Why the Pandemic Was the Perfect Time for My Autistic Son to Start a Business
March marks the one-year anniversary of my son Dominic being home full-time from school. When the pandemic started, I was very optimistic and thought it would only last a few weeks. Little did I know it would still be raging on a year later.
It has been a bit of a learning curve having Dominic here and my husband working from home (the hubby likes to call it a “preview” of what it will be like when he retires!). We have worked out a good system so one of us is always home with Dominic. He can’t be left alone because of his complex partial epilepsy. He has had six seizures since the pandemic started; the most recent one was at the beginning of January.
Since we have had lots of extra time in our schedule, in June of 2020, we went from once-a-week private speech therapy to twice-a-week. It has been a pretty seamless transition from in-person to virtual learning with her. His private speech therapist has moved away from worksheets and started to concentrate heavily on work/life skills. It was her suggestion to have Dominic bake for her and then she would pay him for his finished baked product. We really wanted him to make that connection.
I started to wonder if we could bake for other people and make it into a business. I started to comb the Internet for information and found that Michigan has something called a “Cottage Food Law.” I did some research and then sat on the information for a while. It was several pages of rules and regulations that were very overwhelming and intimidating at first. I began to think long-term and after finding a free online workshop on running a Cottage Food business and registering for it (the workshop wasn’t until December), I decided to move forward.
I already had tons of recipes at my disposal on my food blog, so I knew we wouldn’t need to be continually testing out new recipes. I then began to think we probably should come up with a name and a logo. This is where an artist friend that I had used for classes for the disability ministry came into the picture. I asked him if he could start private art lessons with Dominic, even though Dominic had shown no interest at previous art events with the disability ministry.
Dominic started his weekly private art lessons in August of 2020 and except for a few times, he has been going steadily every week. It has been amazing to watch his self-confidence grow! A few months into the lessons, I asked if Dominic could start designing a logo for the business. My artist friend agreed and we let Dominic make all the decisions about what it would look like, the colors, etc. I even ordered a shirt with the logo on it for Dominic and one for his sister.
We got our first order at the end of November and little by little, we started to get orders. In the second week of December, a few days after the online workshop about running a cottage food business,” my dad (who lived back in Maryland) went into the hospital with what we all thought was a minor infection. It turned out my beloved dad was in end-stage congestive heart failure and passed away on December 17. I was devastated by his passing and it took me until a week or so into January before I felt like I could re-start the business.
A few weeks ago, we filed the name “Baked Goods By Dominic” with the local county clerk’s office and opened a bank account. Our family has had an outpouring of support and Dominic just delivered his 22nd order a few days ago.
My maternal great-grandfather owned and operated a bakery in Butler, Missouri. He is the shorter gentleman standing at the far end of the counter. Pretty cool to have this picture, isn’t it?
I love that this baking business has started for several reasons. One is that I had stopped baking because my life pre-pandemic had gotten very, very busy. The pandemic has forced me to slow down and resume my passion for baking, and share it with my son. The second reason is that Dominic is learning both “life” and “work” skills. One of his favorite things to do when we go on a delivery is to hold my phone and help me navigate with Google Maps. The third reason is that my ultimate goal for this business is for Dominic to have his own bakery like my great-grandfather had, but employ people with disabilities. It’s a great (and realistic) goal to have, don’t you think?