A wake-up call came to Connie Minden after attending a weekend church retreat. Her daughter, Kendra, has an intellectual developmental disability (IDD) and was no longer eligible to stay in school. While she recently turned 21, compared with her peers Kendra had fewer opportunities for adulthood, and Connie knew it was time to make a change for the better of the community. Connie and Andy Minden began to create Ramble Collective in 2013 to help their daughter and her peers thrive and grow to be more independent. Shortly after their vision started, Ramble on Pearl was the first store to open in 2014.
Ramble on Pearl is a high-end boutique located in Boulder “as a platform to host an apprentice program to provide work experience, on-the-job training and job placement services to this population,” said Andy. They chose to host Ramble on Pearl as a luxury boutique because many have not recognized the population of this community in this line of work. This also allowed for more diverse working options for people who have a developmental disability.
The apprentice program has helped individuals with employment skills and eventually graduate the program to find employment elsewhere. These programs help those with IDD to become more independent and find a job in an industry they love. “Our first program graduate, Kate, has been a dedicated employee at Longmont Humane Society since 2015,” said Andy. Many other individuals have displayed longevity with their employment and have gone into industries like food service, childcare, fulfillment, business offices and more.
Having never launched their own business, Andy and Connie Minden were excited to start their new adventure with the help of the community. Connie has been in charge of buying while Andy as the CEO helps keep the business thriving. Ramble on Pearl offers many boutique brands from Toad and Co to Synergy for all genders. There are many options from casual dresses to warm winter coats for everyone to find their new favorite outfit.
By 2019, Ramble on Pearl had started to show overall company growth. Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) partnered with Ramble Collective to bring affordable housing options to those wanting to live in the Boulder area and also people with developmental disabilities.
“The partnership with BHP grew out of an awareness that as our daughter was approaching age 30 and ourselves approaching retirement, we needed to create a living circumstance for our daughter that would offer a sense of community and support that at some point we wouldn’t be able to provide ourselves,” Andy said.
From the partnership with BHP, there have been at least 20 residents with IDD that have found their community in Boulder. The BHP’s 30 Pearl Project has helped to form this community by offering affordable housing. From this, Ramble Collective launched the Ramble Community Connections Program in order to create community space and engagement within these apartments.
“Last fall, the Bluebell Players, a group of residents led by our Community Liaison, Bec Bogue, put on a self-written and self-directed play called ‘The Adventures of Sally’ to a standing room-only audience in the community space of the Bluebell building,” said Andy.
Within the same community, Ramble Marketplace was born in 2021, offering local artists a place to sell their pieces and many travelers to find genuine Boulder products. Ramble Marketplace is a gift shop offering “a broad range of merchandise from local artists, craftspeople, authors and manufacturers that represent the spirit of Boulder County,” said Andy. Local artists like Whitman Lindstrom, who creates contemporary art inspired by nature and people, can be found at Ramble Marketplace.
For the future of Ramble, Andy and Connie are hoping to continue expanding. By expanding their employment opportunities with the community and partnering with other local businesses, Ramble Collective aims to continue to build awareness around IDD.
“Founding The Ramble Collective was our way of doing what we could to break through the barriers we saw being imposed on this group of individuals,” Andy said.
All photography By Jackson Davis