12 Great Companies Started By People With Autism or Down Syndrome

We at John's Crazy Socks love showing what is possible when you give someone with a differing ability a chance.  Every day, we show what's possible when you give a person with a differing ability a chance. Over half our employees have a differing ability. But we wanted to create a list of some of our friends who are entrepreneurs with Autism and Down Syndrome. We wanted to share and spread the words on how amazing these companies are!

1.Jordyn's Summer Shirt Project

Jordyn has autism.  Like many parents of children with disabilities, we (her parents - Ben and Jackie) worried about what would happen when she aged out school.  The opportunities for adults with disabilities are limited.  In 2018 we shifted our focus from what was not available to the idea of creating something for her.  In June of 2018 Jordyn's Summer Shirt Project was created in our basement.  We designed a shirt with the simple but powerful words, Be Kind to Everyone.  Our goal was to sell 40 shirts to family and friends that summer with the purpose of teaching Jordyn job skills.  Fast forward to today and Jordyn now independently rolls shirts, adds wristbands and signs/stamps thank you cards.

Fun Fact: You may even see John wearing his favorite shirts we got from his friend Jordyn 

 

 2. POPCORN WITH A PURPOSE POPCORN FOR THE PEOPLE

is a nonprofit established to create meaningful employment for individuals with Autism and disabilities. We aim to combat the current 80% Unemployment Rate in the Autistic community with the training and hiring of adults with Autism to create, cook, package, and sell uniquely flavored gourmet popcorn.

 

 3. Rising Tide

The vision for Rising Tide Car Wash was inspired by Founder and CEO John D'Eri watching his son Andrew struggle to find his place in the world. As most families affected by autism often lose sleep over, John spent countless hours thinking about what Andrew would do when he was no longer there to support him. As Andrew grew up John started to see that although he was becoming a very capable young man, but there were virtually no opportunities for him after he aged out of the school system. Then in 2011, when Andrew was 21, John came up with the novel idea of buying a car wash to employ Andrew and others like him.

4. Independent Grounds Cafe

 Coffee Shop and a Community With Heart After being inspired by a growing spotlight on employers championing the abilities of adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), Lorna Heid decided to do the same in the Kennesaw community. 

More than 75 percent of adults with IDD are unemployed. Many find themselves unable to fully showcase their abilities. For inspiration, Heid, had to look no further than her own daughter, Emma, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after contacting meningitis at birth. 

"As a parent you spend years dreaming about what your child can accomplish, but as a parent of a special needs child you often find yourself having to temper those dreams," Heid said. "I didn't want to keep doing that with Emma. I realized one way I can open doors for her is to show the community what she and all her peers can truly accomplish." 

With a passion for her daughter, for coffee and the community, Independent Grounds Cafe was formed. 

"Our goal is to put a smile on your face and give you an amazing cup of coffee," Heid said. "We want you to feel at home here, to get to know our team and maybe inspire you to think differently about the world of special needs."

As advocates for the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Wrights have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place for their children and others living with disabilities. A Fresh Idea Amy & Ben Wright are the proud parents of four children — Lillie, Emma Grace, Beau and Bitty. Lillie was born with autism, and Bitty & Beau were born with Down syndrome. With over 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unemployed nationwide, the Wrights believe that Bitty & Beau’s Coffee creates a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted and included in every community. The original shop opened January 2016 in Wilmington, NC, and employed 19 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
6. Duke's Delites

Duke's Delites is a Lehigh Valley, PA healthy dog treats company that employs young adults with

Autism & other Developmental Disabilities. Your donation/purchase helps employ young adults with different abilities. Your dog will love you for them! 

7.Reason To Bake Cookies

Cookies With Heart Reason to Bake is an artisan small-batch bakery in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, specializing in gluten-free, all-natural cookies that are freshly made from scratch and available to ship around the country. Our mission is to provide delicious baked goods for a gluten-free lifestyle, while growing a successful company that hires and trains intellectually disabled adults. We create an environment in which there are no limits to what anyone can learn and accomplish. Our WNC bakery is rising among the best brands of gluten-free cookies. A Gluten-Free Cookie Company On A Mission Reason to Bake launched with two goals in mind: First, we are committed to training and hiring intellectually disabled adults as part of our growing company. We believe everyone deserves an opportunity to become the best version of themselves that they can…creating a safe environment where there are no limits to what they can learn and accomplish. We want to be that company that says “Yes, you can!” Second, we knew the value of a gluten-free lifestyle but couldn’t find anything on the shelves to meet our standards. We wanted cookies that EVERYONE would love to eat. So we decided we would just have to create our own. Our Spicy Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Oatmeal cookies meet the highest standards and we know you won’t be disappointed. Made in Transylvania County, North Carolina, Reason to Bake is a company that believes we are all called to make a difference. There is no better place to start than in our local community. When each of us brings our best to the table, we all benefit. Cookies With Heart Reason to Bake is an artisan small-batch bakery in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, specializing in gluten-free, all-natural cookies that are freshly made from scratch and available to ship around the country. Our mission is to provide delicious baked goods for a gluten-free lifestyle, while growing a successful company that hires and trains intellectually disabled adults. We create an environment in which there are no limits to what anyone can learn and accomplish. Our WNC bakery is rising among the best brands of gluten-free cookies. A Gluten-Free Cookie Company On A Mission Reason to Bake launched with two goals in mind: First, we are committed to training and hiring intellectually disabled adults as part of our growing company. We believe everyone deserves an opportunity to become the best version of themselves that they can…creating a safe environment where there are no limits to what they can learn and accomplish. We want to be that company that says “Yes, you can!” Second, we knew the value of a gluten-free lifestyle but couldn’t find anything on the shelves to meet our standards. 

 

8.Troy Made It

Troy is a potter who was born with Down syndrome. Each piece is handmade by Troy sometimes with the help of his mom. 100% of the proceeds are donated.

 

9.Oliver Hellowellis a 25 year old landscape and wildlife photographer  – and it just so happens that Oliver has Down Syndrome. 

You can 'meet' Oliver and his mother here in a short film produced for Down Syndrome Awareness Day 2018  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lye99vCtKq0&app=desktop

Oliver’s love of all kinds of wildlife and the great outdoors was nourished by his mother and family whilst his skills as a photographer were born out of his initial desire to take pictures like his stepfather Mike O’Carroll. His ‘eye’ for a picture however is an innate ability clearly all his own. He started at around 11 yrs of age and after trying various models he adopted Mike’s Canon 5D and used it until the income generated by his November 2014 exhibition enabled the purchase of a Canon 5D Mk 111. Many of Oliver’s images have been captured using his original two lenses, a Canon 28-80 and a Sigma 135-400 however since 2015 he has been using a Canon 100-400 and a Canon 17-40. 

When environments or individuals have failed Oliver we have surrounded him with belief, encouragement and optimism. Patience, guidance and targeted tuition enabled Oliver to utilise the world of photography as both a tool for him to record the world in the way he sees it and as something which brings him a great sense of achievement, pride and self esteem. Oliver has a facebook following of over 60,000 spread right across the globe. Many are parents of a child with Down Syndrome who are encouraged and inspired by his achievements and ability. Many are photographers, intrigued by Oliver’s view and ‘eye’, and many thousands just really genuinely enjoy Oliver’s pictures.

 

10.Da Bomb 

 Morgan is a 22 year old with down syndrome but that hasn't stopped her from achieving her dreams. Her next dream is to open a store front and hire some of her friends with special needs and pay them minimum wage.

11.Christian Royal is a young man with Down syndrome who struggles with single words and has yet to grasp basic addition or time.  However, since his teen years, Christian has shown an interest in, and aptitude for, working with clay. Christian was unable to “do” school as other students did and began making pottery as part of his homeschooling program.  Since his first lesson with Kris Neal of Fire And Earth Pottery, pottery has increasingly become the  focus of his life.  Over the years, through many providential happenings, kind-hearted people have offered their expertise and help at just the right time for each step of what is now Christian Royal Pottery. Foremost are John and Jan Myers, professional potters, who inexplicably offered to teach Christian the methods and techniques they had developed over thirty years. They made this offer the first time we ever met them. A week later we had unpacked our bags in their home and were sitting in their studio as John began to instruct Christian.  John and Jan's teaching of Christian enabled him to produce a style of pottery that captures simplicity and charm in its essence.

 

12. Megan Bomgaarsis a well known self-advocate with Down Syndrome, an artist and a rising entrepreneur. Loving to share her life experiences with others, she has developed her skills as a public speaker and travels across the country giving keynote speeches and presentations on a variety of topics.

Recently, Megan wrote about her life experiences and her beliefs about being fully included in her community while overcoming limitations. Working with her teachers at school she composed a popular video called, “Don’t Limit Me”. Megan truly lives by her motto and she is an inspiration to her wide circle of friends and family.

Megan has taken a lifetime of creative experiences and turned them into a full-time passion. Whether it is painting, journaling, singing or working with color, she has done it all with her own unmistakable style! As a surface design artist she creates original, one-of-a-kind textiles and fabrics by incorporating unusual techniques such as dyeing with ice, manipulating fiber reactive dyes and the use of colorants. Megan is an ardent observer of her surroundings and is always ready for the unexpected color or element to catch her eye and influence her next project…

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12 Great Companies Started By People With Autism or Down Syndrome