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Cutting hair and building a sense of community: Mason City man opens barber shop through IVRS self-employment program

Making a positive impact one hairc

September 06, 2023
Cassii opening the door of his businessMaking a positive impact one haircut at a time is what motivates Cassii Calaway, owner of Kutz by KZ, a barber shop in Mason City. Cassii opened his own shop with the help of the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) Self-Employment program.Cassii began barbering in 2014 right in Mason City. After discovering he wanted to learn more about men’s and ethnic hair textures, Cassii enrolled at the American College of Hairstyling in Des Moines. IVRS provided assistance throughout Cassi’s time in Des Moines and when he moved back to Mason City after graduating in 2015.“When I moved down to Des Moines, their team of staff helped me out a lot,” said Cassii. “But IVRS helped me the most when I moved back up to Mason City. Sue’s great.”IVRS Rehabilitation Counselor, Susan Faber, helped Cassii with his goal to complete cosmetology school once he returned to the Mason City area. Faber provided clerical support in paperwork, computer operations, and some tuition assistance to Cassii. Once Cassii completed his certifications, it was time to decide what was next.Taking Cassii’s entrepreneurial spirit into consideration, Faber introduced Cassii to the Iowa Self-Employment program.“We were both thinking, ‘Now what?’, and the self-employment program interested Cassii,” said Faber.Faber and Cassii began working on paperwork, getting proper licenses, and making sure Cassii met the requirements to open up Kuts by KZ. Faber commended Cassii for his willingness to ask for help when needed and follow through with suggestions she gave.“He had his own accountant and attorney. It was a really smooth process.”Kuts by KZ specializes in men’s and children’s haircuts. Referring to himself as a traditional barber, Cassii likes beard work and “nice clean lines.” Each year, Cassii offers free haircuts for back-to-school and visits older individuals for in-home services. He will attend Mason City’s annual back-to-school block party and provide haircuts as well.Since attending barber school, Cassii has loved teaching his peers different hair-cutting techniques. One of his goals has always been to operate a barber school. Luckily, Cassii found just the right person to teach: his brother.“I was really excited about my brother wanting to learn from me. I like the idea of having a family business,” Cassii said. “I always put family first. You have to respect where you come from; it makes you who you are.”Cassii working on a client's facial hairCassi’s core values guide his business plan. Along with a family-friendly approach, Cassii believes in the act of perseverance through all of life’s battles.“There are always people who will doubt you in the process of starting a business. Don’t listen to them,” Cassii said. “Failure is part of success. With determination, you can achieve almost anything.”Cassii is passionate about his business and always strives to make his customers smile. The IVRS self-employment program helped him achieve his goal of finding a job he loves. He can now make people smile while making a living.“Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation is a great organization, they’re willing to help people. Everyone needs help, whether you want to ask for it or not,” Cassii said.Watch Success Story VideoLearn More About Self-Employment
From batter to bliss: Isaac’s path to becoming a baker

Baking treats fo

August 03, 2023
Isaac Ruow scooping batter onto cookie sheetsBaking treats for people is what Isaac Rouw enjoys most about his job at Cup of Joe in Cedar Falls. His journey as a baker started when he worked with the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) team to attain the counseling needed for his job. He participated in the work experience program through River Hills School, which is a program that helps high school students with disabilities learn new skills, become familiar with the workforce, and build post-secondary educational goals through local opportunities.Isaac joined Cup of Joe in Cedar Falls for his work experience program during his senior year. Cup of Joe is an espresso bar that features coffee beverages, pastries, and weekly music and game night events. When Isaac’s work experience with Cup of Joe ended after he graduated, they offered him a position in May 2022.  IVRS rehabilitation counselor Lewis Litzel assisted Isaac with his transition from the work experience program to official employment with Cup of Joe. IVRS provided Isaac with shirts and aprons for work and connected him with a temporary job coach from Inclusion Connection to ensure support was available if needed.Isaac has autism and is primarily nonverbal, but he finds other ways to communicate. He brings a communication device to work and he has learned to navigate the work environment through speaking one or two words at a time to his coworkers.During his work experience at Cup of Joe, Isaac primarily washed dishes as he assisted with tasks at the bakery. Once he was hired as a baker, he started baking cookies every day. One year later, Isaac is thriving at Cup of Joe and is an essential part of the Cup of Joe team.“He has been an absolute joy to work with and he is always in a good mood. Isaac is very proud of his work and makes others better. He is always focused on his work and he keeps others on task. Isaac is great at checking on supplies and letting us know if something is running low,” explained Leah Franck, the manager of Cup of Joe.Isaac’s dedication to his work at Cup of Joe has helped him grow. Dawn Wilson, the owner of Cup of Joe, has known Isaac since he was young and observed his baking skills over time, recognized his potential, and advocated for his employment at Cup of Joe. Through his work at Cup of Joe, Isaac has not only proven his passion for baking, but has positively impacted the work process and business as a whole.“I just think Isaac is such an amazing gentleman and that I am the one who has the privilege to be able to work with him and have him work at Cup of Joe. Isaac has made our business a better place, and I hope he’s with us forever,” said Dawn.  Isaac and Tyaan RuowIsaac’s story goes beyond his individual achievements. It highlights the importance of a supportive network, demonstrated by his family. Tyann Rouw, Isaac’s mother, played a crucial role in nurturing his passion for baking and cultivating his skills in the kitchen. The support provided by Tyann, her husband Chris, and Isaac’s siblings has been instrumental in his career journey.“Anytime I did anything in the kitchen, he was interested. He started out by doing things like stirring and putting batter in the pan. As he got older, he started learning ownership skills by being in charge of the timer. That morphed into him taking the cookies off of the cookie sheet and continuing to progress from there. He really liked to take ownership and control of things in the kitchen. He also likes loading and running the dishwasher, really all of the components related to working in the kitchen,” explained Tyann.Isaac’s dedication and the inclusive environment at Cup of Joe have contributed to his personal growth and job satisfaction. His consistent enthusiasm for work is evident in his eagerness to come in every day and highlights the importance of meaningful employment. Isaac’s contributions to the team extend beyond his baking skills; he has become part of the Cup of Joe family, appreciated by coworkers and customers alike.“I am proud that he holds a job, is super independent at work, and is happy to go. He never has to be woken up or encouraged to go to work. He's always ready. The people at Cup of Joe have been so welcoming: Dawn and her staff, the customers, and especially the regulars. He's valued as part of the team. When I pick him up, people will say, ‘you’re Isaac’s mom!’ and that’s cool. When I ask Isaac if he likes working or if he loves it, he always says, ‘love’. Most people don’t really love their jobs, but he does,” explained Tyann.Isaac’s journey demonstrates the great potential that individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace when given the opportunities they deserve.
Reaching a lifelong goal: Humbolt woman gets ordained with help from IVRS

Helping others has always inspired De

July 14, 2023
Denise LindemannHelping others has always inspired Denise Lindemann, who found her calling as a chaplain at St. Croix Hospice. Lindemann, a Humboldt resident, was able to finish seminary and get ordained with the support and resources from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS).Denise’s favorite aspect of her job is spending time with patients. Her main responsibilities include driving to see patients around the various hospice locations, playing music for them, and just addressing whatever concerns they may have in a difficult transitional period.“There really is a power of presence,” said Denise.Prior to contacting IVRS, Denise served as a pastor for a small congregation in North Iowa. Although she enjoyed this job, she worried about her job stability. In order to evolve in her current career and maintain stable employment, she needed to get ordained.Denise decided she would finish seminary, a feat she struggled with in the past due to a reading disability. Denise applied for services and soon received support to reach her goals. IVRS Supervisor, Brian Warner, began working alongside Denise when she first began receiving services in 2018. He assisted Denise in searching for schools to attend. Notably, Warner used assistive technology and helped Denise convert seminary books into audiobook format to best accommodate her situation.Seminary books aren’t easy to come by, so they are harder to get on tape. “The big thing was getting the books on the computer so I could listen as well as read. I just found it very helpful,” said Denise.Sarah Dokken, Mason City rehabilitation associate also worked closely with Denise. They met virtually throughout 2020 and 2021 but eventually had the chance to meet in person. Denise also participated in the Older Workers Employment Program (OWEP), working closely with Marsha Harmonson. OWEP is a division of the Elderbridge Agency on Aging, which provides resources and employment support to older Iowans seeking to join the workforce past the traditional retirement age. Services include vocational assessments, job-seeking skills, job orientations, and more.IVRS also helped Denise relocate to Humboldt upon getting hired, providing a U-haul truck and other necessary moving services. Warner praised Denise for her willingness to persevere regardless of any setbacks she may have encountered. After seminary, the placement process can take a few years to complete. Ordination is a long process and requires various steps, but in December 2022, Denise finally found her perfect fit at St. Croix Hospice.“Denise has the perfect temperament for a clergy setting,” said Warner.“It made me smile knowing we could help her achieve this goal to help better herself.She got to this place where she was finally happy and just knowing I could be even a small part of that makes me happy,” said Dokken.“IVRS gave me support and encouragement. They walked with me through this journey,” said Denise.

Featured Story

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors Moving to IowaWORKS Offices in Des Moines
October 20, 2023

DES MOINES, IOWA – Eighteen vocational rehabilitation counselors who currently work with job candidates in offices across from the Iowa Capitol complex will be moving their desks next week to the IowaWORKS job center in south Des Moines. The change is part of implementing a broad statewide alignment plan targeted to increase coordination of government services and make it easier for Iowans to access what they need.

Effective October 27, counselors with the Vocational Rehabilitation Services division of Iowa Workforce Development (who currently work out of the Jessie Parker Building,…

DES MOINES, IOWA – Eighteen vocational rehabilitation counselors who currently work with job candidates in offices across from the Iowa Capitol complex will be moving their desks next week to the IowaWORKS job center in south Des Moines. The change is part of implementing a broad statewide alignment plan targeted to increase coordination of government services and make it easier for Iowans to access what they need.Effective October 27, counselors with the Vocational Rehabilitation Services division of Iowa Workforce Development (who currently work out of the Jessie Parker Building, 500 E. 12th St.) will begin working from the IowaWORKS office at 200 Army Post Road in Des Moines.The move, which is expected to improve efficiency and expand access to workforce services for Iowans with disabilities, is part of a broad reorganization of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in the wake of its July 1 move to become part of IWD. More than 50 Voc Rehab staffers will be changing offices in October and November as part of work to more fully integrate the division into IWD.“This is the first step in building the better workforce system that Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature have asked us to create for the betterment of all Iowans,” said Beth Townsend, Executive Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “By putting agency staff together who do the same or similar work, we hope to learn from each other and find new ways to improve the service we deliver to Iowans.”Finance and administration members of the Vocational Rehabilitation team moved earlier this month to the IWD offices at 1000 E. Grand Ave. in Des Moines. Information technology staffers are expected to follow in early November. Plans call for the Vocational Rehabilitation division to fully vacate its portion of the Jessie Parker Building by the end of November.“Iowa’s Vocational Rehabilitation team will be providing the same great service only in a new environment,” said James Williams, who took over as Division Administrator of Vocational Rehabilitation Services on October 2. “We’ll be providing the same important assistance. Only now, if the Iowans we serve turn out to need additional workforce services, we’ll be able to arrange that simply by walking down the hall. This is what a one-stop center is all about.”Vocational Rehabilitation counselors will be seeing job candidates at the Jesse Parker Building as usual through October 25. The division will close to the public on October 26 to facilitate the move, then re-open at IowaWORKS on October 27. Signs directing visitors to the new location will be posted at Jesse Parker.IVRS clients with questions should call their counselors or the Des Moines office at 515-281-4211.View Des Moines IowaWORKS Office HoursLearn More About IowaWorks

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Des Moines, IA 50315

Phone: 1-800-532-1486

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