Wis. special ed teacher starts business his graduates really dig

The unemployment rate among young adults with severe disabilities can range anywhere from 90 to 100 percent in some regions, but a former special education teacher from Hudson, Wis. decided to do something about it, and his remarkable businesses is growing like a weed.

In the basement of a building in downtown Hudson, Jim Schreiber’s unusual idea is taking root. As a high school special education teacher, he noticed his students with severe disabilities had a hard time finding jobs after graduation, so he started a business called Plantables three years ago to give them somewhere to go and something to do every day while earning minimum wage.

"I knew they could work and needed to be employed because we’re are all defined by what we do during the day. I knew they could be awesome workers, and they are,” he said.

He has about 17 employees, and they suffer from everything from autism to cerebral palsy, but they use adaptive technology to make paper with seeds imbedded in it, which is then used to make products ranging from holiday cards, to self-watering garden boxes that grow lettuce herbs and flowers.

It’s only fitting that Plantables are sold in stores like the Purple Tree.

"It’s good for the planet and its good for the people because it’s an awesome social justice project that supports an important segment of our population. It’s a win-win,” store owner Sarah Broch said.

But Schreiber hopes he is really planting the seeds for other educators to do the same.

"This isn't something that should just be here in Hudson as a small business, it should be happening all across the country,” he said.

And that's a mission the families of people with disabilities can really dig.

Learn more about Plantables

Schreiber's business also makes wreaths made of bird seed and “bee bombs” that grow plants that are beneficial for bees. Those "Sproutworthy" garden boxes, as they are called, are available in nearly a dozen stores around the Twin Cities metro.