JFS Perspectives

Thursday, October 26, 2017

SHALOM Denver and the Curious Case of the Colorful Cups

SHALOM Denver and the Curious Case of the Colorful Cups

The work floor at SHALOM Denver is overflowing with colorful plastic cups. There are tens of thousands of them that workers are busy sorting, packaging, labeling, and packing for shipment to schools, educators, and moms nationwide.

Educational Stacking Cups are tactile learning tools for toddlers, who enjoy sorting and stacking them by number, color, and shape. Even more, they enjoy knocking them down. Kids love playing with them, all while developing vital cognitive skills.

Will Garth and Carol JanetThe cups are the brainchild of entrepreneur and executive Carol Janet, who invented the educational cups quite by accident as a way to keep her toddler busy many years ago. Originally from South Africa, Carol spent a career as a successful product development and licensing executive for some of the biggest brands in the world, including Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and Taco Bell. At 66, Carol and her husband own a licensing boutique in Atlanta, working with a variety of corporate clients.

The company behind the stacking cups is Design Plus, which had its humble beginnings decades ago around the kitchen table over a cup of tea. Carol was working in her home design studio when she came up with the idea of a sorting game for her then toddler, Abigail. The cups were a hit and kept Abigail occupied and engaged for hours. Over the years, mother and daughter merged their skills and experience and further developed the product. But it wasn’t until many years later when Abigail’s own toddler began playing with the stacking cups that Bottle Cups was born.

“I’ve always kept the stacking cup idea in the back of my mind and thought they had market potential,” says Carol. “When my daughter had a daughter of her own, we both thought the time was right to take the next step.”

Bottle Cups started small and Abigail could handle processing the orders on her own from home. Then came an order for 1,000 sets and everything changed. Mother and daughter needed to quickly scale up production and find a way to fulfill the orders and meet the newfound demand.

Enter SHALOM Denver.

Carol’s new high-volume customer is a Denver-based educational products company, so Carol decided to try to find a fulfillment company in Denver to save on shipping costs. A quick internet search brought her to SHALOM Denver, which could handle the sorting, packaging, and labeling at the scale she needed with an important added benefit. Carol learned that SHALOM Denver employs people with developmental disabilities and helps train them for the workforce. “When I heard that, I had to do it,” explains Carol. “Here’s a nonprofit that is giving people with barriers to employment an opportunity to work and earn a living. How could I not support that mission?”

When Carol met Will Garth, SHALOM Denver’s business development manager, she was sold. “We immediately hit it off,” says Carol. “Will understood my business needs and came back with a solution that covered all the bases and ensured that we could deliver quality products to market at a reasonable price. I just love that we’re giving back to the community at the same time.”

The Educational Stacking Cups project is employing 25 people with developmental disabilities and teaching them critical work skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. “Our clients love working with the cups and take incredible pride in their work,” says Will. “This is a match made in heaven.”

SHALOM Denver, a division of Jewish Family Service, is well-equipped to handle quality printing, mailing, packaging fulfillment, and assembly services for area businesses at its central Denver facility. SHALOM Denver trains and prepares adults with developmental disabilities for the workforce and community-based employment. Clients learn workplace fundamentals, critical thinking skills, and good work habits in a nurturing, supportive environment. If your company needs quality packaging and/or assembly support, contact Will Garth, business development manager at SHALOM Denver, 303.623.0251, wgarth@jewishfamilyservice.org.