Enabled Employment: A startup specialising in social responsibility

Sylvia Pennington

Fancy the idea of starting a socially responsible business that’s nominated for a swag of small business awards before its first birthday rolls around?

Former senior public servant and Enabled Employment's CEO, Jessica May, has pulled it off.

Founded in September 2014, her online labour hire marketplace is run by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities.

So far it’s found flexible work opportunities for 100 candidates with a slew of employers, including federal and local government and healthcare giant Aspen Medical.

It’s a stunning result for the shoestring startup, and there are already awards aplenty to grace its office walls, including the Deloitte’s Social Innovation Pitch Challenge, the ACT Telstra Business Women’s Award and the StartupSmart Startup Hero Award.

A partnership with Soldier On Australia has seen Enabled Employment generating job opportunities for returned service men and women too.

Concentrating on ability, not disability, is the mantra of the venture and its team of five.

We don’t believe employers should be paid to provide a job to a person with a disability when their skills and qualifications are as good as anyone else’s.

Unlike other businesses that work under the Disability Employment Service Provider network, the firm does not offer subsidies to employers. It prefers to promote its candidates on their merits.

“We provide opportunities to people with skills and qualifications to access flexible work, which allows them to manage their disability while earning a real income,” May says.

“We don’t believe employers should be paid to provide a job to a person with a disability when their skills and qualifications are as good as anyone else’s.”

Harnessing the power of information technology to link organisations with talent has been pivotal to Enabled Employment’s success.

Employers are encouraged to allow home-based working and to focus on outcomes rather than attendance.

It’s in large part the solution to the problem of providing meaningful work opportunities for the 4.5 million Australians who have a disability of some kind or are veterans, May says.

“If we can encourage employers to use technology and consider the brilliant results our employees can achieve, then given the right working conditions we’ll continue to grow exponentially,” she says.

Being prepared to get stuck in and take all the help that’s offered hasn’t hurt her firm’s chances either.

“Surround yourself with knowledgeable mentors and get into an accelerator program if you can,” she advises other would-be entrepreneurs.

“Work day and night if you have to, and get advice from people who have been there before. Social change isn’t driven by apathy, it’s driven by belief and determination, a great team and a conviction that what you are doing is the right thing at the right time, for the right reason.”

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Image: Supplied