Chris Soukup, 38, is a third-generation member of the deaf community. As a child, he remembers his paternal grandparents visiting each week with a list of phone calls to be made by his mother, who could hear. In those days, before the relay services offered by companies like Communication Service for the Deaf, or CSD, the nonprofit that Soukup now runs, members of the deaf community were effectively prevented from communicating by phone.
“Authenticity is powerful. I made the mistake of trying to be the leader that I thought people expected me to be. Over time, I got more comfortable with responsibility and became less afraid to be myself and to create my own personal brand of leadership. This brand is unique, not replicable, and has appreciated in value over time. It belongs to me. All young leaders should gravitate to their strengths and build their brand around qualities that they are proudest of.” –Chris Soukup, CEO of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD)
There are agencies that specialize in targeting women, various ethnic cohorts and demographic segments, but there is one group that has been largely ignored: the Deaf, a community of more than 30 million people in the U.S. and about 360 million worldwide. An agency called CSD Creative is looking to change that.
CSD is especially excited and proud to name Mozzeria – a Deaf-owned Neapolitan pizzeria based in San Francisco – as the first-ever business partner of the CSD Social Venture Fund (CSD SVF). Mozzeria and CSD will use this partnership to model the success of the Mozzeria brand and restaurant and foster the opening of a series of franchise locations across the United States.
“I can think of no better investment for our first than Mozzeria,” said Christopher Soukup, the CEO of CSD. “[Mozzeria founders] Melody and Russ [Stein] are two of the most visible people who exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that we know is already there in the Deaf community, just waiting to be revealed.”
Melody Stein is no stranger to the restaurant business, learning the ropes from her parents who owned restaurants in Hong Kong and San Francisco. Melody and her husband, Russ, met at Gallaudet University, where they bonded over a common love of food. They soon moved to San Francisco, when Russ, who is a native New Yorker, realized how much he missed the Italian restaurants and pizzerias of his hometown, which provided the drive to for them to create Mozzeria. “It was always our dream to open a restaurant,” said Melody.
Mozzeria shares with CSD the same commitment to prosperity among Deaf people everywhere. Mozzeria has an all Deaf staff and nearly everything in the restaurant is designed or built by Deaf people, including all the artwork on the walls. Russ and Melody Stein, both of them former employees at CSD, said, “Mozzeria’s values and goals so completely line up with CSD’s, there was no question about setting up this partnership. I feel like we have just come full circle.”
Outside the Mission District San Francisco Restaurant. (Photo: Small Business Revolution)
The CSD SVF was created earlier in 2017 to address the employment crisis among Deaf Americans with the goal of supporting the development of Deaf-owned businesses. Soukup said that the best way to “combat the unacceptable and massive employment gap for Deaf Americans is to showcase the exceptional talents and successes of people who are Deaf.”
Mozzeria, through the support of the CSD fund and incubator program, will receive capital funding and resources, as well as develop training materials in ASL to support the growth of new franchise locations. Melody has her sights set on uplifting the community, “With CSD’s support we will now have the opportunity to significantly grow and expand our business and create more opportunities for Deaf individuals, workers and business owners alike.”
“Without question, Melody and Russ are an extraordinary success story and an inspiration to all of us.” said Soukup.
Any way you slice it, this is a milestone for the Deaf community.
For more information on the CSD Social Venture Fund please visit www.CSDSVF.com.
To learn more about Mozzeria and the business, visit www.Mozzeria.com.
For inquiries about the Mozzeria franchise, please email email@example.com.
Access to education and information in American Sign Language (ASL) is crucial for the Deaf community’s success. CSD Learns recently received a valuable grant from Wells Fargo to support the creation of classes on financial education — presented in ASL. Launching in January, topics will include dealing with debt and starting to invest. Each course is self-paced, and works to provide each student basic financial education.
“Wells Fargo strongly believes that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities to improve their financial health and well-being as anyone else,” said Kathy Martinez, head of disability and accessibility strategy at Wells Fargo. “We are proud to collaborate with CSD Learns to make our Hands on Banking program accessible to this community and help them succeed financially.”
Program Manager Joseph Santini on location filming with Wells Fargo.
Start Learning in ASL Today
To find out when the financial classes open, sign up for the CSD Learns email list here. If you’re ready to start learning today, it’s easy to sign up!
You can learn from classes such as:
Banking Basics – Take a deep dive into banking fundamentals.
Privilege and Intersectionality – Learn about these concepts to better engage in online conversations and real-life situations.
Just go to CSD Learns and subscribe.
Want to know more? Watch this video for CSD Learns.
This commercial was created with #DeafTalent.
Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) launched its first public policy internship program with Gallaudet University student Jacob Salem, who is a student in the university’s master in public administration program. CSD will have three public policy interns each year, working closely with Director of Public Policy David Bahar.
“We work heavily in public policy, especially matters that affect the Deaf community such as emergency access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, employment matters, domestic violence services access, and much more,” Bahar said. “It’s been a great benefit to CSD to have interns specializing in public administration, which then creates a pipeline for public policy professionals who are deaf.”
Salem noted that he particularly wanted to intern at CSD because of CSD’s reputation for excelling in leadership and teamwork. “At CSD, I felt a true sense of self-sufficiency because I worked on projects that create a positive impact on our community,” he said. “It was amazing to be part of an environment where every deaf person is given a fair chance at every opportunity, just like CSD’s vision.”
Bahar emphasized his belief in the importance of understanding how the government functions, how to approach policy work to receive the desired results, and understanding what action steps to take to accomplish the end goals. “This was what I focused on during Jacob’s time with CSD, and then I made sure he had the opportunity to do some hands-on work.”
Salem said, “Being able to talk with people working in the very industry I want to work in was priceless. By interacting with public policy professionals and governmental officials at meetings and events, I acquired so much data and experience that will serve me well in my career.”
Salem also gained crucial knowledge about topics that he hadn’t considered previously. “Before I began my internship, I had somewhat limited knowledge about public policies concerning the Deaf community. It all changed after I began working on exciting projects involving the Federal Communication Commission, telemedicine, direct video communication, interpreting, Small Business Administration, video relay services, and much more. I never realized the lack of accessibility in rural areas and it was meaningful for me as I can relate to this issue.”
This led Salem to consider accessibility for underserved populations such as the Deaf immigrant community. “With this new knowledge and on-the-job experience, I now realize the significance of universal design and advocacy. These create a master key to unlock so many doors for our community.”
Persons interested in interning with the public policy program at CSD should contact David Bahar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What life is like for the deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) has changed significantly in the past half century. Policy changes and new technologies have provided solutions for many, and yet some hurdles have stayed the same.
U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and CSD are proud to announce a strategic alliance to increase the employment rate for deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind individuals.
September is National Deaf Awareness month. Check out the interview in MedGadget.com with our CEO, Chris Soukup.
Although there has been recent growth in deaf-owned businesses, accessible resources for deaf entrepreneurs continue to be sparse. Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. (CSD) announced today that it will establish an incubator program and social investment fund to support deaf-owned businesses.
“It is our belief that deaf businesses serve as an economic engine for employment among deaf individuals,” said CSD CEO Christopher Soukup. “By providing the training, resources, and support deaf-owned businesses need, we can then combat the dismal unemployment rates among deaf people.”
According to the National Business Incubation Association, businesses working with an incubator have an 87% success rate versus a 44% success rate for those that do not. “As a deaf individual who works for a deaf-owned business, I know firsthand the significant impact a deaf-owned enterprise can have,” CSD Board Chair Danny Lacey said. “The CSD board is fully supportive of this initiative, which furthers CSD’s charitable purpose of helping fuel the deaf community as a viable, successful vehicle for long-lasting accomplishments.”
The unemployment and underemployment situation among deaf Americans is currently at crisis levels and is a powerful motive for the establishment of this social investment fund. “CSD actively works to combat this unacceptable unemployment rate, which exists because many are hesitant to bring in deaf people, mistakenly believing they lack the necessary qualifications, expertise, and knowledge,” said Soukup. “In addition to our make-ready employment training programs, this incubator program will enhance the opportunities for deaf-owned businesses to become financially sustainable.”
It is also hoped that through this program, deaf-owned businesses will demonstrate to young deaf generations that they, too, can be entrepreneurs. “Often deaf children don’t see signing deaf people in business leadership positions, and mistakenly believe that only if they speak and assimilate into the hearing community can they succeed,” Soukup noted. “The truth is there are so many successful deaf-owned businesses already, which leads to jobs, businesses, and other investment opportunities that go back into the community. This then converts into more positive perceptions of deaf people, leading to even more opportunities.”
Soukup added, “By provide compelling alternatives to unemployment, we can cultivate success within our own community. We are creating our own success stories.”
Information about the incubator program and how to apply to participate will be available in August. To receive updates on CSD’s incubator program and other services, click on the Subscribe button below: