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Employment of Adults with Autism through Small Business

This blog post is by Van Hatchell, Director of Marketing and EV Gifts at Extraordinary Ventures, Inc.

Over the past few years the first wave of children diagnosed with ASD in the early ‘90s have entered adulthood. As their parents searched for things their children could do after high school, they began to realize the difficulties associated with an ASD child’s transition into becoming a functioning member of society. Sure, there are some agencies that help coach those with ASD through small jobs, but there are very few places that actually employ them.

It was out of this realization that a few parents in Chapel Hill, NC banded together to create Extraordinary Ventures (EV). EV’s mission as nonprofit is to employ adults with autism through creating small businesses. As with starting any business, these parents soon discovered this was no easy task. They encountered many problems along the way. They had to find business models that highlighted the skills of their children, sustainable markets that would lead to sufficient revenue streams to sustain the businesses and they had to find a team to manage what was created.

Out of these hurdles came five local businesses:

EV Gifts is a products business that creates scented candles and bath salts that are sold on our online store and through retail locations.
EV Laundry is a wash-dry-fold, pick-up and delivery laundry service that serves the students of UNC – Chapel Hill and the surrounding community.
Gravesite Guardians is a headstone aesthetics business that beautifies the gravesites through headstone cleaning, seasonal flower placements and bronze refinishing.
Event Center is a space rental business that utilizes a diverse facility to host conferences, weddings and social events.
Contracted Services is a program that manages contracts with the town of Chapel Hill, such as cleaning the public transportation buses.

The tangible results of our businesses are proof that our model of employment is working. For example, Alex, an employee of EV Gifts and Contracted Services, never had a paying job before EV. Since his employment, he has become an integral part of our teams, pays taxes and uses his paycheck to pay for his families’ water bill – a fully functioning member of society. While this may not seem like much to a normal adult in our society, this gives Alex a sense of purpose that he would have never experienced otherwise.

If you would like to help us in our mission to employ adults with ASD, we have just released 5 new spring and summer scented candles that you can buy. If you purchase a single candle it will employ three adults with ASD.

If you are you are interested in learning more about our model or any of our businesses, please reach out to us through our website:

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.