By: Megan E. Turner
What do gourmet, all-natural sauces and spreads have to do with Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month? In a small factory in Be’er Sheva, Israel, the two hold a lot in common.
Founded in 2012, Nany Sauce is a social business creating chef-inspired, high-quality culinary delights with the help of a team of dedicated employees with a range of physical and developmental disabilities, as well as retirees and new immigrants whom often face difficulty integrating into the job market. Nadav Hagag, 33, is the chef, founder, and owner of Nany Sauce, and describes his company as a “big, warm family who together create quality food products with a loving hand and maximum attention to finer details.”
It’s hard not to feel that warm family atmosphere on the factory floor on a visit. The head chef can often be found giving orders while simultaneously joking with his team, which consists of both individuals with disabilities and those without. Many times, employees can be heard responding back with an equally funny joke all while working hard and efficiently. This is part of the beauty of the work environment at Nany Sauces—regardless of who you are or what your ability level is, you are treated as an equal.
“I’ve always had a desire to do something different,” Hagag said about his business. “For me and my business, age doesn’t matter, disability doesn’t matter—it’s the desire to work that matters most.”
While Nany Sauce began as a start-up out of Hagag’s apartment in Tel Aviv and not as a social business, it only took off when he connected and began working with HaMeitz, a social enterprise and small business accelerator sponsored by Jewish National Fund (JNF) and its partners. “The program opened my eyes to the social aspects of business and how this can not only help my business, but also had the ability to help others. I was instantly sold,” Hadad said.
Each year the Jewish world recognizes the month of February as Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and JNF, along with its partners in Israel, works tirelessly to assist various communities with disabilities or special needs throughout the country to integrate into their surroundings and society, and to enjoy a better quality of life.
Employees coping with physical and mental disabilities can be found in many different roles at the factory, from preparing vegetables to labelling to weighing and packaging. Those employees tend to be more precise with their measurements and preparations, and their attention to detail is invaluable to the entire production process. “Some of our employees actually keep many of the other workers in line and hold them to high standards,” Hagag said.
One such worker, a 63-year-old pensioner with a mental disability who has been with the company from the beginning, hasn’t allowed her situation to prevent her from excelling with and improving the company. “She started out in the labelling department,” Hagag said, “and I saw that she was the best product inspector that we had, even better than the managers! This gave her a boost of self-confidence, and now she’s an integral part of my team.”
Nany Sauce’s mission is a noble one. While producing delicious, kosher, and vegan-friendly spreads, like roasted red pepper cream, artichoke and black truffle spread, or creamed mustard with preserved lemons, the company also sees the value in looking beyond a résumé.
“I don’t look at an individual’s problem or disability,” Hagag said, “I try to find a solution.” And his solution has been to give a wide variety of people, regardless of their mental or physical abilities, a chance to work, earn a living, and to become an equal and productive member of society.
“At Nany Sauce, our employees realize that the door is always open and never locked, and if you desire to grow, there’s no glass ceiling to hold you back,” Hagag summarized. This drive to be socially aware and business-savvy is surely a recipe for success.