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The Benefits of Unconventional Hiring Practices Why Aaron Muderick believes hiring more than 500 special needs employees is good for business.

By John Patrick Pullen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

At Crazy Aaron's Puttyworld, make no mistake: Mike Crawford is the boss. With Down syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, he's a perfect fit for a position in quality control. "He tells everyone what to do," says company owner Aaron Muderick. "If a sticker is not straight or that cover is not on tight, he's going to pull it off the line and let you know."

While Crawford's challenges may set him apart in daily life, he is hardly alone at Crazy Aaron's. The Narberth, Penn.-based maker of Thinking Putty, a stress-relieving toy marketed to office workers, employs more than 500 mentally and physically challenged people across six Philadelphia-area vocational centers.

Muderick first got the idea to hire what he terms "differently abled" workers in high school while on a summer job in a pet-tag factory, where he noticed two kinds of people: able-bodied workers who spent their lunch hour looking for new gigs, and mentally challenged staffers who enjoyed their work. "The special-needs individuals were the ones that showed up on Monday morning with a smile," he says.

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