BATON ROUGE, La. — Benson Capital Partners, the venture capital firm created in 2019 by New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson, is helping to grow a New Orleans-based startup designed to make it easier for the disability community to find employment.

The startup, called Inclusively, is an online platform that matches job seekers with job openings. What’s unique about Inclusively is that it enables users with disabilities to filter for specific workplace accommodations when searching for jobs.

Employers, in turn, know on the front end what type accommodations candidates need to succeed on the job.

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Inclusively was founded by New Orleans native Charlotte Dales in 2020 with her St. Louis-based business partner Sarah Bernard.

Dales contacted the Saints organization early last year about having them sign up with the platform as a user. In addition to agreeing to use the software for hiring, Benson Capital and another fund, Enable Ventures, invested $4.5 million in the startup, about two-thirds of the nearly $7 million Inclusively has raised to date.

Gayle Benson has also committed to showcase Inclusively to the NFL and NBA through her professional sports connections.

“Our goal is for Inclusively to become an integral part of the NFL and NBA daily hiring processes,” Benson said in a prepared statement. “It’s time to realize that just became a person has a challenge in one area of life, they can succeed in others.”

A model for sustainability

Dales said she was inspired to create Inclusively after her cousin became the first licensed aesthetician in Florida with Down syndrome.

“She had worked in a spa folding towels but wanted to do more,” Dales said. “Then, she got connected with this program that helped her get certified to do facials, and her spa was willing to give her a chance. Seeing her succeed made me realize how many others should be able to have that opportunity.”

The platform is geared as much toward employers as it is to job seekers.

Companies with more than 15 employees are required to provide accommodations for employees with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Helping them know which types of accommodations potential employees need to be successful can help create a better workplace and reduce employee turnover, Dales said.

“There is business value in hiring people with disabilities and diverse backgrounds,” she said. “If you can show the companies the value in that, then it is more sustainable and they won’t be hiring just one or two people a year. They’ll be able to scale and hire lots of people with disabilities.”

So far, about 50 companies are using the platform to list job openings. In addition to the Saints organization, Lyft, Delta Airlines, Salesforce and Charles Schwab have signed on. Those companies pay an annual subscription fee to be on the platform, which is how Inclusively generates revenues.

Inclusively has also partnered with 900 or so nonprofit organizations that serve the disability community and is helping them link to employment opportunities.

Inclusively does not require a medical diagnosis of a disability and it doesn’t strictly define or limit disabilities, though the filters it applies correlate with the types of disability categories listed under the ADA.

In April, the Saints and Pelicans made its first hire from the Inclusively platform — a hire Benson Capital executives vow will be the first of many.

“This company has so much alignment with our goals and objectives,” said Benson Capital Partners Manager Caroline Crumley said. “Not only does it have high growth objectives but also the ability to do good while building something important.”

© 2023 The Advocate
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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