Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Lauren Spencer, Founder of The Autistic Innovator, located in Dallas, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Autistic Innovator is an online store for autistic adults. Many of my customers are embracing their autistic selves for the first time and finding self-acceptance by purchasing and using products made for autistic adults.
Tell us about yourself
When I first found out I am autistic, I immersed myself in the online autistic community spaces on Facebook groups and Twitter. So many people were asking where to find stim toys for autistic adults because every online store they found sold traditional fidget toys made for kids. Reading all the posts on social media, I would think someone should do something for autistic adults and provide them with stim products they wanted and needed, and then I realized, why not me? My biggest motivation is serving the autistic community and helping fellow autistics find self-acceptance through the products I sell and create just for autistic adults.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I receive the sweetest emails from customers, often thanking me for creating the store. There have been a few of them who felt seen, acknowledged, and cared about. Best of all, customers can tell I built the store with love for the autistic community. Those emails always make me tear up; they are so nice. From day one, I wanted to build a store made just for autistic adults that makes them feel seen and appreciated. Over a year later, it's a wonderful thing that I've accomplished this, and I'm very grateful that I'm helping autistic people through my store.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Towards the end of last year, I was working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, to grow my store into what it is now. Massively expanded my product selection from 69 items to over 200. It took me a few dedicated weeks to create and design planners, journals, and a coloring book myself that are all made for autistic adults. I wouldn't say there's the hardest part to being a business owner because I love my store with all my heart and can't imagine doing anything else.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- If you're starting an online business in particular, be patient in the beginning because it takes a while to grow a good amount of traffic for your website or store to be profitable. It looks like days of no sales and barely any traffic, and most quit before then after getting frustrated.
- The second tip I'd give is to be prepared to hustle hard in the beginning. Many online businesses are sold as you build this website and/or store, and you'll start making passive income right away and barely have to do anything. There's no such thing in the beginning.
- My third tip is to love what you do. Find your purpose and your reason why. Ask yourself, why do you want to start this business? Whatever that reason is, hold on to that and use it as motivation. Many online business owners give up early on, so what will keep you going in the early stages? Those who work smart and work hard are the ones who succeed in the long run. Perseverance is made up of passion and purpose.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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