FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A lack of funding has forced a Fayetteville nonprofit to close for good.

The founder and CEO of Rockin’ Baker is Daymara Baker. She’s been forced to turn off the nonprofit bakery’s lights and put out a “closed” sign after struggling to raise enough funds to stay afloat.

Rockin’ Baker was an artisan bread shop known for creating a safe space for neurodivergent people to learn the skills to hold a job and transform their life. Baker said her workers, or “cadets”, would come in unsure of what they were capable of on their own, and would leave the job training program with the money and confidence to buy houses or find employment outside of the bakery.

Though, Baker said many of her cadets would still face stereotypes and stigmas from local hiring managers.

During Rockin’ Baker’s six years, she trained more than 50 people. Yet when applying for funding, Baker said foundations and businesses were looking to send their money to nonprofits with larger scale impact.

“So for any social enterprise like Rockin’ Baker, there’s going to be a need for greater community and corporate support to make it work,” said Baker. “Especially understanding that this is a situation that these cadets cannot move out of. So until we change the pattern here of employers hiring them, the social enterprise is going to be facing all the expenses and all the challenges trying to keep them employed.”

Baker said she’d like to see local organizations start expanding their definitions of diversity equity and inclusion to include neurodivergent individuals when funding programs and hiring. Otherwise, Baker said companies are missing out on a large pool of workers, who she said are loyal and hardworking.

Now that Rockin’ Baker is closed, its cadets are unemployed. She said Rockin’ Baker proves people with developmental or learning disorders are capable of excellence. Baker said oftentimes doctors and those close to a neurodivergent person focus on what they can’t do, and the bakery operated by focusing on what they can do.

“Closing the business was the hardest decision for me, because I knew the challenges that they were going to face,” said Baker. “The best thing that a community can do is help get them trained in their jobs, that do not pay below the minimum wage. They deserve to be paid like anyone else.”

Baker wants to see hiring practices change. She said neurodivergent people may not make eye contact during interviews or may not be able to drive themselves to work, but with the proper training, they are hardworking and get tasks done.

Now, they just need to find a place of work that’s going to help them.

Baker shared she’s now in debt after supporting Rockin’ Baker, and needs to sell all of the bread-making equipment. Ideally though, she’d like to sell the entire bakery to someone who will keep the nonprofit’s dream alive.