By Grady Michael Gaynor
Four years ago, Jacob Wittman was nearing graduation from high school with a dream to become a chef. With a passion for culinary arts and a discerning palate, Wittman had difficulty finding and keeping a job in a kitchen because he has autism. Like many others on the autism spectrum, Wittman’s ability to focus on detail and follow a process is extraordinary, but his verbal ability is limited.
Jacob’s mother, Shelly Henley, did not want to see her son’s passion and ability go to waste in a dish room, which inspired her to found No Label at the Table, a bakery that employs people on the autism spectrum. From beginning with only a handful of employees selling baked goods at various farmers markets, No Label at the Table has found success with a shop at 111 W. Main St., Suite 145, and employs 20 people on the autism spectrum.
“There was a need for the bakery because 75 percent of people on the autistic spectrum have no plans after aging out of school,” Shelly said. “Creating positions for those on the autistic spectrum was necessary because even most college graduates cannot find jobs. The unemployment rate is 85 percent as compared to the national unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.”
As the business has grown, so has the desire to expand opportunities available for adults with autism. The founders recently launched a second company, Pure Prairie Organics, which is an organic lawn care company. Two employees from the bakery have joined the sister company to provide system support and back-office work.
Henley’s husband, Jeff Wittman, assisted with launching the second company.
“My husband retired in January. He has been a part of everything we do at No Label at the Table,” Henley said. “For the last four years, he watched our family transform because of purposeful work. He was eager to begin a second career that had a purpose. We both knew we needed to start another program that was service driven.”
Henley said organic lawn care is healthy, safe and environmentally friendly. Services provided are fertilization, liquid aeration and seeding. Learn more at ppoindiana.com.