Across the country, there are almost a half million working-age Canadians on the autism spectrum or with an intellectual disability for whom employment in the competitive labour force remains out of reach. While Ready Willing and Able (RWA) and its network of supported agency partners works with thousands of employers to change this fact, it is understood that the traditional employer-employee relationship may not be the ideal arrangement to which every job seeker aspires. RWA recognizes the value and fit of self-employment endeavors for individuals with an intellectual disability or who are on the autism spectrum and works with our partners to offer support to those individuals in pursuing entrepreneurship. One such entrepreneur is Mallory Pigage in Whitehorse, YT.
Mallory’s Postering Service actually began life as Mallory’s Courier Service over 6 years ago. Back in 2015, Mallory had worked through a few jobs (administration and food service sectors), including a time doing some work for the Honourable Larry Bagnell (MP for Yukon, 2000-11, 2015-21). While the jobs may have generated some income, none of them tapped into what Mallory saw as her key asset: a great ability to engage with people and network. Additionally, Mallory, who lives with some occasional mobility barriers, wanted something where she could set her own hours, make her own decisions and work towards her own goals. With the assistance of Inclusion Yukon, Mallory mapped out the ideal job as a courier delivery service and set herself up as such. However, like many entrepreneurial efforts, Mallory’s good idea didn’t initially quite work out as expected. Within a relatively short period of time, Mallory noticed that all the calls she was getting were for postering, not couriering. And like all good entrepreneurs, Mallory shifted focus to meet the demand. Thus, in April 2015, Mallory’s Postering Service was born, and by the end of the first year, she had completed over 200 contracts and branched off in ways not even Mallory herself could have foreseen.
While the poster service continued to grow and prosper from year to year, Mallory soon found that she had not quite left couriering behind. Two subsequent contracts/jobs presented themselves to augment the postering work. The first was working with the Yukon Department of Health, delivering Quit Smoking packages door to door for Yukoners interested in kicking the habit. The second (beginning in 2019), was as the sole delivery courier for Whitehorse’s weekly “What’s Up” newspaper, delivering each week’s edition from store to store.
Beyond the varied contracts/jobs, Mallory, like many persons who are self-employed, learned early on that getting the whole job done is rarely a simple matter. First, there’s the weather. Whitehorse can have long, tough winters, which make for less-than-ideal conditions for any business that operates to a large degree outside. Says Mallory: “Packing tape doesn’t stick in cold weather.” While a small detail for most, it can become a crucial impediment for a business based on getting (and keeping) posters up around town. Beyond tough working conditions, there’s also the myriad of other duties when you are you own boss. For example, Mallory is her own bookkeeper; handling accounts receivable, tracking various contracts and overall keeping the business is good working order. While the challenging and multi-varied role of the entrepreneur can be a big hurdle for many, Mallory finds it one of the most interesting aspects of the endeavour. Mallory commented: “Entrepreneurship gives me variety. Each morning, I wake up in my house in Whitehorse and wonder what my day is going to be like.”
Over the years, the demand for Mallory’s Poster Services’ varied roles grew to a point where Mallory herself could no longer keep up with demand. So, in 2019, Mallory’s Postering Service also became an inclusive employer – hiring Devon, a job-seeker with an intellectual disability to assist Mallory with postering on some of the main streets in Whitehorse.
Unfortunately, it’s not always been smooth sailing for Mallory’s Postering Services. Like many Canadian businesses, Covid-19 hit hard and threatened to derail many years of continual growth. When asked about Covid-19, Mallory said, “Covid-19 threw a big curveball. You couldn’t host events – and you don’t need posters for events you can’t host.” Mallory’s response to Covid-19 was a combination of downsizing (sadly, having to lay off her assistant) and waiting it out, along with pivoting to meet new demand. Galleries in Whitehorse began holding small, allowable-size openings and contracted Mallory to poster for these occasions. Now in 2022, business is starting to return as the community re-opens and Mallory remains hopeful for the future. Like it was for all entrepreneurs across the country, Covid-19 proved to be a real test of determination and resilience; a challenge which Mallory Pigage was more than capable of meeting.
Throughout the years and the many changes Mallory has faced as an entrepreneur, RWA and local delivery partner Inclusion Yukon have been with her along the way. Support in the form of job coaching, transportation support and other entrepreneurial assistance has been provided, when needed. This support has allowed Mallory the ability to navigate the many stages of growth and development all entrepreneurs encounter and ensures that Mallory has the tools for success that match her ambition, determination, and drive.
As Mallory’s Postering Service continues back on the road to prosperity, Mallory reflected on both the past and future of her business. Of the past, Mallory is content with where her path has taken her, commenting, “(The job) lets me get out into the community. It is a perfect match for my personality.” As for the future, Mallory hopes conditions continue to improve so that she may hire back her assistant; a primary, short-term goal.
In a country where 50% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years, Mallory’s Postering Service has proven it has staying power. Having navigated not only that crucial first half-decade, but a global pandemic as well, Mallory Pigage continues to craft a future that is both prosperous and on her own terms. Mallory’s story demonstrates not only the opportunity self-employment affords, but also that beyond being ready, willing and able, job-seekers with an intellectual disability or who are on the autism spectrum are also resourceful, wise and ambitious.