When yoga class is over and they’ve bowed their heads in gratitude, members of the Salt Yoga studio in South Australia’s Christie’s Beach often feel especially appreciative.
Outside waiting for them is the freshest and tastiest of seasonal produce, packaged in beautiful boxes, and brought conveniently to their doorstep by NDIS participant, Michael Mooney.
Michael, 43, of Reynella, lives with a significant hearing impairment and speech and learning difficulties.
He is also an enterprising businessman with a knack for connecting his business with his local community and the kind of customers who most appreciate freshly-picked, locally-grown, organic, seasonal produce.
“We were enthusiastic about what Michael was doing from the get-go when he first turned up at our studio with his beautiful produce,” said Salt Yoga studio owner and yoga teacher, Claire Smith.
“It was obviously something that has a parallel with yoga, you know, healthy, fresh vegetables and food. I think it really inspired the students and the teachers who bought it and then created meals around it.
”I remember my lunches were eggs with spinach and greens and all kinds of things after he came and it was just such a brilliant thing to be able to do. So, we saw it as a natural win win for everybody.”
Michael has been delivering home-grown produce to local residents and small businesses in his community for the past four years.
His micro-enterprise called Greens2U is the brainchild of a collaboration between Michael and his chosen NDIS provider, Community Living Project (CLP).
CLP supports Michael through its Micro Enterprise Project (MEP), which helps people with significant disabilities to run small businesses, designed around their own unique talents, passions and needs.
In Michael’s case, he had previously studied horticulture, loved being outdoors and had a large north-facing front yard—the ideal place to grow a community garden.
Michael says he enjoys doing work he cares about and loves the flexibility of working for himself – choosing his own hours and being his own boss.
But most rewarding of all is seeing the positive response of his customers when he turns up with his home-grown, fresly-picked produce.
“It’s heartwarming, I like seeing the smiles on people’s faces,” he said. “It feels really good.”
Before setting up Greens2U, Michael had spent some years in supported employment and then found himself out of work.
“There wasn’t much out there for me, and every day in my life just rolled into one,” he said.
“I had no drive and no purpose, so when they offered me the idea of starting my own business, I thought that was a really good idea. Life is much better now.
“I’m a lot more confident now, and a lot happier.”
Michael has NDIS-funded supports and a facilitator through MEP. He also has help from volunteer friends and family, who form an Enterprise Management Group to support Michael, especially through periods of change, such as COVID.
He has built up a solid clientele base and is on a first-name basis with his customers.
“Michael’s poduce is clearly grown with love,” said Salt Yoga owner Claire Smith. “He is always enthusiastic and tells us all about what's in season and what's been going on in his garden. It's really gorgeous and everyone loves it.
“It is so nice to support someone that is doing something valuable and worthwhile and is really passionate about.”