Posted: February 1, 2017  by  (full audio available in original post)

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A boutique on Boulder’s Pearl Street is offering the community more than clothing and accessories…as KGNU’s Julia Caulfield reports, it’s offering opportunities to people who have typically had a hard time getting employed.

From the outside Ramble on Pearl seems like a typical little clothing boutique in downtown Boulder, they have clothes and accessories from some of the leading lifestyle clothing brands, but look a little closer and you will find that this business has an additional mission.

Started in 2014 by Andy and Connie Minden, Ramble on Pearl serves as an on-the-job employment training program for adults with developmental disabilities.

Bryan Su has been working at Ramble for three months.

“We’re a nonprofit clothing store, we sell a lot of stuff like clothing, jewelry, sunglasses, and we have a lot of new brands…”

Store co-founder, Andy Minden says the inspiration for Ramble on Pearl came from their daughter.

“My wife and I are blessed with a daughter who has special needs, and so when she was getting out of the public schools a few years back, we were kind of noticing that for her and her peers, it’s sort of like “what do we do next?” “where does our life go?” everyone else kind gets plugged into the plan of college or jobs and stuff like that, but the opportunities for that population are not quite as obvious.”

So Minden and his wife decided to create a clothing store, with an apprenticeship program where adults with disabilities can learn employment skills and prepare them for other jobs in the community.

“The apprentice program is a paid opportunity for individuals with disabilities to come into the store and develop employment skills that really make them marketable to community employers.”

That’s Kristen Stejskal, the apprentice program manager at Ramble. She says the program allows individuals to develop the hard and soft skills of employment–such as counting change, or customer service.

“We try to develop both of those so no matter what the apprentice wants to go into, in terms of their future employment, that they’re going to be set up to be really successful.”

In the United States, the current unemployment rate for people without disability is about 4.7%, for people with disabilities it’s roughly 9%. This difference highlights the difficulty for people with disabilities to find employment.

Once an apprentice graduates from the program, they have support from a Ramble job coach to help them find a job and make the transition into the new work as smooth as possible.

Apprentice Bryan Su says he wants a job so he can be more independent.

“I want to have my own apartment, get married, and maybe have kids.”

While Ramble is a clothing retail store, their graduates have gone on to work in a variety of settings. Bryan wants to work in a restaurant, another graduate works for the Humane Society. Stejskal says she thinks it’s important that the program allows apprentices to decide what they want to do next in their lives.

“We all get that opportunity; we all get to decide if we’re going to go to college, where we’re going to go to college…and everyone deserves to have that opportunity…and it’s very important to me that the apprentices decide where they want to end up and that Ramble is merely a catalyst to get them to wherever their goal employment is.”

Ramble partners with many business around Boulder who employ one or more of their graduates.

Penny Wheeler, a graduate from the apprenticeship program now works at Clutter Consignment. She says that the apprenticeship at Ramble helped her to get where she is now.

“It taught me how to be independent and how to do things. How to run the register and how to, you know we don’t do clothes here, but we do everything else. But it just taught me how to be, I guess, an independent person. Even with the disability I have, but still it taught me how to be somebody that’s on their own.”

In the first year, Ramble on Pearl graduated six apprentices, now two and a half years later, they have six apprentices working at one time. Moving forward they hope to develop the program to include different types of work so individuals not inclined to work in customer service can participate as well.

Ramble on Pearl will present a fashion show at the Boulder Young Professionals Happy Hour on March 15, 2017. The event will be hosted at A View of the World Art Gallery from 5:30-7:30p.m.

Written by Micali Rastrelli. Originally published Feb 3, 2017 on The Boulder Source

Ramble on Pearl is gaining in reputation and reach. The first four pioneers of the program had no idea what to expect from Connie and Andy Minden’s revolutionary idea — and quite honestly, neither did the Mindens.

Two and a half years later, Kate, Kendra, Miah and Alex — Ramble’s original apprentices — have found their niche.

Kendra Minden, Andy and Connie’s daughter who inspired them to create their business, is now working at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Kendra’s Ramble classmate and friend, Miah, has had a similar experience at Rags Consignment. Miah decided to stick to fashion and retail even after Ramble because she loves it so much, but her employers feel like the lucky ones.

“Having Miah here has been a learning experience for all of us,” Miah’s co-worker at Rags Consignment said. “She has taught us so much more than we have taught her. We love her “unfilterdness;” she makes us smile.”

Both Alex and Kate, the final two original apprentices are loving their new work as well. Alex landed a job at the Organic Sandwich Company, and Kate is working with animals at the Humane Society.

Since then, the Mindens have only grown their number of graduates and continue to change lives. Recently, Councilman Bob Yates even took the time to write a letter about Ramble, hoping to spread the word about their good deeds.

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Penny, a Ramble on Pearl alumna

In his letter, he talked about recent graduate, Penny, who is working at Clutter Consignment.

“I love this job. The people here have taken me under their wing and taught me so much,” Penny said of Clutter. “It’s so fun being around customers and helping them pick out what they need. I feel special here.”

As more of the Boulder community — and Colorado at large — catch on to what the Mindens are doing, Ramble will continue to blossom and spread  positive change surrounding people with IDD, or intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I believe that the more we can help people, the better off we will be,” Clutter owner Patty Ross told Yates. “When you understand that people are people first, and their disabilities come second, then maybe barriers will be broken down and life for all will be good.”

*   *    *   *   *

Check out Ramble’s website to stay up to date on their latest graduate stories as well as the newest styles and brands offered at below-retail prices in their Pearl Street boutique.

Bryan, an apprentice at Ramble on Pearl

Written by Micali Rastrelli. Originally posted on The Boulder Source on Jan 26, 2017.

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A lot of us might have ideas to change the world, but implementing those ideas is a whole different ball game. For Andy and Connie Minden, they are finally seeing the positive results of nearly three years of work.

They founded their fashion-forward, nonprofit Pearl Street clothing and accessories boutique, Ramble on Pearl, in 2014 with the goal of helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down’s Syndrome, find independence through employment.

Since they have been in business, they have found great success training apprentices with IDD with the hard and soft skills of employment in their boutique that enables them to find independent work in the community once their apprenticeship is complete. Their business model is unique in Colorado — and there are only a handful of similar models across the U.S. — so it took some honing to figure out exactly what works best, but it has definitely worked.


First, the Mindens wanted to change the stigma surrounding those with IDD.

“Often employers and the public do not recognize the capabilities of this population. They are very hard-working and committed to their jobs. They are often happy staying in entry-level positions. This can help reduce the high turnover rate in these types of positions, which is very costly for companies because it requires constant recruiting and training,” remarks Connie Minden.

“85% of the IDD population are unemployed and those who are employed often make sub-minimum wage due to specific exemptions in state law,” says Andy Minden. “We want to help people with IDD become more self-sufficient and be a part of the community at large.”

Their method for doing this begins with an interview of applicants for their apprenticeship program. The applicants undergo a trial period of three weeks, and 85-90 percent of the applicants are accepted into the program.

They are then trained for two months with job coaches where they are able to reveal their hopes and dreams for their future career and the skills they can offer their future employers. By doing this, the job coaches can help the apprentices learn job skills far outside the realm of just retail.


The program ends with four weeks of Master Apprentice work, where they work alongside Ramble’s store manager. During this time they are also applying for the jobs they hope to get after the program is over.

Perhaps the most admirable, brilliant and generous idea of the Minden’s business model? After the apprentices secure their new job, their job coach comes to help them transition into their new positions for anywhere from two weeks to a few months. The Mindens also leave the line of communication open to those new employers in case they have any questions or need a little extra help with their new employees.

Since opening, 11 graduates of the program have secured independent employment in Boulder and its environs and currently there are 6 apprentices participating in the program with 2 more waiting for spots to open up.  Right now, Ramble has the capacity to annually serve 15-20 apprentices, but they hope to someday expand their program across multiple locations and job sites. One idea is to develop a satellite program in retirement homes to provide assistance to the senior population.

Another idea is to partner with fulfillment centers and manufacturing companies to train those with IDD — and even traumatic brain injuries — in the world of computers and technology.

But if they are ever going to turn those big goals into a reality, they need their upscale boutique to keep growing a clientele. Drop by if you haven’t already — and also check out their website. You can even host a private shopping party for your friends and networks at the boutique. Invite 10-25 people and Ramble on Pearl will reserve the entire store for you. They will provide food, drink and chocolates for the party where you will meet their alumni apprentices — and all purchases of their below-retail-priced all-new brand-named clothing and accessories go directly to supporting their program.


Written by Micali Rastrelli. Originally published Jan 16, 2017 on The Boulder Source

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High school graduation is a momentous occasion. For most of us, it means moving out of our parents’ homes and into the real world as independent citizens. Whether that means college or a full time job, it is up to us as individuals.

But for people with IDD, or intellectual and developmental disabilities, the opportunities for growth often stop after high school. Boulder residents Connie and Andy Minden decided that was not the future they wanted for their daughter, Kendra and her peers.

So, four years ago, the Mindens began developing a revolutionary approach to help Kendra and others learn skills that would enable them to be integrated members of our community through independent employment.

“We started Ramble on Pearl as a result of feeling frustrated that our daughter, and her peers — adults with IDD — have a really difficult time finding independent employment,” Connie Minden said. “We were seeing all these individuals with so much to contribute to the community, but with no avenue for doing so.”

While neither had a background in retail, the Mindens wanted to build an apprenticeship for people with IDD, that would train them and then assist them in finding jobs of their own. They needed a business model that would provide a venue for the program and generate enough money to hire job coaches, and to pay the apprentices during their training without being forever dependent on donations or government programs.

Thus, in 2014 Ramble on Pearl was born. The upscale boutique located on Boulder’s historic Pearl Street came to fruition with the help of two very important nonprofits. Through a grant, Social Venture Partners of Boulder County provided the Mindens with indispensable consulting they needed in order to develop their business model and organizational structure while Imagine! fiscally sponsored Ramble on Pearl until their 501(c)(3), named Boulder Treasures, was officially granted nonprofit status.

Beautiful apparel from locally-based brand Krimson Klover at Ramble on Pearl

Help also came from the private sector. Holly Wiese of 3 Dots Design artfully designed Ramble on Pearl for free, helping to bring in plenty of foot traffic. With the location and the promise of below-retail prices, Ramble covers 40% of their expenses simply from sales, with nearly half of their customers coming in from out of town. According to Andy, “One of our challenges is to get the word out to local shoppers, that while we are a nonprofit, we are not a thrift store. All of the product sold at the store is sourced from local, national and international brands, many of whom support our mission by offering discounts on our wholesale costs which we pass on to our customers as a win-win proposition.”

Since opening, Ramble has assisted 11 individuals with IDD find independent jobs, with six more apprentices currently in the program. Check out next week’s Boulder Source article for more information about Ramble on Pearl’s apprentice program and the Minden’s big plans for the future.

In the meantime, go check out the store for yourself. And remember, your purchase is for a very good cause.

unnamedBryan has always had big dreams of being independent. Upon first entering the Apprenticeship Program at Ramble, Bryan told his job coach that he wants to gain independent employment because he wants to become self-sufficient and be able to support himself. Bryan excitedly explained that he has ambitions of becoming a chef. Being a chef would allow Bryan to do something that he would be passionate about while providing him a way to be more autonomous in his day-to-day life. Bryan eventually wants to have his own apartment, pay his own bills and have a family. Bryan came to Ramble on Pearl understanding that independent community employment will not only allow him to utilize his strengths in a way that makes him feel fulfilled and accomplished, but will also help him attain his other goals like financial self-sufficiency.

Bryan is only a couple years out of high school and during that time, he has explored multiple approaches to achieve his dreams. Bryan was able to grow substantially both professionally and personally as a result of these experiences but ultimately he decided he wanted to utilize additional supports in his quest to achieve all of his aspirations. Since beginning at Ramble, Bryan has made momentous steps in developing professional skills that will aid him in community employment. Bryan excels at being thorough and complete in all of the tasks and he always strives to have exceptional work ethic. Bryan has a great attitude every day and is eager to learn new tasks. His favorite tasks are counting the register during opening procedures, cleaning mirrors and placing Ramble logo stickers on bags. Bryan continues to learn new skills every day and his drive for independent employment is a shining example of Ramble on Pearl’s mission.


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Councilman Bob Yates spoke about Ramble on Pearl in a recent newsletter. Thank you for helping us spread the word! He writes,

Typically, I wouldn’t use this space to promote a commercial venture. But Boulder clothing store, Ramble on Pearl, is different. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, set up to help people in need. Opened in August 2014, Ramble on Pearl is a clothing store that provides employment training to adults with developmental or cognitive disabilities, including those with autism or Down syndrome.

Ramble founders Connie and Andy Minden confronted some difficult decisions as their daughter, Kendra, reached adulthood and was ready to live independently. Kendra has a cognitive disability and lacked the work experience that so many teenagers and college students gain with summer, evening, or weekend jobs in retail or in the service industry. At the age of 23, Kendra faced the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma of not being able to procure a job due to her lack of experience, and not being able to gain experience without that first job. Recognizing that many other adults with developmental or cognitive disabilities also struggle with this challenge, Connie and Andy determined to not only train their daughter, but to make that training scalable so that others could gain the experience and confidence necessary to earn independent employment. Without any prior retail experience, two years ago the Mindens opened Ramble at 1638 Pearl Street, with their daughter, Kendra, as one of their first employees.

Ramble’s premise is simple. First, to ensure economic sustainability, they use their nonprofit status to gain discounts—sometimes even outright gifts—from high-end clothing designers who support their mission. As a result, Ramble procures brand new men’s and women’s fashions from local brands like Krimson Klover and Walleroo, and national brands such as Toad & Co and Bench, at significant savings to its customers, making the store competitive with its downtown neighbors while also offering the community the opportunity to shop with a purpose.

However, the Mindens’ primary objective is not affordability, but to use Ramble as a place to train adults with developmental or cognitive disabilities essential employment skills. Ramble’s trainee employees, called “apprentices,” are paid to manage the store’s inventory, fill the racks, help customers select fashions, and ring up sales. Each employee with a disability is paired with a job coach who has experience in the retail world. After a few months of training, apprentices can typically perform any job that their coach can, often with enthusiasm and joy. Once that proficiency is attained, Ramble helps its graduate apprentices secure independent jobs outside the store. In the two years since Connie and Andy opened Ramble, they have successfully place 11 adults with disabilities—including their daughter Kendra—in jobs throughout the Boulder area. Once hired in their new jobs, Ramble provides graduates ongoing coaching until they are completely independent.

One of Ramble’s most recent graduates is Penny. After her training at Ramble, Penny landed a job in October with Clutter Consignment in the Steelyards. There, Penny works five days a week tagging and merchandising Clutter’s products and staffing the cash register. Says Clutter’s owner, Patty Ross, “I believe that the more we can help people, the better off we will be. And when you understand that people are people first and their disabilities come second, then maybe barriers will be broken down and life for all will be good.”

While Penny has worked at Clutter for only a short time, Patty says that she is doing “fantastic.” Says Patty, “She’s fitting in very well, catches on quickly, and she is always smiling. She’s a great addition to my wonderful staff.” Penny is equally happy with Clutter, telling me when I visited her at the shop, “I love this job. The people here have taken me under their wing and taught me so much. And it’s so fun being around customers and helping them pick out what they need. I feel special here.” At you can read about other recent Ramble graduates, including Alexa, who now works at the Humane Society, Sean, who works at King Soopers, and the Mindens’ daughter, Kendra, who is a proud employee of Bed, Bath & Beyond. In addition to the 11 graduates who have been placed in independent jobs, the Mindens are currently training three more people at Ramble, and there is a wait-list of others who seek this opportunity.

Three-quarters of Colorado adults with cognitive disabilities are unemployed. And often those who do have work are isolated in “enclave” jobs, out of the public eye and paid less than minimum wage under an exemption permitted by state law. But, Connie and Andy Minden are making a difference here in Boulder, unlocking the talent often hidden in people with developmental disabilities, helping them live independent lives, filled with confidence and pride.

As you embark on your holiday gift shopping and plan your year-end support of worthy causes, stop by Ramble on Pearl, where you can do both.

Bob Yates’ original post can be found here.

Note from the Apprentice Program Manager:

14364663_1745722522360529_6030291787211729137_nIn the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, the Apprentice Program at Ramble on Pearl wants to extend our sincerest gratitude to everyone that supports our program as we work to integrate our apprentices into independent, community employment. Our supporters come in many forms- as customers of Ramble on Pearl, monetary donors, employers of our graduates and supporters who share our story with their networks! We are proud to report that since our last newsletter in September, we now have 3 new graduates who have secured independent employment, which allows them to use their unique abilities in service to their employers. We also have several new apprentices who have joined our Apprenticeship Program and we look forward to watching them learn and grow and ultimately to find their own place of employment within the community.

Ramble wants to specifically thank King Soopers of Lafayette (Sean) and Clutter Consignment of Boulder (Penny) for being our newest community employers and the Longmont Humane Society for employing yet another of our graduates (Alexa).  Not only will they be reaping the rewards of dedicated new employees, but they are providing an opportunity for our graduates to be visible and shine in the community! The success of the Apprenticeship Program is dependent on employers who are willing to see the unique assets and skills that our apprentices possess and to believe in their potential! King Soopers of Lafayette, Clutter Consignment and the Longmont Humane Society embody the employment environments Ramble on Pearl seeks out for our graduates. Thank you!

Introducing our Job Coaches

Ramble on Pearl is grateful for the hard work and dedication of our job coaches, who provide one-on-one support for our apprentices during in-store training and our graduates transitioning to community employment. Our job coaches work as advocates for our graduates, liaisons between Ramble and the community employer, and work diligently to ensure success for all parties involved. 

Our field job coaches are Monica Egger and Brent Nicholas. In addition to helping our graduates plant roots in the community both Brent and Monica have chosen to pursue graduate degrees in helping professions. Brent and Monica are both exceptional at developing strong rapport with both supervisors and coworkers (or “natural supports”) that will allow our graduates to continue to be successful after the individual has achieved autonomy and independence.  Thank you Monica and Brent! Your on-going support makes independent community employment so much more achievable for our graduates!

We would also like to extend a warm welcome to our new in-store job coach, Megan McKean. Megan joined us at the beginning of November and her addition to our team allows us to expand our Apprenticeship Program at Ramble on Pearl. She will be working one-on-one with Apprentices in the store to ensure they are developing all of the skills and knowledge necessary to transition to independent employment. Megan has extensive experience working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the Out & About program with Imagine! and the Expand program with Boulder Parks and Recreation. We are blessed to have her join our team, and will be capitalizing on all of her experience and strengths to continue to grow the Apprenticeship Program.

With the recent expansion of our job coaching staff, we are excited about the opportunity to serve a larger population with employment training and placement services of the highest quality!

Thank you to everyone who participates in making the vision of our program a reality in the lives of our deserving Apprentices!

-Kristen Stejskal, Apprentice Program Manager.

14202776_1737118103220971_8767342318293253368_nPenny is Ramble’s newest Apprentice Program graduate and community employee. Penny began working at Clutter Consignment in October 2016 and has been a joyful presence to coworkers and customers alike. Penny loves customer assistance and goes above and beyond to deliver exceptional service to all of Clutter’s visitors! Penny loves her close-knit group of coworkers and her supervisor, Patti, who have all been incredibly supportive of her from her first day. Penny operates the cash register and is in charge of checking out Clutter’s many customers, especially during busy hours of operation. Penny also assists her coworkers in tagging and merchandising new items to make the store visually appealing and interesting. Penny works five days a week and her coworkers have expressed how much her jubilant laughter makes Clutter an even brighter place to shop. Clutter Consignment, we are grateful for you!

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13095996_1686957344903714_4994176112590124938_nAlexa was a wonderful addition to the Ramble Apprentice team in April 2016. She was  inquisitive and always asked questions that other people would never think to ask.  Alexa is dependable, timely and has worked extremely hard to become thorough in all of the jobs that she does.  During her time at Ramble, Alexa enjoyed steaming and beautifying the store to make sure that everything looks as inviting as possible for our customers.

Alexa loves animals and has her own dog walking business.  She also owns two cats and has volunteered at multiple doggy daycares and horse ranches.  Alexa also loves children and has worked with them at a daycare and day camp.  Alexa is compassionate and loving towards every animal and person that she meets!

In September 2106 Alexa graduated from the Apprenticeship Program and obtained employment at the Longmont Humane Society. Alexa is responsible for providing daily care for the adoptable cats during her 2-3 shifts per week, providing them with food and water and keeping their kennels clean and with fresh litter. Alexa is also responsible for providing the specialized care that some of the cats need. Alexa has become so efficient in discharging her initial job responsibilities that she has been given added responsibilities. She also provides much needed socialization for the cats to prevent stress and loneliness and prepare them for integration into a forever home! Alexa’s supervisor, Maddy, has told her support staff at Ramble that Alexa is a valued team member at LHS and they appreciate all of her hard work.

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seanSean started at Ramble in April 2016 and proved himself to be an exceptionally hard worker. Sean always shows up with a great attitude and is always enthusiastic about whatever the day may hold. During his time at Ramble, Sean was our go-to man for anything inventory related, including reconciling purchase orders, stickering and tagging new items and preparing them for placement on the sales floor.

Sean has a plethora of hobbies that keep him busy outside of work. He is a music and movie buff and always has a new recommendation for his coworkers to check out. Sean also loves video games and comics.  In fact, for the last several years, Sean and his mom have volunteered at Denver’s Comic Con!

In August 2016, Sean graduated from the Apprenticeship Program and has since been working at King15107440_1772800619652719_9033416629698993501_n Soopers in Lafayette 5 days a week! Sean is working as a Courtesy Clerk and is becoming an expert at bagging groceries and providing customer service. Sean always strives to do his best everyday and wants to make King Soopers proud! Sean means business about customer assistance and always makes it his first priority. Sean’s supervisors have time and time again stated that they appreciate what a hard worker he is. Sean’s supervisors can always trust him to do his best and embody all of the qualities that King Soopers wants their employees to exemplify. And it is not just coworkers that appreciate Sean’s hard work. Sean recently got a comment in a customer feedback survey that stated that he did a great job bagging! Sean has settled right into work at King Soopers and is an invaluable asset to their team.

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