New shredding business to solve employment challenge

AS A SUPERHERO FAN, Jeffery Gulbranson has acquired a red Mohawk to honor The Flash. He has recently launched his own shredding business in Madison.

Sometimes life is an adventure. At least, it can be if challenges are approached in that way. For Renae Palmlund and her son Jeffery Gulbranson, that's the only attitude to have.

"Having a disabled child, you always have different challenges to overcome," Palmlund said. Most recently, they've been seeking meaningful work for Gulbranson.

"The COVID thing has made it really challenging," he said.

Born prematurely, Gulbranson lives with cerebral palsy which has resulted in both learning disabilities and physical limitations. The 22-year-old man was involved in Project Skills, a paid work experience program for high school students with disabilities, while attending Madison High School.

Through that program, he worked at Encore, helping to clean the store and arrange merchandise; at Sunshine Foods, stocking shelves; and at The Community Center, helping with the afterschool program. Finding work since he received his diploma hasn't been easy, though.

He tried Valiant Living for a couple of years where he worked on daily living skills, but that didn't work out for him. He wasn't able to find a niche that felt comfortable, so he is now living at home in a shared living situation with Palmlund.

Gulbranson has also been working with Sherry Van Liere, a certified employment support professional with Placement Services Unlimited, to find employment.

"We couldn't come up with anything," Palmlund said.

While brainstorming ideas, they recalled work he has done in the past that he enjoyed: shredding documents. A Madison attorney paid Gulbranson to shred documents several years ago, and Cotton Koch, principal at Madison Middle School, had him shred documents while he was in school.

Gulbranson was able to integrate physical therapy exercises into the work, making it beneficial for him in addition to giving him work he enjoyed.

"It worked well for him to work on balance, too," Palmlund said.

With that in mind, they proposed an entrepreneurial approach to finding work. What if Gulbranson started his own shredding business?

"We know he can't break confidentiality because he can't read," Palmlund noted. "We know it works well with his physical therapy, so we launched the idea with Voc Rehab."

The state Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) seeks to help individuals with disabilities achieve economic self-sufficiency and personal independence, in part by helping them obtain and maintain employment. The state website indicates that as part of the state Department of Human Services, the DRS is committed to enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

Palmlund did an informal survey through Facebook and determined there was a modest need in the Madison area. They then worked with the City Planning Commission to get a conditional-use permit to operate the business out of their home.

Once they got all their ducks in a row, they launched JR Shredding, advertising on Facebook. Individuals interested in taking advantage of the service can message Gulbranson through Facebook Messenger or call the number listed on his business card: 605-530-1466.

Gulbranson is starting small -- with a bathroom scale to weigh the paper and a couple of paper shredders in an area designated as "the office" in their home.

"My husband and I purchased the shredder and his grandfather gave him a second one as a backup," Palmlund said.

She will pick up documents to be shredded for a fee of $3. The cost of shredding is 35 cents per pound. After the work is done, individuals will receive a certificate of destruction with the date and weight of the documents shredded. The certificate will be both a billing document and a receipt.

Bud's Clean Up Services will collect the shredded documents and take them to the recycling center, according to Palmlund. Gulbranson was pleased to learn that shredded documents actually have a use: they are recycled as chicken bedding.

"That's why it's important to take the staples out, so you don't kill a single chicken," he said.

JR Shredding has already had its first customer. Last week an individual dropped off documents weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces, which resulted in Gulbranson earning his first $3 as a business owner.

The company does offer an option for businesses which would rather not send documents out.

"If they're not comfortable with documents leaving their place, for that $3 fee, I can bring Jeffery and the shredder to them," Palmlund said.

Regardless of whether the documents come to Gulbranson or Gulbranson goes to the documents, he's excited to be starting his own business.

"Since I got approval to do this, this is my full-time business," he said proudly. "I'm ready to go."