Reconsidering Self Employment

There’s no doubt that employment is always a challenge for individuals on the autism spectrum. I read some statistic somewhere that said as many as 4 out of 5 autistic adults do not have full-time employment and those who do are often over-educated and otherwise under-employed. Whether that is due to a lack of education on the condition or people just being willfully ignorant or even in my case discriminatory government regulations it’s a rampant problem.

Of course, for me my issues are twofold: not only am I autistic but I have tattoos (and soon to have piercings) and, as my post from yesterday demonstrated, there are still a very vocal minority (and in some places it’s actually a majority) who are anti-body modification. Between those two things, yeah, it’s difficult to find fulfilling employment and more often than not we wind up stuck in rather unfulfilling jobs such as the one I’m in now.

As such, I’ve considered a number of directions I could go but self-employment always comes back as the best option. It’s just so hard to get started and I still have bankruptcy on my credit history (and will for another about 2 and a half years – I had a near-fatal heart arrhythmia back in 2009 that had to be corrected surgically but was only discovered after I was revived from cardiac arrest) so this is still at the minimum of a few years down the road. It’s a tough road but the most seemingly worthwhile roads are a little rough and curvy.

Alas, it’s not totally new territory for me – I was self-employed in a limited capacity for the couple of years before I landed my current job. I did some clock/watch repair and was a wedding/funeral bagpiper but neither one of those fields has anywhere near enough demand to support a full-time business. Alas, I had just written it off as any sort of future, but it’s starting to look like an attractive option again.

Some time ago my ex suggested that we should go into business together and for a little while I was on board with that, but with the immediate aftermath of the election it became very obvious that we are no suitable business partners due to our differences of business philosophy as well as stark differences of political and religious persuasion. Of course, we could not function together as a couple so why she even thought for a second we could function together as business partners blows my mind. Well, I imagine she is still young and naive so maybe she was having another one of her young and delusional moments (we’ve all had them when we were younger after all).

So then I got to thinking one night what I could do. If I had an artistic eye and hand I’d have considered becoming a tattoo and piercing artist but I don’t have an artistic bone in my body so that wasn’t going to be an option. Not only that but I can’t even use chopsticks so I could I possibly handle a tattoo machine or piercing needle? It does seem like it would be fun but not everyone is cut out to be a tattooer or piercer and I most certainly am not.

Then one night as I was sitting on my back porch engaging in my evening ritual of a Scotch and a cigar it just hit me. I thought “I love Scotch, I love cigars, business idea!” So my idea for a business was born.

My business would be part lounge/bar and part retail store. I’d have a large walk-in humidor full of a huge selection of cigars that could be purchased as singles or by the box and stored at the proper temp and humidity as to be ready to smoke as well as room with fine whiskies of all varieties (Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, you name it) for sale by the bottle.

In addition to those two main focal points, I’d have someĀ smoking accessories (lighters, cutters and humidors/storage), a selection of pipes and pipe tobacco and a selection of microbrew beer and fine wine. For those who do not drink alcohol, we’d have a selection of coffee and tea to choose from.

The lounge portion would be classy yet modern (almost a speakeasy feel) with a state-of-the-art ventilation system. There will be no TVs or WiFi and maybe just some soft background music. I’d have plenty of comfortable chairs (and maybe couches), a couple of chess/checker tables and maybe a pool table or two but the point would be to slow down and enjoy a great smoke, a stiff drink and light-hearted conversation. The point would be to unplug yourself from social media and the demands of day-to-day life and actually get back to being human again. I want it somewhat classy but not overly so as to attract people from all walks of life and not just well-dressed business people. Everyone of legal age would be welcomed regardless of sex, social status, race, religion, sexual orientation/gender identity, disability, body mods or anything else really (and a statement of inclusivity would be part of the business model).

Now, by default any tobacco or drinks consumed in the lounge would have to come from the retail store portion but the point would still be to get people talking to each other and keeping them around for awhile (instead of just simply getting what they need and getting out) as that often times leads to them buying more anyway.

Now here’s where I’m not 100% sure what I want to do. I don’t know if I’d want to operate as a bar (so those hanging around would purchase by the drink) or if I’d just allow alcohol bought from the stash to be consumed in the lounge. I’m sure it’s one of those things I’ll have to consider with local ordinances and whatever but I do know that in addition to the dry coffee and tea we’d sell I’d want ready-made coffee and hot water for steeping tea (ready-made coffee/tea would be sold by the cup with unlimited refills).

This all sounds fine and good but what about a business name and where would I eventually set up shop? Well I don’t know where I’d open by business but definitely not in Abilene, Texas; such a concept would definitely require a much more progressive, open-minded location. Also, what about an attractive name? That’s even harder, but man oh man I had a bagpiper friend from Canada come up with a great name that both fits the theme of the business and is a play on my initials (L.B.) – Leaf and Barrel. I thought it was absolutely genius and will probably wind up using it.

I dunno, maybe I am dreaming again but at the end of the day that would be the real American dream – have your own business and make money engaging in an activity you love. They say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m 30 years old and I feel like my work days just keep getting longer and don’t think I can handle another 37 years of this nonsense so it’s almost time for me to transcend my day job. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. It’d be nice to take my love of these things, marry them into a business venture and not ever have to worry about a boss criticizing me for my autistic shortcomings or worrying about having to cover my tattoos or piercings or even a work dress code. I could do whatever I wanted to (within the confines of the law of course) and just kind of soak it up. If only I could find a way to make it a reality.




One thought on “Reconsidering Self Employment

  1. Hello! I very much appreciate your position in life. My son has autism and I also have a self employed friend who lives with it. It must be intimidating to strike out of the financial comfort zone and onto the ice. My girlfriend and I are trying to get our own business off the ground while driving for Uber to “fill in the gaps.” Well, we are under student loans, car payments, and all that. Yes, it’s tough and scary. Yes, sometimes you will struggle. However, where there’s a will..
    I don’t know how deep you’ve dug in to your idea yet, but do look around at other similar business. I am spoiled to live in a part of the world where businesses like yours are welcome with exuberance. But please don’t let location dissuade you from building on inclusiveness, as it’s a mindset that must be propagated. And I mean, isn’t there something communal about a fine cigar and a drink? The end scene of Maverick comes to my mind.
    I know you have a viable business idea, and you have a lot of heart behind it. Sounds like you might just need to find out how to paint it to appeal to the market you’re in. But that’s just assuming you aren’t keen to leave!
    Anyway, I encourage you to stick with it. Talk to similar businesses about their model and how they make it work, practically speaking. Get a business planning template and start putting your ideas into it. Talk about it like it’s a real thing, as if someone visiting you might see it on your coffee table. When you have enough people on board and enough thoughts to be comprehensive, the opportunity to fund it and realize it will come to you!
    Best of luck!


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