Matthew Schwab is the definition of a man on a mission. You may see him at Chick-Fil-A working hard as a food runner and dining room host, or catch him at 321 Coffee making lattes and chatting with customers, or on the volleyball courts working as an assistant coach for Fuquay Revolution Volleyball – he does it all! But perhaps what he is most proud of is creating and running his own business, Matthew Schwab Speaks. I had the opportunity to sit down with Matthew and discuss his business, advocacy and its importance, and some of his goals for Matthew Schwab Speaks.
Matthew Schwab Speaks, launched in October of 2019, is a business that gives Matthew the opportunity to raise awareness about Down syndrome and advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) through public speaking. Before launching his business, however, Matthew did several private speaking engagements that helped him to recognize his passion for public speaking. “Others with Down syndrome [have inspired me to start my business],” Matthew said of his inspiration for Matthew Schwab Speaks, “But someone else that I would have to say inspired me to do this is my mom. We found out that I have a heart for public speaking, and she pitched me the idea for starting Matthew Schwab Speaks.”
Matthew is passionate about promoting inclusivity in the workplace, and his business provides him a platform to share that passion with others. He speaks on a variety of topics, with some of his past talks being Having a Disability in the Workforce, Living with an Extra Chromosome; and Advocating for Myself and Others with Disabilities. He also gave a TEDx talk recently, titled Why I Know Including People with Down Syndrome is a Good Thing, where he spoke about the value that individuals with IDD can add to the workplace.“People with disabilities have a hard enough time scheduling interviews for more competitive jobs,” Matthew explained, “The unemployment rate [for individuals with disabilities] is 80%, and only 20% of individuals with disabilities are employed. And that 20% mostly hold menial jobs like cleaning the bathrooms, which is not good.” His solution for this discrepancy? “I would like to see the state of North Carolina make budgetary adjustments to better accommodate individuals with IDD. It is somewhat accommodating now, but hopefully, with a state budget change, I think we can capitalize on jobs for individuals with disabilities and financially support them in entrepreneurial ventures.”
As for Matthew’s goals and what is coming up for Matthew Schwab Speaks, he is actively trying to schedule more speaking engagements. “It’s kind of hard right now because of everything going on with the coronavirus,” Matthew said, “This year, I have done two speaking engagements successfully, and one of those was done virtually, and it was great! But other than that, my other engagements were postponed or canceled, unfortunately.” Despite this, Matthew remains excited about an upcoming opportunity – he will be speaking at the ARC of Onondaga County in Syracuse, New York in October of 2021. “That will be my first time in New York, so it will be a unique experience. To have someone book me for the upcoming year is something that we never thought would happen, so I am very excited to do it!”
To conclude my interview with Matthew, I asked him if he had any advice to offer to any individual with IDD that was considering starting their own business. He had some very insightful thoughts to share: “Be calm, because the process [of starting your business] may be long. Just be yourself and be happy with what your business is doing! If your business is developing, enjoy each bit of development, no matter how big or small.”
To check out Matthew Schwab Speaks’ website, click here.
To watch Matthew’s TEDx talk, click here.
All photos courtesy of Michelle Schwab.