K-Lumet: BC Start-Up Models Economic Inclusion in Manufacturing

K-Lumet red packaging and a box with three fire-starters on top of lots of wood matches

K-Lumet is a social enterprise that wants to transform the lives of people with high barriers to employment. They plan to open a facility in Powell River, BC in early 2019 that will manufacture a firestarter made from recycled materials. However, they are not a traditional manufacturer.

As a non-profit, their mission is to create jobs for people who live with a disability or other barriers. Over the next 3 years, they plan to partner with Vancouver Island University and inclusion Powell River to conduct a research project while simultaneously operating the business.

K-Lumet began in Europe in 1995 and expanded through franchising all over Europe. A Texada Island BC resident, Barbarah Kisschowsky, purchased the license for K-Lumet in BC in 2013 allowing for partnership opportunities throughout BC.

Kisschowsky wanted to create an employment opportunity for her son Zackery who lives with autism. Having regular work that accommodated his autism made a huge impact in Zackery’s life. Barbarah was overjoyed. As she puts it: “My son is working successfully for the first time in his life!”

There is a high demand for accessible employment and inclusive workplaces in Canada and especially in BC where there are labour shortages. There are 6.2 million people across Canada that identify as having a disability. Kisschowsky has plenty of background on the subject, “Over 3000 people in BC with disabilities do not qualify for any training. With K-Lumet they would qualify for our training because of the low-level skill required. It makes it a great opportunity for those who still fall through the cracks.” she says.

The research conducted during the first 3 years of operations would be used to help other manufacturers adopt inclusive employment strategies. Once the research pilot is complete K-Lumet’s inclusive model can be franchised all over BC.

Unlike in Europe where sheltered workshops are the norm, the model in BC will pay the workers minimum wage or higher. In order to achieve a fully inclusive facility, they plan to also offer workplace accommodations like specialized equipment and support.

The costs of start-up are not covered by the sale of the firestarter as production is minimal. Until large scale production is achieved they will be relying on grants and public donations to keep the business running in the meantime.

“We’ve received funding through Powell River Community Forest and from Vancity Community Foundation and First Credit Unions,” says the project manager Leni Goggins.

To subsidize the first few months of wages K-Lumet has launched a crowdfunding campaign in starting Dec 19th that will run until Feb 2019. Their crowdfunding URL is www.startsomegood.com/k-lumet-kindle-a-fire

I am passionate about people and focused on developing meaningful opportunities for people with accessibility needs through social entrepreneurial initiatives in journalism, consulting, and arts. As a TED talks junkie, I would love to hear your story and ideas. Reach out and connect with me!


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