Extraordinary Ventures, a company with the goal of creating businesses employed by a neurodiverse workforce, hired Lisa Kaylie as their new executive director on March 1.
The organization has invested in multiple programs, including dog walking and laundry services, according to their website.
Before accepting the position, Kaylie said she served on the Extraordinary Ventures board for two years. She was motivated to get into local community activism after her first son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
“We needed someone who had a business background, who understood how nonprofits work, who had connections in the community and who understood autism," said Kaylie, who graduated from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and has prior experience working for nonprofit organizations. “As we were talking, I started to realize I was probably that person.”
Kaylie said it was important to her to be involved in organizations that focused on awareness for all disabilities, rather than just autism spectrum disorder.
"I was really interested in being involved in organizations like Kidzu Children’s Museum because I could serve as a voice for disability awareness in a room where maybe most people were not thinking about that,” Kaylie said.
While Extraordinary Ventures will never grow big enough to fully employ the entire neurodiverse workforce, it can work to promote other businesses looking to hire diverse individuals, Kaylie said.
Jacklyn Googins, executive director at B3 Coffee, — a nonprofit partnered with Extraordinary Ventures that aims to dismantle stigma and influence change by bringing people together through coffee — said Kaylie is full of enthusiasm and energy with a willingness to listen to and learn from people who are most affected by issues.
“That’s what I appreciate most about her as a leader,” Googins said. “She’s always full of ideas and passion.”
One way Kaylie will bring this passion to life is through an inclusive business gift market, an event set for April 16 and hosted by Extraordinary Ventures. The event seeks to bring awareness to the community about the many opportunities individuals have to support establishments that employ a diverse workforce.
Kaylie said she believes that neurodiverse individuals have a lot to contribute to the community, and their differences are what make them truly exceptional as employees.
Googins said that while she’s been struck by the amount of companies in the Chapel Hill community that seek to highlight the value of people with disabilities, she believes there isn’t enough collaboration between organizations.
B3 Coffee will be attending Extraordinary Ventures’ inclusive business gift market along with several other nonprofit companies.
“We have eight different vendors all dedicated to hiring people with disabilities. Some were businesses that were owned by people with disabilities,” Googins said. “It was really cool to be able to exchange ideas with everyone and just support each other.”
B3 Coffee is already thinking of ways to use their partnership with Extraordinary Ventures to strengthen their vision as well as give back with a vibrant community of supporters, she said.
Robby Hart, an employee of Extraordinary Ventures, learned about the nonprofit in 2019 after moving to Chapel Hill. He identifies as being on the neurodiverse spectrum.
“I was seeing if I could put myself to a test and push my limits to see how good I am,” he said.
Hart said though his work at the business is hard, he enjoys what he is doing.
“People don’t need to feel sorry for these people,” Kaylie said. "What they need to do is just realize that they are great employees.”
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