You Can Empower Special Needs Adults to Live Their Dreams!!

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Pledge Here Today!!

Carolyn Sampson co-founded Reason to Bake Baking Company with her mother Elise Sampson in the pursuit of her dream of becoming a baker. Carolyn has Down Sydrome but was always encouraged by her parents to pursue her dreams. “We believe everyone has unlimited potential and deserves the opportunity to become all that is in their hearts.” says her mother, Elise Sampson.

Carolyn’s parents realized that there were many young people, who just like Carolyn needed not only an opportunity to learn a skill but also to be encouraged that their dreams were important and not out of reach! Everyone has a need to feel significant in what they do with their lives. Reason to Bake seeks to offer that in our business.

We are in the final week of our Kickstarter to pay for new shipping friendly packaging that would give us the capability to expand to a regional market. This in turn makes it possible to hire and train more young people with special needs as part of our workforce.

We need your help in reaching our goal! By pledging today, you can make a difference in someone’s life with special needs. Go to our Kickstarter page and please pledge generously.

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Thank you!
Carolyn and Elise

It’s A Movement–Special Needs Entrepreneurs Are Starting Something!

In our first post, we told our story about how we started Reason to Bake.  In our most recent post, we encouraged our readers to dream big and to take that first step to provide employment opportunities for a special needs adult through entrepreneurial effort.

This is the third of our five-post series on creating employment opportunities for your special needs child. In this post, I am so excited to introduce you to some of my newest heroes.

“Hey!  I’m here, too. Don’t count me out!”

All across this world, people with intellectual disabilities are standing up and demanding to be counted in.  Not in an aggressive way but by saying “Hey!  I’m here, too. Don’t count me out!”  I know these young people will inspire you.  They are courageous and gifted.  They are impacting their communities for good.

Teen with autism Runs shaved ice business

Justin Rig French, a high school senior from Portland, Texas, is the owner of Mr. Rigaroo’s Shaved Ice, a family owned business selling homemade shaved ice from a trailer. Justin was diagnosed with autism and struggles academically, but he has been extremely successful in running this shaved ice business. He is very sociable and greets every one of his customers with a smile.

Justin Rig French poses with a smile in front of his shaved ice trailer.

Justin Rig French poses with a smile in front of his shaved ice trailer.

 

 

Coffee shop offers employment opportunities for intellectually disabled people

Beau’s Coffee, a local coffee shop in Wilmington, North Carolina, was started with the goal of giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity for meaningful employment. The shop is run by eighteen employees with intellectual disabilities, including autism and Down syndrome.  Amy Wright, who started Beau’s Coffee, has two children with Down syndrome, a son and a daughter. The shop is named after her son, Beau.

Beau's Coffee is run by employees with intellectual disabilities.

Beau’s Coffee is run by employees with intellectual disabilities.

10 year old autistic boy starts business selling “conversation starters”

10-year-old Michael Williams of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, was born with autism and has a speech disability. However, he has used his disability to start his own small business with the help of the Young Millionaires Program, a summer program that teaches youth about starting businesses. He sells “conversation starters,” slips of paper with fun talking points written on them, contained in mason jars. Business is booming, and Michael donates one dollar of each jar sold to the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island.

A jar of Michael Williams' "conversation starters."

A jar of Michael Williams’ “conversation starters.”

 

Down Syndrome Model Overturns fashion stereotypes

Madeline Stuart, a model from Australia who has Down syndrome, is breaking the stereotypes for fashion models. She has starred in a wedding photo shoot for a wedding venue called Rixey Manor. She has also walked the catwalk at the New York Fashion show and is the face of the fashion magazine GlossiGirl. Stuart hopes that her modeling will change the way people view disabilities like Down Syndrome. You can follow Madeline on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her website.

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Madeline Stuart poses on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

20 year old with down syndrome becomes youngest business owner in his hometown.

20-year-old Blake Pyron of Sanger, Texas, is the proud owner of Blake’s Snow Shack, a trailer from which Blake sells snow cones of many unique flavors. Blake worked at a barbecue restaurant all through high school, but when it closed after he graduated, Blake decided to start his own business. Its grand opening was May 7th, 2016.  Blake’s joyful attitude and welcoming personality have been key contributors to the success of Blake’s Snow Shack.

Blake Pyron poses proudly in front of his "Snow Shack."

Blake Pyron poses proudly in front of his “Snow Shack.”

Man with Down Syndrome sells Hot Dogs with Gourmet toppings from food truck

Austin Underwood, of Fort Worth, Texas, has started and now runs a food truck serving hot dogs. The name of his business is “Austin’s Underdawgs” and it serves many unique and innovative flavors of hot dogs. Underwood learned to be a chef at a vocational college in New Mexico, and then learned his specialty in hot dogs. Money from the food truck will go to support the founding of a similar vocational school in Underwood’s hometown.

Austin Underwood, the owner of "Austin's Underdawgs."

Austin Underwood, the owner of “Austin’s Underdawgs.”

 

Down Syndrome teen starts sewing business

Jasmine Prince, of Encinitas, California, has started a sewing business with the help of her mom. After coming along with her mother to sewing classes, Jasmine displayed a talent for sewing, and soon turned this talent into a business.  She looks up to other entrepreneurs with disabilities, including Madeline Stuart, the Down Syndrome model, and Tim Harris, the owner of Tim’s Place restaurant in Texas.  Jasmine aspires to be the first Disney Channel star with Down Syndrome.

Jasmine Prince is all smiles running her sewing business Jasmine's Bunting Co.

Jasmine Prince is all smiles running her sewing business, Jasmine’s Bunting Co.

I hope their courage and hard work inspires you and your child to stand up and be counted, too. In our next blog post, we will discuss the importance of giving your special needs child the dignity of work and how they benefit from serving others through their work.

We would love to hear from you!  Do you have a family business that involves your child?  Are you considering starting one?  Does your child have a special interest or talent that could become an employment opportunity?  Let us hear from you in the comments here or at our Facebook page or on Twitter.  Please consider sharing or re-tweeting this using the social media buttons below.  Be sure to sign up for our email list so we can keep you informed of new posts and our upcoming crowdfunding campaign!

Take That First Step!

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Foundational Truths

In our last post, we discussed how Carolyn’s dream was born, and how this led to our starting Reason to Bake, a gluten free cookie company.

Today’s post is the second part of our five-part series, entitled “Giving Wings to Dreams–Creating Career Opportunities for Your Special Needs Child”.   In this post, I will talk about foundational truths from which we operate our business.

What we decide to believe about ourselves and the world around us will determine how far we go and what we accomplish.

1. The Sky is NOT the Limit! Don’t put your dream in a box. Carolyn dreamed for years of being a dancer and in her mind that meant being a ballerina.  But she is not built for ballet so that was more wishful thinking rather than a pursuable dream.

Rather be open to new expressions of the same dream.  We found for Carolyn that she has a natural gift for dancing with flags in worship.  She loves what she is doing and it brings satisfaction to her soul.  We don’t always see clearly in the beginning what a dream will look like but as we walk it out more things become clear.

2. Own the Dream Your dream needs a voice and that voice is yours-your child’s and yours. No one is going to carry the vision like you do.  Others will come along side to help and give wisdom but you maintain ownership of your dream.  So don’t ever apologize or minimize what you carry in your heart for you and your child.  Stay true.  SPEAK UP!  Write it down!

3. Change “Can’t” to “Can” Change your vocabulary. Work from the idea of what could be possible rather than what could go wrong.  Make” YES” your first response rather than “No, I can’t”.  There is a solution to every problem.

“Work from the idea of what could be possible rather than what could go wrong.”

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Hard Work Embrace the process. Hard work, excellence and diligence are not things to avoid.  Rather they are character traits to be learned.

We do a great disservice to our children if we look to make life easy for them.  Of course, we don’t want to discourage them by demanding things beyond their abilities. But learning to not fear taking on a challenge and risking failure is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

Carolyn really learned the value of hard work and perseverance through participating in the 2014 Special Olympics National Games, where she went on to win gold medals in the 400-meter and 1500-meter racewalks. She also won a silver medal in the 800-meter racewalk.

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Carolyn going for the gold at the 2014 USA Games.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help Help is always available-even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. All around you are people who have the answers to your questions. They want to help you!  They want to see you succeed.

Community colleges and national organizations like SCORE, a free small business mentoring organization, have wonderful resources all designed to help you build your business.  Also, there are many wonderful books out there to help you go after your dream.  Dream Culture by Andy Mason and Vision Map by Joel Malm are two of my favorites.

If you know someone already succeeding in the field you are interested in, ask them for an interview.  Ask lots of questions!!  People LOVE to share what they have learned along the way.

6. God is Interested in Your Business  If I told you that you can have immediate access to the most creative innovative help on the planet, would that give you courage to step out?  It did for us.  Our business runs on the premise that the God of the universe wants to do business with us.  He wants to work WITH us.

That one amazing truth has under-girded all our decisions these past 3 years of business.  It is an amazing thing to realize that all the resources of heaven are available to you for pursuing your dream.

 

List your dreams now!

Every journey starts with that first step.   Start the discussion with your child.  Make it a fun time coming up with all the dreams you can think of.  Give your child opportunity to try lots of new experiences. Let me challenge you to sit down tonight and start your dream list with your child.  Andy Mason talks about making a list of 100 dreams.  That is a great place to start.  I would love to hear your ideas so please let us hear from you.

“Others are watching and you give them courage when you step out.  They won’t remember your mistakes as much as they will remember your courage.”

No one is an island to themselves and we operate best when in community.  Others are watching and you give them courage when you step out.  They won’t remember your mistakes as much as they will remember your courage.

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Carolyn is all smiles after winning her first-place medal at the 2014 USA Games.

We want to hear from you.  What are you finding works for you?  How can we encourage you?

More important than what they do in life are the people our children become!  That is our ultimate goal.  Be blessed today.

How a Gluten Free Cookie Startup Gave Wings to My Daughter’s Dream

Carolyn holding butterfly

Why We Have a Reason to Bake

When you meet Carolyn Sampson, the first thing she will tell you about herself is “I am a baker.” What makes this statement remarkable is that Carolyn was born with Down Syndrome. 

When you meet Carolyn Sampson, the first thing she will tell you about herself is “I am a baker.”
Today, Carolyn is not only a baker, but she is the face of Reason to Bake, a gluten-free artisanal baking company located in the mountains of North Carolina.

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I’m Elise Sampson, Carolyn’s mother, and we are starting this blog to tell our story in hopes that it will encourage other families with special needs young adults to look beyond limitations and go for their dreams.

How It All Started

As Carolyn was turning 18, we began looking for employment opportunities for her in our county.  She was able to participate in some job training at our local vocational services, and while there, she began working with a job coach.

Right from the start, Carolyn would announce that she wanted to be a baker.  I must admit I did not give her announcement much attention.  But her job coach did listen and began to look for opportunities that would be a good fit for Carolyn.  We couldn’t seem to find the right one.

I Had a Dream…Or Two

It really wasn’t on my radar that the answer to our dilemma was to start our own baking business.  But Carolyn had a dream in her heart, and God began to speak to me (through a series of nighttime dreams), that He was the One who had given this dream to her.  I knew I needed to pay attention.

First Doubts..and First Steps

You won’t be surprised that my ideas of fulfilling Carolyn’s dream were pretty small.  I was very comfortable with baking cupcakes and muffins in our kitchen in my spare time and selling them around town.  That sounded possible to me, and I was okay with that.  However, God doesn’t think in terms of what we think is possible.

He soon made it clear that there were many young people just like Carolyn who needed and wanted an opportunity to make something of their lives.  We made a decision to pursue God’s version of her dream rather than mine.  Reason to Bake was born.

Part of a Bigger Picture

Just like each of us, our children need the opportunity to run after dreams that are BIG!  As parents, we take time to encourage, dream with them, and help them visualize and consider the possibilities. Don’t put a ceiling on what they should pursue.  They will always surprise you with what they can accomplish when given an opportunity  Failure is not in our mistakes but in our never trying.

“Failure is not in our mistakes but in our never trying.”

Like each of us, our children have limitations, BUT like each of us they also have talents, gifts and longings that need to come out.  They deserve the chance to be defined by what they can do rather than what they cannot!  They were all born to be amazing.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Today I am definitely operating out of my comfort zone, but truthfully, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am watching my daughter grow in confidence and grace.  She is learning to tackle new skills, understand the value of hard work, and the importance of excellence in all she does.  I love the joy on her face when she tells people how much she loves being a baker.

A Word to Parents…

Don’t worry, parents, about what you don’t know.  We knew nothing about starting a business.  Just step out and look for those who can help you learn along the way. Many people have come forward to help us and we couldn’t have come this far without them.  Special thanks to Clemson University for believing in our dream and redesigning our packaging for a larger market. We also had an amazing summer intern from Clemson, Matthew, who is designing our crowdfunding campaign due to start in September.

Carolyn measuring flour for a batch of cookies.

Where are we now?

Currently, we have moved into a commercial kitchen two days a week.  Our niece, Johannah, joined our team and has been an amazing addition to our business. Now we are in 13 retail locations across Western North Carolina selling what are, in our humble opinion, the best tasting gluten free cookies on the market. We still have much to learn.

Carolyn & Johannah

Johannah (left), and Carolyn at work in the kitchen.

Our Hope for You

Our hope with this blog is that we will encourage you and your child to step out from under the “false ceiling” that keeps you from dreaming beyond what you see today.  Your child is capable of so much more and, frankly, so are you.  Your journey will not only change your future, but will bring hope to others around you that want to believe they are capable of greater things, too.  Funny how it works that way!

A Little More About Our Blog…

This is the first in a five-post series entitled “Giving Wings to Dreams:  Creating Career Opportunities for Your Special Needs Child”.   In this series, we will discuss the process we went through to move from wishful thinking to a vision of what could be, and then beyond to making the dream a reality.  We will tell you about others who have also embarked on a similar journey and give you concrete steps for beginning your own journey.  Please subscribe to our blog to be informed as this series is posted.  Let us hear from you! We know you have much to share too!