When most young adults with special needs graduate from high school, adult services helps them to find employment. Sometimes it’s a job that aligns with their interests, but often it is in food services or retail. For Sean DeMarco, who graduated from Garden City High School in Nassau and has autism, none of those jobs interested him — what he loves are movies. Theresa DeMarco, his mother, wanted to capitalize on his endless movie knowledge. So the mother-son pair, who live in Mattituck, started their own business.
“We decided to start a small business where we frame movie posters and then we sell them,” Sean said. But when COVID hit, most of the spots they would go to — conventions and fairs — shut down. So they took a step back to brainstorm what else to do.
“I remember driving in the car and thinking, ‘What do we do?’” Theresa said. “‘If this happened to you, this is happening to other young entrepreneurs. [Sean] said ‘Why don’t we just own our own shop?’”
“We chatted about what is a good idea to help out other people with special needs,” Sean added. “We thought why don’t we bring other people’s work, like myself, into one place — one for all.”
And so the shop One for All was born. The idea was conceived in July and this Saturday, Theresa and Sean are planning the grand opening of One for All, a store in Southold selling items made by entrepenuers with special needs. Many of the products come from all over the country because just like Sean, many of these entrepreneurs now only had online stores to sell their products with no fairs or conventions.
“Autism Speaks has a page that shows you some of the other small businesses,” Theresa said. “Generally, the majority are started by parents recognizing something in their young person, an interest area.”
The store is filled with highly giftable items reflecting these areas of interest. There’s jewelry made by Aspire Accesories, an organization that employs adults with autism and similar special needs. Bow ties made by H-Bomb bowties, a company started by the father of Harrison, who has autism and Downs Syndrome and loves bowties. They also help adults with specials needs find employement. Canvas bags and totes made by Dance Happy Designs, a business started by three friends who hope to empower people’s differences. And of course, an entire back wall filled with Sean’s movie posters.
“Their stories are magnificent. And that’s one of the things that we start talking about. It’s much less about a collection of goods. It’s really a collection of stories,” Theresa said. Next to each of the featured products is a little write-up about the business and the people behind the products being sold there.
“There’s no physical place for you to actually see all these products at once,” Theresa continued. “But that’s the spirit of what we decided to do.”
For now, Sean and Thersa are just excited to open their shop. But in a year or two, they are hoping to offer vocational training for adults with special needs in the area.
“One of the longer term goals I have is to partner with an entrepreneurship educational platform I have connected with so that young adults and parents have support in creating opportunities for self-employment,” Theresa said. “I truly believe that this is an excellent option.”