ShopAbilities, a Social Enterprise for People with Developmental Disabilities

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprise businesses create a positive impact and make life better for those they work with. We started ShopAbilities in 2018 as a social enterprise business to support people with developmental disabilities to have a better life. ShopAbilities is a branch of a more extensive community inclusion program operated by Abilities. As with traditional business, ShopAbilities aims to create profits and then reinvest this revenue into the business and create positive opportunities for the people we support.

Social enterprises are community focused organizations

Social enterprises exist in almost every sector, from consumer goods to healthcare, environmental initiatives, creative agencies, restaurants and financial organizations. Examples of well-known social enterprise businesses are The Big Issue and Better World Books. In studying social enterprise models, we followed the example of Muhammad Yunus and his creation of the Grameen Bank. Yunus created the Grameen Bank in 1976 to provide a credit system to provide banking services to the rural poor. Like the Grameen Bank, ShopAbilities has two primary objectives: increasing social community inclusion and employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

Can a social enterprise be for profit?

A social enterprise has many of the same objectives that a typical business has – the main difference is the inclusion of a social focus of the company. Social enterprises can profit from selling goods and services in the open market and reinvest the profits into community activities; this allows the business to meet social challenges, increase people’s life chances, provide training and employment opportunities to marginalized people.

Social Enterprise as Part of Our Community Inclusion Program

Historically, people with developmental disabilities have been marginalized and excluded from the community, including the labour market; we created ShopAbilities to tackle these challenges. Our community inclusion program needed a greater focus on vocational and employment opportunities – that is where ShopAbilities comes in; we are always on the lookout for opportunities to promote the abilities of people with developmental disabilities through community-based empowerment and engagement.

The ShopAbilities Social Enterprise – What Do We Do and How Do We Achieve This?

Shopabilities has a primary goal of creating opportunity employment for the individuals that we support. People with developmental disabilities have many barriers to employment, including willing employers, adaptable environments and individualized supports. Our service recognizes each person’s unique abilities, and we adapt our services to support those abilities. We believe that assisting a person’s uniqueness allows for greater access to the community.

How do we do this?

ShopAbilities is a simple social enterprise model – we sell used books online. Our objectives, however, are much greater than selling the latest paperback novel. We focus on activities that focus on:

  1. Social engagement: we deliver flyers door to door and canvas the public to donate used books to our business.
  2. Personal development and Vocational training: we scan the donated books, organize and shelve these items for sale on our e-commerce site: Store – Abilities Community Services
  3. Community engagement: our members participate in the collection of the donated books, and they deliver purchases to customers

Our Mission and Goal

Our goal is to develop our company to a level where we can offer a range of paid positions for people with developmental disabilities. We believe that the key to increasing our revenues is directly related to our increased presence in the community. Everything we do at Shopabilities supports our mission:

The World Should Include Everybody – One Book At A Time.