What is a Microenterprise?

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Only about 20% of the autism adult population are competitively employed in the United States.

As an alternative to traditional employment, many adults on the autism spectrum are starting their own small businesses or microenterprises.

This post will get into what exactly is a microenterprise and how you could start one.

Like I said, many adults on the autism spectrum, and broadly in intellectual and developmental disabilities, are starting their own microenterprises or small businesses.

Formally, this practice can sometimes be referred to as Customized Self-Employment. Informally, I’ll also use the term self-employment.

Self-employment is another viable employment option for adults on the autism spectrum. It involves matching a person’s dreams and talents to an economic venture or small business.

As it stands, small business ownership is currently the largest market of new and expanding employment options in the United States.

Currently, the self-employment rate is growing at more than 20% per year and has generated 40% of new employment over the past decade. (Working for these folks is also another option to pursue.)

By 2020, more than 27 million people are expected to enter self-employment.


Traditional employment often does not provide enough flexibility and accommodations for adults on the autism spectrum.

That’s a great reason why many are seeking out starting their own small business, because micro-enterprises provide these benefits.

Additionally, increased empowerment and self-determination from making their own money from something they enjoy and are passionate about are great reasons to pursue this employment path.

Just like their peers, adults on the autism spectrum may enjoy autonomy and control over their work.

As of now, the majority of employers are not seeing the positive aspects of hiring employees on the autism spectrum (we’re working on that!), but with the potential rise of workplaces run by owners and employees on the autism spectrum, we could see a shift in the perspective of the workplace.

Instead, employers, manager, and colleagues could stand to learn about the strengths of the autism community.


Here are some examples of successful small businesses or micro-enterprises from around the country.

Rising Tide Car Wash (Florida)


For-profit car washing company with two locations.

Extraordinary Ventures (North Carolina)


Non-profit organization that creates and supports local small business ventures (e.g., laundry, handmade products).

nonPareil Institute (Texas)


Non-profit technology company training adults on the spectrum to build digital products for the marketplace.

Poppin Joe’s (Kansas, Georgia)


For-profit gourmet kettle corn company.


If you’re interested in starting a small business - there are so many options ahead of you!

Starting can be simple: with the support, financing, and paying customers, then you’re in business. Keep an eye out on future posts about steps to start a small business.

But for right now, get curious! Think about your strengths and interests - is there a way you can tie them in with a product or service to sell?

If you’re thinking about starting a business or want to learn more - let me know in the comments below, let’s chat!