A non-profit organization, Extraordinary Ventures (EV) “creates and nurtures self-sustaining small businesses with the philosophy that all people are employable.” To do this, the organization focuses on pairing up adults with disabilities with small businesses offering job opportunities
Each year, 50,000 adults with autism age out of the school system, according to Autism Speaks. Just like anyone else, those adults leave in search of an opportunity to contribute to their community and secure employment.
Founded in 2007 with a mission to provide meaningful employment for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, EV is a unique yet sustainable solution addressing the employment crisis.
“We serve an important mission and our community and customers support that,” an EV Board Member explains. “Everything starts and ends with delivering competitive products and services. Without this, there would be no sales and then no jobs.”
In an effort to raise awareness about autism and to encourage local businesses to empower people with autism by providing employment opportunities, EV produced a film in 2018 about “autism, community, and meaningful work.”
“What we are trying to do is to make sure the job opportunities we are creating now will still be around in 10, 20, 30 years,” Says Lori Ireland, Co-Founder of Extraordinary Ventures. “It starts with building it around the individuals but continues with smart business practices.”
The 30-minute film titled Extraordinary People is a documentary that shares the story of six adults with autism who have found employment opportunities with EV.
“Despite individual challenges, [they] have found meaningful value and a deep sense of pride from their work at a business,” Precaps. “The film redefines expectations for employers and society alike and shows the essential role a job plays for not just these six individuals, but for all adults.”
With an important message to share, the EV team needed to prepare a way to make sure the film was seen and heard. That’s when they turned to me and the Creators Marketing Method for support.
To achieve EV’s goals of gaining national exposure, appearing at film festivals, and spreading awareness, the first part of the challenge for me was to develop a strategy to market and promote the film effectively prior to and during its distribution.
The second vital role I would play for the film was managing the distribution of the documentary after it had been released.
The filming of Extraordinary People and creating the documentary was still underway when I joined the EV team. So, they didn’t have any social media or marketing of any kind in place yet for the film. It was my role to lead the strategy and execution of all marketing and public relations efforts for the film.
First, I began by strategically designing a marketing plan employing my storytelling method, which you can find out more about on my website. My storytelling method allowed me to give the crisis of a low employment rate for people with autism a real-world, close-to-home context.
Then, I created social media accounts to begin my marketing efforts. Through my research and planning, I determined that Facebook and Instagram would be the two most valuable platforms for EV. This is where they should focus their time, rather than trying to make use of a handful of platforms.
Additionally, I created a website for the film to serve as a center point for all those interested in learning more about the film. I also created multiple email campaigns to reach our target audience and collaborated with a national PR agency to get Extraordinary People featured on radio, TV, and in print.
While I upheld the various marketing campaigns all the while, when the film was completed I also needed to begin distributing the documentary. To do this, I strategized a distribution plan, which included 60+ screenings.
The screenings were held all over the country—from New York to California and everywhere in between. To encourage people to spread the word, I also added a section on the Extraordinary People website allowing those who are interested in hosting their own screening of the film to get in touch.
“Gina delivers nothing but the best for her clients,” says Rachel Stelter, Graphic Designer and Photographer. “I've collaborated with her on digital marketing efforts for the documentary Extraordinary People — Gina has done an amazing job of building and executing the film's distribution strategy.”
Backed by my storytelling method and marketing strategies, and with an extraordinary team at EV, the film gained national exposure—as hoped—and then some. The documentary gained international attention when it was featured at the 21st Annual RiverRun Film Festival, which included 175 films from 47 countries.
Extraordinary People was also featured at the AutFest Film Festival the same year it was created.
“Gina Ireland has done an amazing job building and executing on the strategy for the national distribution for Extraordinary People,” Extraordinary Ventures CEO Paige Morrow says. “It has been fun working with her as I've been asked to be on panels at several screenings of the film across the U.S.”
With the help of social media and partnerships with organizations such as the Autism Society of America, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation, and local advocacy programs, the EV team was able to further reach their goal of raising awareness and attention all over the nation.
“I worked with Gina to help plan an event that included a documentary screening and it was a phenomenal success due to her input and guidance,” says Tracey Sheriff, Executive Director, Autism Society of North Carolina. “Professionally, Gina is insightful, knowledgeable and very well organized. Personally, Gina is a joy to work with and makes the stress of an event very manageable. I highly recommend working with Gina for a screening or event.”
As a result of the film, multiple Wells Fargo branches have pledged employment for people with autism. We’ve also been contacted by various parents with children with autism who have started their own businesses to provide employment opportunities as well.