Entrepreneurship is Creating Meaningful Jobs for People with Neurodiversity

Samuel Bier at work at Popcorn for the People.
Image Credit: Lara Stolman

Unemployment rate among people with neurodiversity is 80-90%. Most employers constantly pass on employing people with neurodiversity. However, in this tight labor market where there are more jobs than talent, employers are slowly turning the tide and becoming more receptive to people with autism and other disabilities.

That is where the parents of Sam came in. Sam is a high functioning 24-year-old with autism. One day while watching a movie, they came up with the idea of combining Sam’s love of popcorn with the opportunity of creating a business that has a purpose. That purpose was to hire people like Sam and other workers with disabilities. “If nobody is going to give these kids a chance, then we will.” That is how Popcorn for the People was born.

A family-owned business may be defined as any business in which two or more family members are involved and most of the ownership or control lies within a family. Family-owned businesses may be the oldest form of business organization. It has been said that the family-owned business is dying out. Well, it appears to be making a comeback. Several families are solving the employment crises for people with autism by creating family-owned businesses and employing their children who have autism.

This would quickly grow to become a lucrative business model. Dr. Steven Bier and COO Rachel Cheng, owners of the Piscataway, New Jersey startup, and have seen their growth double every year. It has even become a staple at Rutgers University athletic events. The Bier family now occupies a 4,000 square foot facility where they try to cover the spectrum of abilities with jobs that range from handling money at a Rutgers football game to labeling bags, according to Dr. Bier.

However, the Biers decided to place a higher value on purpose over profits and make Popcorn for the People a non-profit. I personally love the purpose but disagree with making it a non-profit. In an era of social capitalism, you can combine purpose with profits by creating a for-profit company. Social capitalism is a socially minded form of capitalism where the goal is making social improvements, rather than focusing exclusively on accumulating of capital in the classic capitalist sense.

A business that follows the social capitalism philosophy still has profit goals, but it adds the goals of doing something good for society. In this case, it was to hire people with neurodiversity and other disabilities. Social capitalism combines the free market capitalism which supports private enterprise, alongside with social policies that establish both fair competition within the market and a welfare state. Each business, which is a microcosm of society, has the right to run their business as they see fit and that includes making decisions based on their morals and values.

Beloved Bath is another family-owned business that makes candles, artisanal soaps, and bath products with the goal of supporting the employment of people with neurodiversity. Pam and Pat first met on the playground when their children were toddlers. As their children got older, they were diagnosed with autism. After hearing of each other’s diagnosis, their friendship got deeper, and the idea of Beloved Bath came about. Their children, Justin and John, as well as the other employees and trainees all help to make their unique bath products. Beloved Bath donates a percentage of each sale to non-profits that provide vocational training for people with autism.

Entrepreneurship is important because it can change the way you live and work. With an 80-90% unemployment rate among people with autism, there is a huge problem with a lack of jobs and growth opportunities. As an entrepreneur, you can not only create wealth for you and your family, but also do something positive for society as a whole. Entrepreneurship is the way you organize your business, the risks that you get, the profits/losses that you generate. You can still make a profit while focusing on the common good of society.

The next time you think about starting up a business, let’s keep in mind these benefits of entrepreneurship.

  • Being an entrepreneur allows you to pursue your own vision.
  • Being an entrepreneur gives you the control and flexibility over how you value your time.
  • Being an entrepreneur gives you a sense of pride of accomplishing things for the greater good.
  • Being an entrepreneur allows you to create your own economy.


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