Stories of Inspiration
Focusing on ability
Who is Jackson?
Jackson is a young man who loves listening to loud music and being in a car, preferably at the same time. He is very social and has a happy disposition. He is a busy person, participating in a number of activities in the Canberra community, including swimming, bushwalking, playing street soccer, and working in his own small business, JACKmail. Jackson’s disability is unique and profound, and he has faced many battles in his young life, spending a lot of time in and out of hospital. Jackson does not communicate verbally but gets his message across in other ways.
Jackson’s supporters and the light bulb moment
Initially Jackson’s family struggled to see employment potential in him, but, eventually, his mother, Sally, identified four key elements: Jackson likes to ride in the car, he loves music, he is very mobile and can walk long distances without any trouble, and he is able to carry things. From these essential elements came the idea of a courier service. The key goals of the business venture were to ensure it gave Jackson a role that was valued and where he was contributing to the community. This was not to be a token job for him but a real role with value attributed to it, on par with the kind of jobs taken on by people who don’t have a disability. Sally also wanted this to be a social outlet for Jackson; the ultimate goal was for Jackson to make real connections and develop strong relationships with the people he was working with. Sally wanted Jackson to be an essential element of the business’s routine. Now she says: “Jackson has a legitimate and valued place in the ACT community… He is a contributor, a worker, a man about town; a man with a business, a uniform, a car, a colleague, a purpose, and an income.”
The struggle to make it work
When Jackson was 19, his mother, Sally, quit her job to support him for 10 weeks in his new role of courier. Jackson’s whole family were very supportive and were focused on the positive things in Jackson’s life: what he could do, what he liked to do, and his personality.
The importance of community and networking
One key element of any business is networks. There was a need for consultation, brainstorming, promotion and developing partnerships and relationships with people from all parts of the community. Sally met with a friend who suggested the idea of a mail courier; Jackson could collect mail from post office boxes and deliver it to local businesses. There was an identified niche market and a role which Jackson could do which matched perfectly with the four elements defined earlier. After looking into costing they started JACKmail. Sally got to work building an intricate network of partnerships with local businesses and promoting JACKmail. This was hard work but eventually it led to solid, predictable and constant work for Jackson. He now works five mornings a week.
The business is as serious as any other small business. JACKmail is reliable and the mail gets delivered everyday—no excuses. With reliability as their key ethos, they have managed to maintain clients and steady work since the business began in 2007. His customers are happy with the service, with testimony stating: ‘the service has saved us considerable time and money’ and ‘the service is friendly, flexible, 100% reliable, and good value for money.’ This focus on reliability and customer satisfaction has been a formula for success and has provided a life for Jackson that is far beyond what most people thought possible.
On the job support
Jackson is provided with on the job support by his work mate who drives the van, and Sally does a lot of the administration and financial behind the scenes work. However, it is Jackson who is the face of the business, and it is his commitment and enjoyment of the work that makes it succeed. Jackson is visible in his role and is valued in the community. People greet him by name and acknowledge the contribution he makes through his role in JACKmail.