Steven Bier: And we sell.
Steven Bier: merchandise now.
Nadine Vogel: Okay okay that's.
Steven Bier: Nothing sexy.
[Lot of Laughter]
NORMA STANLEY: Nice. though.
Nadine Vogel: I really I love that I absolutely love it norma do you like popcorn.
NORMA STANLEY: I love popcorn do you do flavor popcorn.
Steven Bier: It is all gourmet oh norma, this is not fair to you I'm gonna describe it, this is not fair.
Steven Bier: We make things like these cookies and cream, we had this wonderful.
Steven Bier: This one woman Agnes, who was a medical researcher and a culinary major so she kinda understood, chemicals and heat and cold and everything with the other.
Steven Bier: And she made she developed cookies and cream popcorn.
Nadine Vogel: The kids make the popcorn.
Steven Bier: Then they melt white chocolate and pour it over the popcorn and they smash up oreos with a hammer.
NORMA STANLEY: Oh wow.
Steven Bier: Let it dry out cookies and cream popcorn.
NORMA STANLEY: That sounds good.
Nadine Vogel: i'm gaining weight just listening to you.
NORMA STANLEY: I know right.
Steven Bier: There are no calories but it's all for charity.
Nadine Vogel: Oh Okay, well then, there you go I like that.
Steven Bier: We got a message from God.
Steven Bier: The message was, charity, no, no calories.
NORMA STANLEY: Sounds good to me.
Nadine Vogel: I love it.
Nadine Vogel: Well let me ask you this um well there's a couple of things actually let's start with give me a couple of success stories, you know i'm sure that there are many, many can you pick maybe maybe one before we go on brea, and then when we.
Nadine Vogel: Come back.
Steven Bier: There are a lot of favorites but one Patrick Patrick came.
Steven Bier: it's been a couple years already, but when he first came the first few days I said, this is not gonna work out he would work for like 20-30 minutes and then he had to leave to go out and do self stimming self stimulation.
Steven Bier: I'm sure you guys are familiar with that something that difficult in the workplace.
Steven Bier: And he wouldn't break, like every 20-30 minutes to do self.
Steven Bier: stemming is if the two three days I said I don't think this is gonna work fortunate, I was overruled, they said let's hang in there, with him, he is now he went from there, falling, to being able to do things like bagging and labeling now he's cooking popcorn.
Nadine Vogel: Oh my gosh.
Steven Bier: I believe he's on, we have a segment that NBC today did a national television. So if you Google popcorn for the people NBC today, you can go to our website and look under the media section it's there.
Steven Bier: And I believe Patrick is in there being interviewed on national.television.
Nadine Vogel: So what so i'm assuming that he still has to take breaks to self stim.
Steven Bier: that's a great question it's under control now and it can even be scheduled.
Nadine Vogel: Wow.
Steven Bier: And so, everything is way down way.
Nadine Vogel: And do you think how do you feel like the employment kind of weighed into that you know because it sounds like the two probably came together.
Nadine Vogel: In a very positive way.
Steven Bier: You know I think at the end of the day, what are we doing at popcorn for the people we're taking people who are sitting at home unemployed.
Steven Bier: You know, living off the dole, you know it's not now you taking that and coming to an environment with all workers you know some on the spectrum you know some typical things going on is activity you're part of it you're creating, you can see what you've created it's pretty you know obvious.
Steven Bier: When you finish.
Steven Bier: The bag of popcorn, so I think it gives purpose and. um.
Steven Bier: I think that's really why.
Nadine Vogel: Okay, that sounds really good to me um you have one more really cool success story.
Steven Bier: I guess MIA MIA.
Steven Bier: MIA really had difficulty and the most she was able to do at the beginning, what we do is we look for ways to create employment within the system, so when the bags come right let's say the bag and have a pot, where you have your flavor.
Nadine Vogel: mm hmm.
Steven Bier: That's blank there's no flavor and we'll have stickers stickers for chocolate stickers for Carmel and we will have workers such as MIA who that's the highest level, she could do.
Steven Bier: In the office putting on stickers obviously we could print it beforehand pre printed with the word chocolate on there and it costs us maybe a half penny or penny a sticker but it creates a whole lot of work.
Nadine Vogel: Right.
Steven Bier: That's what MIA did unbelievably she went from just putting on stickers to she is now cooking popcorn. when I first came in you kind of knocked me over with a feather.
Steven Bier: which she first started working for us in the mall you turn around and she'd be gone and she'd be heading out in her mind decides she's gonna go get soda and we'd have to go through the mall finding which store she went to the.
Steven Bier: hideout so and now she's in the back okay popcorn.
Nadine Vogel: that's that's really cool.
Nadine Vogel: So what i'd like to do because we were at a time, we have to go on a break, but when we come back from break Steven what I would like to understand is.
Nadine Vogel: What is your process right so let's talk about when we come back you know how do people find out about you, how do you source.
Nadine Vogel: um and you know just what is that process from getting them i'm interested in this job to their employed so let's take a short break when we come back, we will start with that and for our listeners stay tuned do not go anywhere, we will be right back.
Voiceover: And now it's time for a commercial break.
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Voiceover: And now back to our show.
Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone and welcome back to disable lives matter more than a podcast, it is a movement and Norma my co host and I are moving along today with Steven Bier and Steven is.
Nadine Vogel: the founder the the disability poppa.
Nadine Vogel: of popcorn for the people, Steven welcome back.
Steven Bier: Thank you.
Nadine Vogel: um you know you shared a couple of success stories before break what what Norma and I would really like to understand is.
Nadine Vogel: You know how does someone come to you in terms of i'm interested in a job So how do you source number one and then wto what is that hiring and recruiting hiring process onboarding process. um
Nadine Vogel: So we can better understand what that looks like and you never know who else is out there that might be interested.
Steven Bier: Sure, so the way that most people come to us.
Steven Bier: Is we have them come through the website and on the website there's a simple form to fill out if you're looking for employment, just as a standard type questions diagnosis true you know medications you know education history so forth.
Steven Bier: And then from those as the need arises and for those that are a good fit we pick from those applications, so if people are interested just go to popcornforthepeople.com.
Steven Bier: popcornforthepeople.com and you find the employment page and you fill it out, and you know we asked you to be patient, because these things tend to come.
Steven Bier: You know you have no openings for a couple of weeks, and all of a sudden you need three.
Steven Bier: So that that's the main way that we have people contact us.
Nadine Vogel: Okay, and then, once they once you they come in what is the interview process onboarding process, what does that look like.
Steven Bier: So they they'll they'll come in and we'll talk to them and just sort of go over you know their life and what was on the application.
Steven Bier: And then, if it looks like a good fit we'll have someone work a couple of times, maybe three four times i'm not putting them on payroll yet tell them look we're just going to see if this works for you.
Steven Bier: And it starts out sort of as an audition.
Steven Bier: And then it moves into a training and if if the three four times sometimes we'll know after one.
Steven Bier: If it looks like a good fit, then we put them on payroll and we try to be as flexible as we can to make it workout in terms of hours, and so forth.
Nadine Vogel: And what, what is your retention look like.
Steven Bier: what's that. retention.
Nadine Vogel: Your retention.
Nadine Vogel: In terms of you, if you bring.
Nadine Vogel: 50 on do all 50 stay.
Steven Bier: it's very high I don't know the.
Steven Bier: exact number but something specific has to happen for people to leave usually.
Nadine Vogel: Right and so have there been any difficult moments you know any issues where you just didn't hurt your heart.
Steven Bier: So, again popcorn for the people it's a nonprofit you know looking to create employment for the autism community, but to succeed we try to run it as a business.
Steven Bier: And while we try to bend over backwards to make this a workplace that people feel comfortable is sometimes it just doesn't I can think in my mind one worker.
Steven Bier: very nice young man, but he couldn't help hitting the other workers occasionally and we you know there's only so far that we can support someone so you know that that that broke my heart.
Nadine Vogel: Any others like that.
Steven Bier: Usually it's similar type situations where there's an aspect of disability that we can't handle.
Steven Bier: With how Marco sat down in know floor and took some of his clothes off and.
Steven Bier: You know we try we try.
Steven Bier: As well as we can.
Nadine Vogel: No, no, I get it, and that makes sense, so you know what advice would you give to others, so you know there's there's a parent out there.
Nadine Vogel: Who has a young adult has a disability autism on a neuro diverse spectrum let's say and struggling with how to help you know around employment what what advice would you give them.
Steven Bier: yeah so it's a full time job getting young men and women jobs in a way there's an 80-90% unemployment rate it's really a full time job trying to get them a job.
Steven Bier: And one of the things to keep in mind is that many of the large corporations they'll you know they'll try to be kind hearted and bring on disabled workers.
Steven Bier: But in the crunch, you may end up on the second tier so we saw with Sam where they were having him work at a shop, I should say was working in a supermarket. And he. um
Steven Bier: But then when thanksgiving we came he wasn't on the schedule, because they knew they can be super busy Sam wasn't as fast, so I think you have to really look turn over every rock I think the best bet is small businesses.
Steven Bier: And maybe even putting together two or three part time jobs.
Steven Bier: work well.
Steven Bier: As far as if we're going to set something up yourself, you know you started as a mom and pop don't try to set up a huge big thing by yourself, it is definitely doable if you're getting a lot of you like it do the food its food keep it very simple.
Steven Bier: like we did. popcorn.
Nadine Vogel: Right right and then make them make sense and And what about on the other side, so what advice would you give folks who want to hire people who are neuro diverse.
Steven Bier: Okay, so people and there's a lot of that that questions been floating around a lot and I get asked to talk to different groups and that seems to be, we want to do the right thing, but when exactly sure how to do the right thing.
Steven Bier: You know, and you know, one of the things they say look.
Steven Bier: get over it get over your nervousness okay it's another worker and the best way for you to look at it as you're hiring is.
Steven Bier: don't have all the medical aspects look of it as a quirk young man's coming in young women, they have a little quirk Okay, you see it you you, you talk and communicate you understand what it's about you try to work with them to to be able to fit within a system.
Steven Bier: Okay, so I would think one of the most important things is.
Steven Bier: To talk to parents caregivers you know teachers whoever's involved with bringing the person on board.
Steven Bier: And and don't be afraid, you know different is not bad.
Nadine Vogel: Right, I like that.
Steven Bier: A lot of the differences are really strong, so I guess one last thing I would remind businesses that.
Steven Bier: were looking to hire is you have a worker that if I was to make up.
Steven Bier: A stereotype so we have, I think, is pretty accurate, it would be a worker who doesn't it person coming in, on the autism spectrum usually.
Steven Bier: doesn't smoke doesn't drink doesn't stay out late partying will be there on time and this job, if not the most important it's at least one of the most important things in their life and that's what I would say to other businesses.
Nadine Vogel: that's and you know if you think about what businesses want out of their employees, it sounds like a model and play right it sounds perfect.
Nadine Vogel: So um.
Nadine Vogel: I do have one other question but norma do you have anything that you'd like to ask Steven before I go for my last biggie.
NORMA STANLEY: No, I just you know parents, like us, you know there's some people who really want their children to excel.
NORMA STANLEY: And despite their disabilities, what do you say to parents to encourage them to to to encourage the children to be the best that it can be sometimes parents.
NORMA STANLEY: put their children to the side and say well you know he can't parents, like us, you know, we know that our children can do something my daughter is a model, what would you say to other parents like.
NORMA STANLEY: You know, so the.
Steven Bier: I would say mom dad you did all this work to get this far you started off giving all this work to get them into the right school, you went through the.
Steven Bier: IEPs and the district and and then you have all this time, going to doctors and medications right.
Steven Bier: You know which one's going to work changing doses is all the stuff right, then you went through probably a whole bunch of problems, the teen years.
Steven Bier: and parents don't forget there is life after school ends Okay, and that is getting a job and just like you did with the schools and just like you do with finding the best doctors.
Steven Bier: You have to go out there and interact with the business community, and you know if you don't get thrown out on your butt at least you know once every couple of weeks and you're probably not being pushy enough.
Nadine Vogel: yeah I love that how true well so Steven I know that our time is running out, but I do have one last question what is, what are the plans for the future where where is popcorn for the people going next, what are you doing. How you expanding.
Steven Bier: We are too big for our processing center that we need another processing Center.
Steven Bier: And we are looking at the possibility of some way, maybe we can franchise of people open up in other areas i'd say the parents, you know if you're interested, we can start something small.
Steven Bier: This all depends on foot traffic places where there are events going on and that's all we really we really look for so we started out.
Steven Bier: In a mall and now we're at Rutgers football Rutgers basketball Rutgers football.
Steven Bier: Has 50,000 people were at Philadelphia eagles are at the javits Center Rockefeller Center so.
Steven Bier: Some mom or dad out there you have busy events in your neighborhood we can work out set up a tent sell some popcorn.
Steven Bier: So that's one thing we need more processing centers, we need a way to raise money we really haven't been great at getting charitable donations, we have some wonderful people who have given money we're so grateful, but our focus was someone making the popcorn really good.
Steven Bier: So I guess Those are some of our plan so if anyone out there has an idea, you know we're we're all ears.
Nadine Vogel: yeah I think you need to be at least in all 50 states right. don't you think norma.
NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely.
Nadine Vogel: yeah well hopefully this show help that right.
NORMA STANLEY: yeah yeah, I think that's a done deal.
Steven Bier: So you guys are great.
Nadine Vogel: I just you know, I think that you know the three of us right we're all we're all parents have adult children with disabilities and you know as you were describing Steven you know.
Nadine Vogel: All those stages that you kind of go through, I norma and I both right, we can relate completely to the point I can, as you were saying you can I can visualize right, you know where where we were.
Nadine Vogel: But I think for a parent of a child.
Nadine Vogel: with disabilities, no matter the disability yeah there's a saying that you know, a parent's job is never done you're always you're always you're the parent your child will always be your child.
Nadine Vogel: But I think when it comes to disability and it's just exponential right in terms of what we need to do.
Nadine Vogel: Because it's not just you know and Steve i'm happy to hear you know what you think about this, but it's not just making sure that they are gainfully employed and happy and healthy and all of this, while we're alive, but it's really creating something so that when we're gone.
Nadine Vogel: This can continue right that they can live independently and be happy and healthy and productive.
Nadine Vogel: And that's a real difference between us and the parents, whose children don't have disabilities right there will always be the parent with a child be independent, on their own and and we want that, for our kids too but it takes a lot more work.
Nadine Vogel: In many ways to get there, and so I just on a on a personal note i'm so grateful Steven for for all you and your family and everybody has done to make this a success, it is.
Nadine Vogel: And we just I know from from my heart and i'm sure from norma's norma, if you want to add, you know we just want to see you grow and grow and grow.
NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely, it's such a big need in our Community, so we definitely want to see you flourish, so thank you for all that you do.
Steven Bier: My pleasure.
Nadine Vogel: Well, it was wonderful Thank you again for joining us and we definitely look forward to hearing more and seeing what you guys are doing and having more popcorn for more of the people.
Norma Stanley: Right.
Nadine Vogel: So for our listeners, we know that you've enjoyed this taping as much as we have and we look forward to seeing you on our next episode of disabled lives matter more than a podcast it's a movement norma.
NORMA STANLEY: Be blessed everybody looking forward to seeing you next time.
Nadine Vogel: Okay bye everybody.
Norma Stanley: Bye-bye.
Closing comment: [Music playing in background.] Thank you for listening to this week's episode of disabled lives matter. We look forward to seeing you next Thursday. Have a great week!
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