Beneficial Beans, a Phoenix-based social enterprise, supports adults with autism.
According to recent reports, more than 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed nationally. How do we, as a society, address this issue? That’s a question that Beneficial Beans, a Phoenix-based social enterprise founded by Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), is looking to answer through innovative employment preparation internships for adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Beneficial Beans is a social enterprise coffee and produce business. They use the methods and disciplines of business along with the power of the marketplace to generate revenue and create internship opportunities for adults with autism. Beneficial Beans creates these internships in two areas: a cafe and garden. The organization operates a café inside the Scottsdale Civic Center Library where they offer adults with autism internships that help them gain work experience and employment skills. Added to that, the Beneficial Beans Garden, located at the SARRC office in central Phoenix, produces approximately 3,000 pounds of organic produce and farm fresh eggs each year that is sold to the public through a CSA program. Interns acquire general employment skills by working in every aspect of the business operations.
SARRC and Beneficial Beans customize 12-week internships into employment training programs that prepares adults with ASD for community-based employment. The internships can be thought of as “dress rehearsals for employment” because each intern leaves with employable skills, a resume and work history. The ultimate goal is to encourage and foster independence for adults with autism. Seventy-eight percent of adults with ASD who have been served by the program are now employed within the community. Nationally, the statistic is only 10 percent. In addition, one of Beneficial Beans’ goals is to increase the number of retailer partners who sell Beneficial Beans coffee and products. They also hope to boost the online sales of their products.
Ryane is one of the Beneficial Beans’ graduates. Through her work, she learned how to look for a job, take the bus, dress up for an interview and work with others. After Ryane’s 12 week internship with Beneficial Beans, she was hired by SummerWinds Nursery in Phoenix. To her, “a place like SARRC means hope.” Hers is one of the many success stories coming out of Beneficial Beans, which you can view here.
The goal of social enterprise at SARRC is to apply commercial strategies, tactics and discipline to maximize employment training opportunities for adults with autism. Through Beneficial Beans, SARRC is making that vision a reality with each cup of coffee and bag of beans sold.