With V15Able, Letisha Wexstten wants to help disabled people get jobs
Letisha Wexstten is known for showing people what she can do — not what she can’t. Born without arms, Wexstten founded Tisha UnArmed, a YouTube channel on which she demonstrates baking a cake, driving a car and much more. The channel has earned more than 28 million views.
It also led to the startup she founded three years ago. V15Able is an online career development platform for people with disabilities and employers who wish to hire capable candidates who happen to have a disability.
Wexstten started her YouTube channel after being frustrated by traditional job interviews.
“I could see in the eyes of the employers that they just didn't believe me that I was capable, or they were thinking, 'How much is this going to cost me to hire this person,’ that [I] might need special equipment,” Wexstten said.
The channel was Wexstten’s way of debunking prospective employers’ assumptions — and tackling their questions directly. V15Able aims to provide a similar function for other people with disabilities, ones who may not desire YouTube stardom.
V15Able is similar to LinkedIn, only it’s also designed to address questions employers might have about someone’s disability. Federal law doesn’t allow employers to ask about disability, and Wexstten said that makes many employers skittish about asking even the basic questions a job candidate might want to address.
“When we disclose that we have a disability, when we disclose that information upfront, an employer can look at my profile on V15Able and see all the information right there,” Wexstten explained on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And if they have any other questions, they feel comfortable asking.”
V15Able is seeking to tackle a big problem. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is currently about double the rate of people without them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The ‘15’ in the platform’s name references the percentage of the global population with disabilities.
“We want to represent them to make them more visible to employers because they are able and capable of doing anything that anyone else is able to do,” Wexstten explained.
Wexstten founded V15Able while finishing her BFA in graphic design at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She won first place in the university’s first-ever Entrepreneurial Quest Accelerator and later scored a $50,000 Arch Grant. Most recently, she was accepted into the Pipeline Pathfinder program, an elite network for underserved entrepreneurs.
Wexstten’s main goal right now is getting people with disabilities to sign up for V15Able. She’s also in contact with St. Louis businesses that are eager to use its services.
By the end of the year, she hopes the business can generate revenue.
“I think that in the future, maybe 5, 10 or 15 years down the road, other companies will follow suit because they'll see the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and there's so many already,” she said.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.