By Nora Hakramaj

A BEAUTY company employs people with disabilities to provide them with opportunities

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Videographer / director: Lawrence Dvorak
Producer: Nora Hakramaj, James Thorne
Editor: Ed Rius

Blush & Whimsy is a startup in New Mexico selling lipsticks with a difference.

The New Mexico company was founded in 2016 by Michaela Brown after she volunteered at a charity for disabled american veterans.

The CEO said: “I’ve witnessed the challenges people with disabilities often face finding employment. I think it’s a missed opportunity for so many companies and I wanted to ensure I did not miss out.

“From the warehouse all the way up to the guest, I wanted everyone to feel empowered, feel essential and feel important.”

Michaela currently employs around 80 people with different abilities to varying roles in the company, from packaging the products to organising the mailroom.

“In the world of fashion and beauty the word ‘inclusivity’ just means skin tone. But within my company I wanted it to mean skin tone, race, religion, gender, ability. They are my entire company,” she explained.

“For us, our products need to be the most inclusive possible.

“In all of our marketing and all of our packaging, you’ll notice that we don’t use models at all. Because even in those images with models, there’s still that subliminal message that says you’re not enough, you need to wear this to look like this model.

“So for us it was empower you to be who you are and to celebrate that uniqueness.”

Micaela partnered with a nonprofit agency called Adelante Development Center Inc, which supports people with disabilities with employment, vocational and life skill straining and residential services.

She said: “Adelante hires thousands of people with different abilities from all over the state of New Mexico.”

“Right now, we have about 80 people in the warehouse with Down Syndrome, ALS, disabled veterans and elderly. And they’re unable to find work.

“I do not believe that people with disabilities have enough opportunity.

Jill Beets, Adelante’s Vice President of Marketing said: “There is over 70 percent of people with disabilities who do not participate in the workplace at all and that’s counting people of working age, which is a real travesty in our country - that so many people are left out of the workforce.

“When you add people with disabilities to your workforce, you see things you never saw before. You see inefficiencies in your system that cause people to walk farther than they should. You see better ways to set up your work station, you see flaws in your training.”

To prove Jill’s point, Michaela’s business is thriving and she believes she wouldn’t have the success she does if it wasn’t for her employees.

“I would be overflowing my house with boxes and products, I would be behind in shipping, I would not be able to participate in any sort of marketing engagements, because I’d be stuck trying to fulfilling things.

“This year we did he Grammy’s, we did the gifting suite honouring the academy awards and everybody wins gift bags for the Oscar’s and then we are in the official gifting suite for Cannes Film Festival - which is amazing!

“People are hearing our story, hearing our message and they’re getting it.

“I made all this happen to tell a story, a message that is so much more than me and my lipsticks. It’s about the change that we’re giving to the world. We’re empowering people to be exactly who they are and not trying to change or force conformity. It’s about celebrating the individual to be the best that they can be and the possibility that can be.”

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