Finding success and happiness
Tim Harris of Tim's Place

Inspiring business owners

A Down syndrome diagnosis doesn’t mean a child will live with his or her parents forever and never have a job. In fact, individuals with Down syndrome are breaking stereotypes into bits and pieces — from running a restaurant to launching a pottery business.

These are not your parents’ perceptions of disability!

Most parents say dreams for their children’s future center on one goal — happiness. For parents of children with special needs, we often add "independence."

As mom to a 3-year-old with Down syndrome, I think about Charlie's future in some way every day. It's a very different approach to parenthood because while no child's happy, successful and productive future is guaranteed, options are much more plentiful for a typically-developing child, such as my daughter.

I worry how we’ll pay for college for both of them (while worrying if Charlie will be able to attend college). I worry whether my daughter will choose sports over drugs and ambitious friends over slackers (while worrying whether Charlie will be able to cross the street safely by himself one day).

Then I learn of families who pushed worries to the side and focused on their child with Down syndrome — his likes, her abilities, his talents or her hobbies. I've learned that when parents allow children to steer their own destinies, good things can happen.

Group Hug Apparel

Andrew Banar - Group Hug Apparel

Andrew Banar is 22 years old and sells T-shirts with his own designs via his company, Group Hug Apparel. "This little idea that we thought friends and family would support him on has taken off, and he has a product that people from around the world have purchased," shares Andrew's mom, Karen Pickle.

Perhaps one of the biggest insights into how parents like Pickle think differently can be found in her response to the question, "How old was Andrew when you began to think about his future?"

"My mom and dad let me try almost anything I want to try as long as I do not get hurt."

She replies, "Andrew was about 18 years old when he started to think about what he wanted to do with his life."

Independence clearly starts at home, from parents and loved ones who believe in a person's ability and want to see dreams come to fruition.

"My mom and dad let me try almost anything I want to try as long as I do not get hurt," Banar tells SheKnows. "My parents help me to achieve my goals. We work together as a family team."

Advice for others

What’s the secret? How can I, as a parent of a child with a disability, learn to let go and let my child shine in the way he is meant to shine?

Andrew Banar with charity check

"We take each day as it comes," Pickle explains. "When it comes to working with Andrew, we like to take his ideas and simplify them for him. Give him the closest approximation to his idea as possible. This way, the ability to understand and achieve the goals is less frustrating to him and our family."

Another indicator of success may be a family’s dedication to giving back. Group Hug Apparel has donated more than $15,000 to local charities, Pickle reports.

"Do not be afraid to ask for help," Banar advises any individual with a disability who might be scared to try a new job or even run a business. "Sometimes, we all need help."

Next up: Read about Christian Royal's pottery business

Continue »


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Comments on "I have Down syndrome and run my own business"

Maureen Wallace September 09, 2013 | 6:01 AM

Rachel - what an interesting comment! In my case, I'm always way over my poor editors' word limits, so using "individual" vs. "man or woman" is all about word count. But I'm tucking this thought away for the next time. Can you share any additional context to why it means more? Thanks for sharing!

rachel cooper September 09, 2013 | 2:59 AM

I promise I don't mean this to be a criticism, but I'd really love to see the words 'man' and woman' used, instead of 'individual'. PS. I've had the same experience of the impact on the workforce of employing young people with IDs. Young employees sometimes have that "you're so lucky I show up" and "work is so boring" approach. Bring in a few awesome young men and women with IDs who are honestly enjoying themselves- it changes everything.

Maureen Wallace September 06, 2013 | 7:53 PM

Kerry, thank you so much for your kind words, but most importantly, thank you for operating a business that has opened its eyes to the benefits of employing individuals who happen to have a disability. Thank you, also, for opening your hearts and your doors. I will go out of my way to shop where I know inclusion and diversity aren't just mission statements but realities.

Kerry Bertram September 05, 2013 | 9:06 AM

Thank you for the wonderful article. I know Tim and have visited his delicious restaurant many times. It was refreshing to read about Charlie and Christian as well. Our small business, Stride, Inc. has been employing adults with special needs in an integrated setting for 33 years. I can attest to Mike's statement, "I've never met a person with a disability who doesn't wish he or she could work and make a paycheck and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from that." I'll further contend that they are the BEST workforce an employer could ever have. The joy they have each morning is always contagious! How many bosses hear "thank you for giving me a job," every morning?! A quick search on Facebook found all three of these young men have their businesses listed, I encourage everyone to like their pages and follow them!

Maureen Wallace September 03, 2013 | 11:46 AM

Kelly, I agree! That said, it's so nice to have a little moral support from hearing about these successful and inspirational individuals... it can be tough to imagine such a productive future when I'm working each day to help my 3-year-old son learn to speak. This article helped remind me that we have so much more in store for us!

Kelly September 03, 2013 | 11:26 AM

The next generation of kids are certainly going to make their mark on the world as stereotypes and assumptions are broken down. Most parents of kids with Ds expect their children will live at least semi independently and work at something they enjoy. I have purchased a piece of Christian Royal's work as a gift. It was so beautiful I wanted to keep it for myself!

Maureen Wallace September 02, 2013 | 2:50 PM

Awwww, now I want to see pictures of your 2-year-old, Cori Anne! I know I've spent too much time worrying about my son, Charlie's future. I need to take a page from these amazing parents' book and just let his loves and interests evolve. Good things will happen if we support what Charlie wants! Best of luck to you and your little one, and thanks so much for posting!

Cori Anne Richardson September 02, 2013 | 12:45 PM

I very much appreciated this article! I too have a young daughter of just age 2. It is inspiring and encouraging to read about other's successes! Andrew lives just 20 minutes away! We had a great visit this summer with him and his Mom Karen! Please keep up this kind of article! Thank you once again!

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