Bargains in a Box has developed a disability employment program that reduces inequalities in the work place. This innovation exemplifies number 10 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
If you're from the Chicagoland area, its safe to say that you're familiar with Bargains in a Box; you have probably driven past a location on your commute home or maybe even found a few hidden gems for yourself. Or, if you're like me, the store has become an experience that you share with your family. I was introduced to the company when a storefront opened down the street from my childhood home. Intrigued by the name, I was excited to see what it would hold in store for me. The first time I visited, I instantly felt a sense of nostalgia. There were NO shelves to display items; there were NO racks to hang clothes. But there were, like you might've guessed, BOXES. Boxes containing what seemed like I had walked into pirate heaven.
Each box was filled with different things: sweater's, gift wrapping, and household cleaning supplies to name a few. Because it's a Premier buyer and distributor of wholesale merchandise close-outs, you can stumble upon high end names. Being from a Hispanic household it gave me access to brands I normally would not be familiarized with.
As a longtime customer, I have followed the company over the years and was extremely humbled when they established a job training program that empowers those with disabilities. I had the privilege of interviewing the vice president, Bradley Nardick, to learn more about the innovation. At only 29 years old, he has taken it upon himself to actively provide equal opportunity to the next generation of youth so as to provide them with the necessary knowledge and skills for them to succeed. Nardick has developed a partnership with multiple schools in Chicago for children with autism and other learning disabilities. The work-training program employs an otherwise overlooked population of the community and teaches them how to be valuable members of the company.
The disability employment program began two years ago when the company collaborated with The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School. They introduced 10 students with varying levels of disabilities and no prior work experience to the company. Through hands on research and development, the company learned to train and manage individuals with disabilities. As Nardick modestly stated "finding a therapeutic method to help them live a filling life at our shitty little store". It required that the students meet over the three month time span of the summer, twice a week in its River Grove location where they then learned basic retail functions such as interacting with customers.
A selected portion of those students went on to be employed after the programs duration. This would be the first time they would have an equal pay, equal job opportunity at a store. Through a pre and post survey, the company was able to measure the progress of their employment. They then were able to better shape the program around other aspects based on the results. One of their findings lead them to focus more on encouraging them to interact with customers rather than on merchandising. The biggest benefit has been enabling supportive conversation with people that do not have confidence in their ability to socialize.
The company now works with ASPIRE, a community partner and leader in providing services to youth and adults with disabilities. Aspire provides the company with a larger population of candidates and screens them for potential. They also assist with creating a transitional work group in which selected candidates are accepted by them and the individuals are automatically enrolled into Bargains in a Box's paid internship program. They are then scheduled to work the same 9-5 job at the same pay rate as their colleagues. If at the end of the 6 week internship they performed well through the company's measurements, they are hired.
The company does not plan on stopping their work with the program there. Their future plan consists with hiring 40 individuals. They hope to have more than half of its employees in their distribution center be of special needs. They strive to continue pushing the limit of what people think is possible with people of disabilities. According the American Community Survey (ACS), the rate of people with disabilities in the US population in 2016 was 12.8% which is the equivalent of 40 million people. It is further estimated that of those, 2/3 of the disabled population are unemployed. The company hopes to set a precedent and expand a business model that people with disabilities can work at the same pace, and at times better, than those without disabilities. They ultimately intend to help other companies establish a disability employment program similar to theirs.
It is not only inspiring but hopeful to see someone only a few years older than me being a socially responsible leader and doing things that have a real impact in our community. By shifting his focus to something greater, Bradley Nardick and the Bargains in a Box company has changed the way businesses can succeed.
Bradley Nardick, Vice President
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RIver Grove, IL, US
Business Website: http://bargainsinaboxstores.com
Year Founded: 1960
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
Bargains in a Box is a discount store in the Chicagoland area. It is a premier buyer and distributor of wholesale merchandise close-outs.