Advocations: Finding opportunities for untapped talent
Lindsey Braciale, owner of disability employment agency Advocations, talks about finding her business mission and the resources that help her get there.
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I wake up every day seeing the opportunity that we can create for people to give them a hand up, not a handout.
There’s so many people with disabilities out there that want to work and want to be contributing members of society, and yet 90% of them are un or underemployed.
My name is Lindsey and my company is Advocations. We help Fortune 500 companies and federal contractors hire, train, and retain a disability-inclusive workforce.
When I went to school at UVA, I had an internship that helped me get exposed to people with disabilities in a new way. They had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and I realized there was so much more that they could do.
I felt that if I could help them capitalize on their work skills, they could become contributing members of society. So, for example, somebody with a neurodiverse background, oftentimes with the right job, they can actually perform at standard or well beyond standard.
They think and approach the world a little bit differently than you and I. And that can be a huge value-add as you’re developing your products or the way you provide services. And so by getting people to work it’s a win-win.
I started Advocations at 25. There is a lot I didn’t know I didn’t know. Being able to manage your cash flow is core to your success of your business because if you don’t have the operating capital to be able to continue to meet the obligations that you have and then be able to plan for the future, then you don’t really have a business.
Networking has been key to the growth of Advocations, and my ability to get into the right rooms. I’ve been able to connect with people that are way above my weight class and corner them and be able to explain what my business does and get them engaged.
One of the other things that’s been a huge benefit is mentorship. The first time I met Jay, my mentor, he made me cry. He was the one person in a team of people interviewing us for this social accelerator that asked really tough questions.
I don’t have a lot of people willing to provide me open and honest critique and feedback. And that’s what I was really seeking at the time that he came into my life. He holds me accountable in a way I wasn’t able to do myself.
The great thing about Wells Fargo is they realized the potential of my company probably before I did.
They were one of our first clients. I was able to connect with somebody that worked at Wells Fargo that had a brother with a disability and they were keenly aware of the challenges of people with disabilities in our community. And through that relationship we were able to identify jobs within their distribution utility center that a lot of our folks could do and do well.
And then secondly, they’ve been our financial resource to help us grow and understand what we need to do to plan for the future. And at the end of the day, having a company like Wells Fargo validate that we are on the right track has helped make us more competitive.
I’ve been in business now for almost ten years and I feel like I’m just getting started. What I see for the growth and potential of my company is unlimited, now that companies understand the work that we do and how we can really integrate within their current business atmosphere.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself is I don’t need to be great at all things. And now I realize that I just need to do the things that I’m really good at and that really fire me up, and surround myself with people that are skilled in a different way than I am.
My advice? Just jump in and do it.