Tom Gustafson - Sephora

Tom Gustafson, Sephora Vice President of Human Resources, announced at an event on Oct. 22 the company earlier in October had reached the 100 employee with disabilities level it set for its initial two-year period at its Olive Branch distribution center. Sephora reached that level in just over one year.  

When Sephora, a multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores based in Paris, France, started a distribution center in Olive Branch, one of the company goals was to hire 100 employees with disabilities within a two-year period.

Sephora officials held an event the morning of Oct. 22 at the center, located at 8500 Nail Road, with its employees and invited officials and announced it had reached the 100-employee goal within one year, not two.

It is part of a partnership the company has had with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, said MDRS Executive Director Chris Howard.

“We are so excited about this partnership with Sephora," Howard said. "It’s a great company that wants to change lives every day."

Discussions concerning the private/public partnership began in 2016 as Sephora was building its Olive Branch facility and culminated in 2017 with the first training class.

“Two years ago we set about a goal of hiring 100 individuals with disabilities in this facility, or about 30 percent of the total workforce,” said Tom Gustafson, Sephora Vice President of Human Resources. “We learned that the secret weapon was to work with community advocacy groups and in this case it was the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.”

Featuring nearly 300 brands, along with its own private label, Sephora offers beauty products, including cosmetics, skincare, body, fragrance, nail color, beauty tools, and haircare.

“At Sephora, we believe that belonging is now more important than ever and as an industry-leading retailer, we can now shape the expectations of what recruiting, hiring, and training can look like for everybody, and we want to set the example for them,” Gustafson said.

This will not be the end of the effort for Sephora to hire more people of disabilities. Company officials announced during the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors meeting in Hernando on Oct. 21 that they now plan to have one-third of its Olive Branch workforce to be employees that are disabled.

That information was provided as Sephora sought, and was given approval for by the board, a tax exemption of more that $20.2 million over 10 years through the end of 2029.

“We serve 16,000 Mississippians in our vocational training program who are coming to our offices and saying, ‘I have a disability and it’s an impairment to obtaining full-time employment. Can you help me?’” Howard said. “We walk, step-by-step, with those people to help them reach their goal. To find an organization like Sephora who will create so many opportunities to the people we serve, it has truly been an awesome task.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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