Stay Quirky, my friends, and support these businesses that provide employment opportunities and vocational training for autistic individuals! Buy their products and use their organizations as models for your own. Click on the business name or logo to visit their websites.
Check back here often – More to come soon!
Click here to read about the UN’s “Call to Action” to business leaders to facilitate broader access to employment for persons with autism.
Edmonton area residents and businesses can hire Anthony for errands, pick up and delivery of just about anything. With his assistant Mike, Anthony is making a business for himself that keeps him directly involved with his community and offers a valuable service. This is a favorite of mine, because Anthony reminds me a lot of my kid! Anthony at Your Service also offers some great insights into how to support the entrepreneurship of the autistic person in your life – click HERE.
Offering training and employment for individuals with autism at a café inside Mercedes-Benz of Tampa in Florida, Artistas is in the process of launching an expansion of their program at their new Artistas Development Center. Great things to come!
An outreach program of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), Beneficial Beans Café offers on-the-job training and mentoring in customer service and barista skills at two locations in the Phoenix, Arizona area. In addition, autistic interns at the Beneficial Beans Urban Garden gain skills in gardening while providing Beneficial Beans Café with fresh herbs and vegetables. You can also purchase produce through their Community Supported Agriculture program here.
Provides residential, vocational, recreational and other services on a beautiful 80-acre farm in Whitehouse, Ohio. Vocational opportunities include horticulture, animal care, creative arts, culinary, recycling, wood working and grounds keeping. They sell their pesto and creative arts products at their Etsy store.
With locations in Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado, Blue Star Recyclers employs people with autism and other disabilities, while providing an environmental benefit to the community recycling used electronics, batteries and other materials. A win-win!
Crafters for Life began as a high school speech and skills training lesson, and has blossomed into a post-graduation employer where young adults on the spectrum can create, package and sell a variety of hand-crafted products. Located in Bucks County, Pennslyvania.
A wonderful family-owned business located in Florida, their autistic employees create gorgeous chocolates in various assortments. “Creating Sweet Opportunities for Those with Autism,” The Chocolate Spectrum runs a Chocolatier training program and a portion of their profits are donated to various autism charities.
The Dirt coffee truck serves tasty coffee and espresso to the Denver, Colorado area with a non-profit mission to train, employ and empower young adults with ASD. Check out their online shop too.
Located in Chapel Hill, NC, Extraordinary Ventures (EV) develops and supports a range of small businesses that thrive on an autistic workforce. From handmade candles (buy online here), and laundry and office services, to bus cleaning and maintenance, these are real jobs with real wages.
EV is hoping to expand its model, working with partners across the country to explore ways that individual cities and towns can match the service needs of their communities with the skills of their autistic residents. A win-win!
Girl AGain is a fabulous resale boutique that matches its autistic employees’ expertise in the American Girl® product with a similarly passionate customer base. Located in White Plains, NY, this store offers gently used American Girl® dolls and accessories while providing its employees with training in retail, merchandising, and customer service.
Girl AGain is the first venture of Yes She Can, Inc., an organization which aims to support gainful employment and entrepreneurship for women on the spectrum. Go girls!!
The top priority for Itineris is meaningful employment for autistic adults. They provide job training and placement services, in addition to a day program. They match local employers with trained candidates for paid or voluntary positions, and work with their clients to help them build skills to find or create their ideal job.
A unique bakery and café in Miami Beach, FL, Lee & Marie’s provides employment for autistic adults, in collaboration with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University.
“Harvesting Hope for Adults with Autism” – The Lettuce Work Foundation runs a commercial greenhouse in New Albany, Ohio, offering job training and employment opportunities for autistic young adults. Check them out for “fresh produce that’s locally grown, pesticide free, and supporting adults with autism.”
Brad, a young adult with autism, assembles furniture and other projects for people in the community of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Talk about doing what you love to make a living! A great business idea! Check out the video of Brad on his website, it’s awesome.
Grilled salsa made by Stephanie Lay and her son Bryce, available at Hannaford stores in Maine, with hopes to expand. A portion of proceeds go Lay’s SPECIAL Foundation for Autism.
nonPareil = “a person or thing so special, as to have no equal or match.” This new non-profit tech company in Plano, Texas, seems to be just that for young autistic adults with a knack for computers. nonPareil aims to provide technical training, employment and eventually housing, using a campus model. Their website showcases the cool apps, games, sites and projects their Crew have created. This looks like a unique and amazing venture!
A family-run business providing gainful employment for young adults with autism and related disabilities, Our Coffee with a Cause sells coffee and accessories through its online store. A portion of the proceeds go to autism charities, including Our Own Place, which aims to support single parents raising special needs children.
Another great family business idea, this one in Kansas. Popping Joe’s gourmet popcorn is made fresh when you order it and the company is owned by Joe Steffy, a young adult with DS-ASD. Looks like a tasty way to make a living!
This brand new restaurant, located in Schenectady, New York, provides an integrated workplace, job opportunities in food handling and customer service, and a really tasty-looking menu. Puzzles Bakery & Café has a vision of expanding to other locations and serving as a model for similar ventures nationwide.
Dedicated to providing a successful workplace for autistic individuals, Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida is a full-service car wash that is enthusiastic about harnessing the unique skills of its employees, and hopes to serve as a model for other autistic-focused businesses. Rising Tide is the first venture developed by CanDo Business Ventures, which aims to create, support, and launch companies that are specifically designed to provide gainful employment to adults with autism.
Located at Pinchbeck Rose Farm in Guilford, Connecticut, Roses for Autism employs autistic individuals in its inclusive workforce to grow, cut and package flowers for sale. Proceeds from their sales support their career training programs for adults and teens.
SEEDS [Success through Education, Exploration and Development] provides mentoring opportunities with professional artists, teaching artisan craftsmanship in woodworking, metal work, jewelry, ceramics, and sewing, as well as other vocational and entrepreneurial skills. Based in the Phoenix area, their online shop offers beautiful hand-crafted merchandise created by their clients.
Founded by autistic entrepreneur Matt Resnik, SMILE Biscotti (Supporting Matt’s Independent Living Enterprise) is a bakery that offers delicious biscotti at several stores in the Phoenix, AZ area as well as through their online store.
A family business with plans to expand their model, Special Needs Cleaning aims to train adults in housecleaning and offers their “green clean” services to families in Fountain Hills, Arizona, and surrounding communities.
With 75% of their employees on the autism spectrum, Spectrum Designs Foundation is well on its way to becoming a leader in job training and employment for teens and young adults. An employment initiative of the Nicholas Center for Autism in Port Washington, New York, SDF creates customized apparel and other products in what looks like an extremely fun and rewarding atmosphere.
Seventeen-year-old Tuck is learning to operate a “Proautism microbusiness” selling cool Himalayan winter hats [and supporting the livelihood of Nepali artisans] while advocating for autistic self-employment, community involvement, and so much more. I couldn’t love this company more! Tuck’s Tooques (based in Michigan) can be purchased from their online store and at a growing number of outdoor retail stores. Tuck’s journey toward sustainable employment (with his dad) is very inspiring – check them out!
AND, THERE’S MORE….
There are so many businesses to list, it’s quite inspiring. Here are some others providing meaningful employment, internships, and/or vocational training for individuals with disabilities, including autistic employees:
- Arthur and Friends (New Jersey, agribusiness)
- Aspire CoffeeWorks (Illinois)
- Bancroft Employment Enterprises (New Jersey)
- Beau’s Coffee (North Carolina)
- Believe in Abilities (North Carolina)
- Dale Rogers Training Center (Oklahoma)
- Destination Desserts (St. Louis, Missouri)
- Gryphen Specialty Products and Services (Phoenix, pet supplies, and other contracted product assembly and services)
- Lamb’s Farm (Illinois)
- Lifestyles for the Disabled (Staten Island, New York)
- New Ventures (Georgia, vocational training and placement)
- Paper Clouds Apparel (Phoenix)
- Prospector Theater (Connecticut)
- Reid’s Gifts (California)
- Scentsability Candles (Florida)
- Special Tees (Staten Island, New York)
- Toward Independent Living and Learning, Inc. (Massachusetts)
- Two Café and Boutique (Ohio)
- Waggies by Maggie and Friends (Delaware)
- Wags in a Bag (St. Louis, Missouri)
- “Yard” Work and More (New Jersey)
More opportunities for job training, placement and recruitment:
- Exceptional Minds (School for Digital Animation and Visual Effects in Sherman Oaks, CA)
- Have Dreams (workplace training, after-school and day vocational programs for ASD adults in Chicago, Illinois)
- The Spectrum Careers (A jobs portal to match employers who hire individuals on the spectrum with prospective autistic employees. Job seekers can upload resumes and search for job postings.)
- Think Beyond the Label (Assisting employers in recruiting and hiring employees with disabilities)
If you know of a company that should be listed here, or catch a broken link, let me know!
[List updated 4-15-2016]