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Why I Started Spoons

Why I Started Spoons

Expect the Unexpected

I felt like a total failure when I left college. Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t land a coveted job at a fancy tech startup upon graduation. Dozens of applications for entry-level positions and unpaid internships went unanswered.

Working as a sign artist at Trader Joe’s was supposed to be a temporary stop on my route to more prestigious positions that I thought I needed. I feared all the years working multiple side jobs were wasted, only to end up with insurmountable student loans. A decade later, I am grateful that letting go of expectations for a "normal" career trajectory expanded my possibilities beyond 9-5, in-person office roles.

The potential and perils of retail

Years in retail and customer-facing jobs taught me the deceptively simple formula to running a successful business: recognize the hard work of employees, and compensate them accordingly, to fuel an energy of camaraderie and teamwork that gets shit done. Nothing can replace the motivational value of treating people with respect.

Retail also gave me rare opportunities to work alongside brilliant people from all corners of the world and across social classes. I stocked grocery shelves alongside a Greek nurse working towards her US certifications, salvaged homes with a biker who made amazing carrot cake, and created elaborate holiday store displays with ragtag crews in the early morning hours.

But there are downsides to working in a sector that our society takes for granted. Financial insecurity was basically written into my job description. Abysmal treatment and limited career mobility in many workplaces motivated me to start my own writing business. But the good experiences left me wondering: what could our world accomplish if retail jobs were valued?

In the years since the disorienting peaks of the COVID pandemic, I’ve shifted careers, gotten a service dog, and moved across the country. Amongst all these changes, it became harder for me to leave that question unanswered, and the dream of starting Spoons persisted.

It's all in the name

Spoons Kitchen Exchange is founded by and for disabled people because we’re experts at finding creative solutions. We believe that focusing on accessibility and supporting the career growth of our employees is a winning retail business model.

Our name is inspired by disability advocate Christine Miserandino’s “Spoon Theory,” in which she uses the utensil as an analogy for coping with the limitations of a chronic illness. Her message is that “the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.”

Our mission is to help you make better choices for your food needs, big or small, easy or hard. We’re here to make life’s transitions a bit smoother while bringing delight to everyday eating experiences. So whether you’re moving into your first apartment, or learning how to modify cooking to fit your accessibility needs, Spoons has got you covered.

Let’s grow together

We’re looking for early partners and collaborators who:

  • Want to build a business that upholds strong, community-based values.
  • Recognize accessibility as a business advantage, not a liability.
  • Believe that joy and success are not mutually exclusive.

Does this sound like you? Introduce yourself and we’ll reach out.

Marielle Saums

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