As an alternative to traditional employment, many adults with autism and/or intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) are increasingly benefiting from Customized Self-Employment by starting their own small businesses, or micro-enterprises.

With PowerUP Micro-Enterprise, we educate individuals and their support network about Customized Self-Employment, helping them create a business plan tailored to their strengths and needs. PowerUP ME is a 10-week course for participants and their supporters to learn how to develop a micro-enterprise using the Customized Self-Employment model.

Micro-enterprises have many benefits for people with autism/IDD. Traditional employment often does not provide enough flexibility and accommodations. Micro-enterprises do provide those benefits. In addition, participants receive the same benefits of empowerment and self-determination that all entrepreneurs receive from making money from something they enjoy and are passionate about.

The Micro-Enterprise Association provides education, networking opportunities and customized support to individuals with autism/IDD who own or are interested in developing a micro-enterprise through Customized Self-Employment.

Asset Development and ABLE Accounts

Asset development for individuals with autism/IDD is not well understood. Many in this population are Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries and are therefore bound by strict resource limits. However, SSI allows some assets for the operation of certain micro-enterprises (with one to five employees); the same is true for Medicaid eligibility, since states are not allowed to adopt stricter income and resource rules than SSI. Furthermore, if an individual’s small business generates enough income that they no longer need SSI but still need Medicaid coverage, they may qualify for the Medicaid Buy-In program. The new ABLE accounts can also provide financial supports for micro-business owners with disabilities. We can refer you to a benefits specialist who can answer individual questions.

HANDmeUPs Thrift Store

The Power of the Dream operates HANDmeUPs thrift store, which employs adults with autism/IDD. The store also provides display and sales opportunities for PowerUP ME participants and currently exhibits and sells the works of four individuals with IDD. HANDmeUPs has space available. If you are an artist with autism/IDD living in the Triangle, and you’re interested in displaying and selling your work at HANDmeUPs, please email