On Monday evening, Autism Speaks held its 8th Small Business Town Hall meeting, hosted by the UM-NSU Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of Miami. Due to the tremendous need for appropriate employment opportunities for adults with autism, and benefitting from close collaboration with local Autism Speaks staff and volunteers as well as CARD personnel, the Town Hall meeting was a great success. Adults with autism and their families, small business owners, employment service providers, educators and academics packed the room as part of the standing-room-only audience.
The evening featured a panel of four speakers who shared stories of their success as the owners of small businesses that employ individuals with autism. Members of the audience engaged in a dynamic Q&A discussion with the panelists, asking questions about how their businesses got started, what their operating costs are, and what obstacles they have faced along the way. Other small businesses and employment service providers also shared their products and information with the Town Hall participants.
The four small businesses that were featured on the panel at this Town Hall meeting were:
- Extraordinary Ventures, Chapel Hill, N.C.
- Lee & Marie’s Cakery, Miami Beach, Fla.
- [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, N.J.
- Rising Tide Car Wash, Parkland, Fla.
All of the presentations were inspirational. Andrea Travaglia, Founder & CEO of Lee & Marie’s Cakery and other businesses, was accompanied by two of her valued employees with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs); Marc William Pulver and a young man named Lazarro spoke candidly about what gainful employment has meant to them and how it has empowered and enabled them each to live more independent lives. Both men spoke from their hearts and were met by rousing applause. Mr. Pulver, who is an author in addition to working at the Cakery, used the time after the Town Hall to sell signed copies of his book, Living Life with Autism: The World Through My Eyes. He finished his brief speech by declaring, “I feel it's a privilege to be autistic, not an impediment. I have achieved so much since being a child who was told he was mentally disabled, and to get to the point where I am now... There is hope. Don’t give up. Parents, work with your kids, love them and nurture them. It goes a long way.”
“This was a wonderful opportunity for Autism Speaks to collaborate with national and local partners and really SHOW our community what we do,” said Julie Salas, local Autism Speaks Executive Director. “It was rewarding to see how motivated local business owners and the families were after hearing from these four amazing businesses!”
Autism Speaks looks forward to hosting the final Small Business Town Hall meeting of this Fall, which will be held at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday, November 18! These Small Business Town Halls are part of an Autism Speaks initiative, “Advancing the Role and Impact of Small Businesses in Employing Adults with Autism,” funded by a generous grant from the Ireland Family Foundation.