ALL MY PEOPLE
This BREWER’S secret ingredient is its STAFF – every MEMBER has an AUTISM diagnosis…
I’s not often you can say that beer – and lots of it – changes lives for the better. But at People Like Us, a Danish brewing company, the mission is to make the best beer in the world while changing as many lives as they can – specifically, the lives of their employees, all of whom have been diagnosed with autism.
Founded by brothers Lars and Jesper Carlsen in August 2016, this isn’t Lars and Jesper’s first introduction to the world of autism. Since 2009 they have run LeVas, a company that provides education and mentoring to young people with autism, ADHD and other similar diagnoses. But they often found it wasn’t enough.
“Again and again we experienced an enormous frustration bound to the constraining ways of seeing people as paragraphs in a system [rather] than the human beings they are,” explains Lars. “It was frustrating to see how our youngsters kept falling through. There’s an enormous gap in the Danish social and disability legislation system when it comes to the transition from education to employment. A lot of our youngsters ended up having serious relapses, and skills and personal development they’ve achieved was basically taken away from them.”
Lars and Jesper are addressing a problem that people with autism have been struggling with for years: how to get a job. (In Australia, only 42 per
A lot of our YOUNGSTERS ended up having serious relapses and PERSONAL development was basically TAKEN away from them.
cent of those with autism have any kind of paid work – in comparison to the 53 per cent of Australians with other disabilities who are employed. Sadly, many of those who do have jobs have experienced some sort of bullying in the workplace.)
A fortuitous meeting with Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the founder of Copenhagen-based microbrewery Mikkeller, was the catalyst for jumping into the world of hops and yeast.
“We had asked him to come for a talk about the possibility of brewing a beer for our former autism-driven cafe,” says Lars. “He agreed right away, and asked if there was anything else he could help us with. I caught the opportunity and asked him if we should then create a brewery together, which would be run by people with autism. And he said yes.”
While many of their employees are graduates of the LeVas program, a recent crowdfunding campaign which sadly failed to meet its target has gained People Like Us exposure – both for its beer, and among those with autism who are seeking jobs.
“We’ve experienced an increased interest from people with autism, and plenty of concerned parents [of] people with autism, who are interested in our project, and either would like to become part of it or who are worried about what’s going to happen with their kids. So it’s both-way recruiting,” says Lars. >