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Feb 3, 2016

February’s Social Impact Feature: Kicks Mix Bookstore

Diana Shannon, Co-owner of Kicks Mix Bookstore

Each month, the Center for Social Enterprise Development (CSED) will publish an article about a local social enterprise, showcasing its social impact within a specific focus area. February’s focus is social impact related to improving the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities. In addition, each monthly feature will include a list of all local social enterprises committed to this focus area.

Diana Shannon (photographed above) and Mary Spain opened a day center for individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) in 2012, in Newark, Ohio. Diana had just retired from the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities after 30 years, and Mary brought 15 years of experience. The day center initially focused on instruction on wellness, with physical fitness programs, including the use of fitness equipment, nutrition education and cooking classes.

Shortly before the day center’s opening, Governor John Kasich passed an executive order mandating that organizations prioritize community employment for individuals with DD. The order acknowledged the fact that most individuals with DD experience some of the highest rates of unemployment, underemployment and poverty, and have little exposure to community employment options. Prior to this executive order, many individuals with DD were employed at sheltered workshops or attending day centers throughout the State with minimal wage opportunities.

As a result of the mandate, Diana and Mary quickly adapted their strategy by opening Kicks Mix Bookstore in downtown Newark. Their goal was to offer job training and employment to individuals they served through their day center. The store accepts donations of gently used books, CDs and DVDs, and operates an online store. Kicks Mix employees works two, four-hour shifts per week. They develop customer service skills, and learn about managing inventory, e-commerce and point-of-sale—all transferrable to other work environments. Employees at the day center assist with the intake of donated items, building their confidence and skills in order to take on a four-hour shift in the store.

Kicks Mix Bookstore employees are engaged in the community. They participate in Final Fridays (Newark Association’s initiative to attract residents downtown on the last Friday night of each month), host story times, crafts and book-themed parties. Local authors and bands hold events to sell their books or CDs. The Bookstore recently launched a Next Chapter Book Club, which draws participants from the community.

Photo: Santa (Bobby Goodrich) reads The Night Before Christmas to customers in December 2014.
Santa (Bobby Goodrich) reads The Night Before Christmas to customers in December 2014.

“All of our employees share a passion for books—regardless of their ability to read,” said Diana. “For some, it’s the texture of the pages or the covers, others can read well or love to read, but really struggle with it. Next Chapter is just another way to connect with the community, socialize and break down barriers.”

Downtown Newark is in the midst of significant revitalization so Diana and Mary encourage employees to visit the neighboring bakery and café, when business at the bookstore is slow. This also further integrates the individuals in the community.

“They pitch in to wash windows and tidy up—whatever is needed. They are building relationships in the community and contributing to the success of these neighboring businesses, in addition to the success of Kicks Mix.

Social Impact Summary

  • Employed 15 individuals with disabilities at the Bookstore over the last 18 months.
  • Currently 10 are employed.
  • Two individuals have succeeded in finding employment (outside the bookstore).
  • Approximately 20 individuals at the day center are employed. Of those 20, two to three currently work one hour daily; the others are building up to one hour per day.
  • Current inventory includes 40,000 books, 4,000 CDs, 3,000 albums and 2,000 DVDs—many are donated and diverted from landfills.

What’s Next

Kicks Mix is looking to identify funding partners to acquire affordable warehouse space to expand the business to include a ‘pick-and-pack’ operation. This would create even more employment and job training opportunities, and would especially benefit those who aren’t as comfortable interacting with the public, but still have the desire to develop new skills. It would also help to manage the ever-increasing volume of donated items.

“The Center for Social Enterprise Development has created a network through which we can develop relationships with other social entrepreneurs. I recently connected with folks at City Life Promotions. We had a great discussion about what our respective organizations needed and how we could help each other. Having CSED as a hub for making these connections has been invaluable.”

Central Ohio’s social enterprises dedicated to creating positive change for individuals with developmental disabilitiesCSED maintains a directory of social enterprises throughout Central Ohio. We are in the process of developing at-a-glance profiles for each social enterprise, intended to inform consumers, funders, impact investors and individual donors of investment-worthy causes. Here are the social enterprises we’ve identified to date, whose focus is creating social impact for individuals with developmental disabilities. We encourage you to learn more, consider supporting these organizations, or inform us of additional social enterprises that share this focus.