New business

Opening of a new business run by people with disabilities in Cadillac | New

CADILLAC — New businesses are coming to Cadillac, and they will be owned and operated by local residents with disabilities.

Partner of Community Mental Health, MI Independent Living, LLC is a health care service that helps people with disabilities find independence in their lives. Co-owner Christopher Thetford said he had been providing health care to his clients for almost four years, and during that time he noticed that the only thing they really wanted was money from extra pocket for themselves.

“They get social security and stuff,” he said. “But by the time they pay their bills, they really don’t have the money to do anything.”

Thetford and his business partner coordinated several field trips for their all-expenses-paid clients, but they wanted to find a way for their attendees to earn that money on their own, without having to depend on a health care service.

There are other local organizations that provide jobs for people with disabilities, such as After 26 Depot, but by operating their own business, Thetford said its customers won’t have to worry about competing for overtime work.

“So I thought, why can’t we help them run their own business?” said Thetford. “Because that’s how I started, it was just someone who helped me and started my own business.”

Once the seed was planted, Thetford said its participants were eager to get started and already had ideas for businesses they could run, but the first to open was a bakery called Hearts and Crafts. Thetford recommended the Hearts and Crafts team start with cupcakes and breads, as they are the most affordable to make and sell well within the community.

At the moment Hearts and Crafts operates out of the MI Independent Living building on Mitchell Street, but Thetford said that as revenue starts to come in he hopes to move them to their own location. A website is also in the works for Hearts and Crafts to promote their products and possibly take orders.

Some of the other Thetford participants are in the process of starting a lawn care and snow removal service, but until the proper equipment arrives, a formal LLC has not been established. Thetford said other attendees brought up the idea of ​​a custom cornhole board, birdhouses and other handmade items.

Whether or not the ideas come to fruition, Thetford said the sheer opportunity to own a business has sparked new excitement among his clients.

“A lot of them live in adult foster homes and come to our classes during the day, but $5 a month is their budget to go out and do anything,” he said. “And so now I’ve seen them all have that fire in them.”

Along with having more financial freedom, Thetford said its participants also gained new social freedom. He said many clients often experience social anxiety and being able to interact with people in the community has boosted their social confidence.

Thetford guided the participants in starting their businesses by providing them with all the financial assistance they needed through MI Independent Living. Many of the courses offered by the organization also cover the basic skills needed to run a business.

In the future, Thetford hopes to make its customers more attuned to the marketing side of owning and running a business, so they can increase their product sales and have even more control over the activities of their business.

The Hearts and Crafts Bakery is currently open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is located at 1526 N. Mitchell St.