I was diagnosed late and started a business based on my interests

As 2021 wraps up, we asked members of community to share milestones and accomplishments they had in 2021 that they are thankful for. These big and small wins show the diversity of experiences on the spectrum. These big and small wins show the diversity of experiences on the spectrum. This guest blog is from Sandra Brandt. She started her business, The Mermaid Sunshine. 

A women in a pink shirt with brown glasses on stares at the camera

My small business is "The Mermaid Sunshine." I started my business with my mom because I wanted to bring some happiness to myself and others, while also raising awareness for autism. We started the business during a time I was desperately needing something to get out of bed for and maybe look forward to. I had been severely depressed for a few years straight. But I had finally met a very smart, caring psychiatrist who was finally able to see the signs of autism in me as an adult female. I had started reading for fun for the first time in my entire life. Despite being kind of a nerdy academic person, I had never enjoyed reading. But after getting properly diagnosed with ADHD, and treated for that, I was enjoying reading. And I needed books that were easy to read, but also calming.

So I started reading American Girl and children's books. Then I started getting interested in the dolls, and everything that went with it.  The creativity, the stories, the artistry, the trends, the DIY customizations people do, there's just so much room for creativity. And so right now in the shop, we offer a lot of clothes, outfits that I piece together into little collections, and some dolls that I came up with, with character stories for. And I'm also learning to hand make more accessories. And I've been hand sewing, little clip in doll hair extensions in a rainbow of colors. So I really hope the little girls and collectors will like that. And of course, a very, very important thing that we sell are the autism awareness, accessories, like, these little bracelets.  And really, my hope is that since  my autism was ignored and misdiagnosed for so long, that they can just be little starter points for conversations to start conversations about autism and reduce the stigma and increase the education. But what surprised me when I started getting more connected to the creative doll community was how many adult collectors there there are, there's a lot of adult collectors, and many of them are autistic too. So I was able to meet a lot of buddies that way. In the near future, I am working on getting out a doll with some custom features I've hand sewn on and we are working on a lot of organization here in the house because I love to make jewelry, I love to try my hand at painting.

And I'm working on restoring and customizing some of my first American Girl dolls with some new eyes, new wig makeup and everything. But yes, we are just trying to find an affordable organization system. So we can have an organized house and be organized for small business. After we get organized and there is some space, I hope that we can get a little starter sewing machine. Because I am super, super eager to start customizing and doing all original stuff with the entire outfits. And I've been watching so many YouTube videos and reading blogs about sewing. So I hope I could, you know, be okay getting started and not break the machine or have some catastrophe happen.

But yeah, I'm really hoping to do that some sometime soon, maybe in the next year. And then I just wanted to share my big ultimate dream, which would be to have my own little community bookstore that feels very welcoming to everyone. I want it to be a place where little girls and all children can feel safe and welcomed. I could try to make everything sensory friendly, you know, as one way of being welcoming. And I would want local authors and artists to come read and sing to everyone. And I would want to host craft sessions and especially craft sessions and activities to do with dolls. And finally, I would really want to open my space to organizations needing a space to have support groups. I think that would be kind of like a road to redemption for all my suffering for it would be to have a bookstore, like that.

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