Autistic Individuals are Running Successful Small Businesses

Matt Cottle

Despite the obstacles that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have faced in entering the workforce, many have found great success, thanks to companies and programs that focus on their strengths and abilities. Furthermore, some individuals on the spectrum have been able to focus on their strengths and passions by working for themselves. These men and women were able to find happiness, and a way to make a living, all by starting their own businesses.

Matt Cottle, a man on the autism spectrum, faced harsh criticism when he first tried to participate in a job that he was interested in. A man that was once scoffed at when he asked to work in a supermarket bakery now owns the Stuttering King Bakery. As an entrepreneur and owner, he fills orders for businesses, cafes, and groups that need catering. Cottle was able to follow his passion thanks to the Southwest Autism Research and Research Center (SAARC), who connected him with a pastry chef for mentoring. Within a short amount of time, Cottle discussed with his parents his desire to start his own baking business.

Cottle faced various difficulties before he was able to find his calling. He needed his parents to explain to employers that their son was autistic, although he was capable of tackling certain jobs. However, these companies were typically impatient or unwilling to work with him, and he therefore grew frustrated by his failed attempts at employment. Once Cottle was finally given an opportunity, he and his mother began attending entrepreneurship classes offered by Seed Spot, and organization that helps socially responsible businesses. Cottle states, “I hope I can set up shop and hopefully start  interning and mentoring other people with autism.”

Another individual who has found success through his own small business is Vinnie Ireland. Despite having limited language abilities, Vinnie owns a landscaping company, which he calls Weed Whacking Weasel, in North Carolina. Vinnie has family members to assist with the marketing and billing, but Vinnie fulfills and enjoys the landscaping tasks. Like any business owner, autistic business owners can be extremely successful, as they are dedicated to their company and are passionate about what they do.

Temple Grandin, well-known autism advocate, states, “Many autistic people can run businesses if they’re given the chance to discover something they like and develop skills around their interests.” She continues, “If you get them exposed to something, they can get a career.” The number of individuals with autism who are graduating high school and looking to join the workforce is growing at a rapid rate, making it essential for businesses to see the value that these individuals can bring to their company. Opportunities will enable these individuals to see what they are great at doing, and empower them to work and live at their very best. One of the biggest missions of ICare4Autism is to implement Global Autism Workforce Initiatives, which will lead to easier transitions into the workplace for those on the spectrum.

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