Karen LeRoy, owner of Alta Vista Flowers (new window), brings a fresh perspective to the shop as she found her passion for the industry while at a crossroads in her own career. Having re-married in 2004 to the shop’s owner, Karen decided to join the business as co-owner in 2005.
It was this fresh perspective that allowed Karen to hire Quyen as a Floral Assistant (new window), whom she describes as “lovely, hard-working, and organized.” Karen was originally introduced to Quyen through another service provider, Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (new window) (PPRC), who are part of the Ottawa-based Employment Accessibility Resource Network (new window) (EARN), along with the Neil Squire Society. EARN brings employers and service providers together to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
PPRC recognized that collaborating with the Neil Squire Society’s Working Together program would create the perfect design for employment success. Karen describes that once she saw that Quyen was accomplished in so many areas, she was convinced that she simply had to hire Quyen and “try it out.”
Quyen has Cerebral Palsy (new window), and explains that the most challenging part is the effect it has on her speech and hearing. “As far as my ability to do things though, it doesn’t affect me much.” Quyen is studying accounting at Algonquin College (new window) and her goal was to find summer employment to save enough money to pay for her tuition. She is happy to report that she will continue to work part-time with Karen once school starts again this fall.
Karen notes that the Working Together program allowed her to hire an “extra person that enables her to be prepared for orders,” and it has increased the capacity of her business. Any fears about “things not working out” quickly subsided as she could simply pick up the phone and talk to the Working Together Job Developer about how to best support Quyen.
There were no specific accommodations required. However, the employer already makes use of anti-fatigue mats, stools and height adjustable tables to offset standing for extended periods of time. Quyen shares that one of her favorite duties involves trimming the leaves and cleaning the flowers to make them last longer. “I’ve learned a lot about flowers and what they need. I didn’t know a lot about that before.”
“Quyen has added value to the business and the team culture,” says Karen. Quyen has recently contributed an article to the Alta Vista Wedding Flowers blog (new window), and also manages the web content and recently photographed and uploaded images of the wedding rental inventory to the company website. Quyen also handles the majority of the wire service orders and since taking this task on, “orders have been more streamlined and accurate.”
Karen describes hiring Quyen as a “positive experience for all” on the team. The staff love Quyen and the enrichment doesn’t end at closing time. Quyen joins two other staff members for training in Floral Design Basics twice weekly. This has lent itself to comradery and an increase in the cohesion of the team. The next social plans are underway, with the team coming together for guided meditation, vegetarian cuisine and a paint night with proceeds of the sales being donated to an education fund for a fellow staff member.
Quyen describes her life as “busier” since obtaining her current position. While her plans for the future are to secure full-time work in accounting, she has found a home at Alta Vista Flowers. Like Karen, Quyen has found a new passion.