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For the past 15 years I have been an active member in the autism community, ever since my daughter was diagnosed with PDD-NOS.   From the beginning, I have been a connector for many,  a provider of information,  a supporter, cheerleader and advocate,  a founder of the White Plains School District Committee on Special Needs, a member of the Pleasantville SEPTA,  a founding member of  the Westchester County Advisory Council on Autism, a passionate promoter for inclusion, a fundraiser for autism research, and a friend.

In July, after 17 years in digital marketing at IBM (yes, I was there at the beginning of digital marketing), and 15 years as a professional marketer before that, I was “retired”.   Like hundreds of other IBMers (Xers), I have been seeking another corporate position where I would apply my expertise in digital and social marketing (see me on LinkedIn)

But I am drawn to what I have been interested in doing now for the past 5 years – something to benefit our transitioning teens and young adults as their cohort enters the potential workforce.  I had been inspired by several other parents who have started businesses:  Debbie Hillibrand’s annual forum at UJA had featured several including Aspiritech, Roses for Autism, and Words bookstore.  This summer I was contacted by Mark Grein who is volunteering his time to get Specialisterne up and running in The Bronx, and then I attended the Autism Speaks town hall where I heard several entrepreneurs talk about their ventures:  Rising Tide car wash, and Extraordinary Ventures  I also met Stella there who started Spectrum Designs.

So, I thought, this is my time to start a non profit venture specifically focused on employment for females with autism and other developmental disabilities.  The first initiative will be a specialty retail store in a category that is near and dear to my daughter’s heart as well as other girls like her.  She is my inspiration.  I had been thinking about this for five years!

The non-profit organization mission is:

  • to create employment for teen girls in transition (from school to work) and women with autism and other developmental disorders

  • to engage employees in a product or service category in which they are knowledgeable and passionate about, and to use their positive traits to run a successful business

  • to teach skills to enable employees to move to other jobs in retail, with or without supports

  • to create a model of a business that can be replicated for other locations, by other individuals or organizations

  • to fund job coaching, job training, and job social skills development

I have never started a business, other than my own consulting business which I had for 5 years prior to joining IBM.  So I am reaching out to my network for help, advice, and support.

I will be blogging about this experience, sharing what I learn, and letting you know when and how you might be able to lend your expertise to help realize this mission…. because you too may want to -or need to- do this too, one day.

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