The Next Movement: Special Needs Entrepreneurs Build Change-Making Businesses

Posted by Elise Sampson on 4/12/2017 to Inspiring Stories
The Next Movement: Special Needs Entrepreneurs Build Change-Making Businesses

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.

Coffee Shop Owner 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.

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.”

Down Syndrome Fashion Model Overturns 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 FacebookTwitterInstagram, and her website.

Madeline Stuart poses on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

20 Year-Old With Down Syndrome Becomes Youngest Business Owner In His Home Town

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.”

Man With Down Syndrome Operates Successful Gourmet Hot Dog 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.”

Down Syndrome Teen Launches 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.

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

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