Employees of Adelante Development Center packaged gifts to be included in Grammy Award swag bags

By Kerry McGinley

When Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift and other musical celebrities hit the red carpet for the 2018 Grammy Awards Jan. 28, they'll receive a beautiful gift representing the work of SourceAmerica member nonprofit Adelante Development Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The agency employing people with disabilities packaged and shipped products from Blush & Whimsy, which produces all-natural lipsticks that encapsulate tiny dried flowers and change shades based on the person wearing it. The lipsticks are being included in 170 swag bags for the celebrities attending. That bag also includes a small card that reads:

"We appreciate all different kinds of music and we believe all people have a place in today's workforce. Less than 30 percent of people with disabilities are working in the U.S. Adelante is a nonprofit that provides job opportunities for adults with disabilities and packages Blush & Whimsy's products."

Micaela Brown, founder of Blush & Whimsy, said Adelante is an essential partner in the growth of her new startup. When photos of her products went viral last year and she was invited to include her lipsticks in both Grammy and Academy Award gift bags in 2018, she found herself struggling to keep up with the demand of her unique product. Adelante not only offered all of the services she needed to outsource, it fit her vision of empowering people through her products. Each item shipped includes a card about her partnership with Adelante.

"I'm just one person working from a living room couch. I knew that the only way to grow in scale was to find a partner organization that can help me with every stage of the process," she said. "I wanted to make sure the message gets out there that you can hire people with disabilities and the work is fantastic. You're hiring people exactly for who they are and not trying to conform them into something they are not. It directs the vision of where this company is going."

Jill Beets, vice president of marketing and communications for Adelante, said Brown is a strong proponent of the mission shared with SourceAmerica to create employment opportunities and choices for people with disabilities.

"We have a lot of good corporate partners, but none of them work as hard to make sure we're included and promoted," Beets said.

Brown's father is a disabled veteran. She said through him she's witnessed the challenges people with disabilities often face finding employment.

"I think it's a missed opportunity for so many companies, and I wanted to ensure I did not miss out," she said. "From the warehouse all the way to the guest, I wanted everyone to feel empowered, feel essential and feel important."

Adelante provides warehousing, quality control, packaging, assembly, fulfillment and shipping for Blush & Whimsy. In addition to her commitment to social responsibility and employing people with disabilities, Brown said she has a practical need for hand-packing. Each shipment contains several elements of packaging that requires a human touch automation can't match.

"Our mission is to bring magic into everyday life," she said. "Working with machines, that's not magical. That doesn't bring joy into people's lives. This brand is about empowering the individual to be exactly who they are. Every person that's a part of this brand needs to have that same empowerment. If they don't, I'm doing something wrong."

Adelante Mailing & Fulfillment Center employs 73 people with disabilities to provide a range of services to 400 clients. Beets said Brown came to them because they're one of the few fulfillment centers that had the capacity to meet the level of customization the Blush & Whimsy products require. Overall, Adelante provides ongoing services to more than 1500 people with disabilities and has a positive impact on nearly 70,000 people across New Mexico, Beets said.

"We're one of the larger mailers in New Mexico that can do really customized things, things that can't be automated," Beets said. "She's really a particular person—she wants it to look exactly right. Hers is very hands-on packaging."

Adelante staff made suggestions on the best way to package the Grammy products to ensure they'd arrive in top condition and meet Brown's exacting standards, Beets said.  They're looking forward to working on 200 more samples that will be part of the Academy Awards swag bags March 4. Those bags will also contain messaging promoting the employment of people with disabilities and Adelante, which Brown said is a critical component in the expansion of her business.

"They've been growing with me, which is absolutely tremendous," she said. They're not just a vendor. They are my partners. I've built my business with their partnership."