It was an exciting time at The Arc’s National Office last week when I let out a cheer and announced that we had the first six vendors for The Market at The Arc’s 2012 National Convention and International Forum in Washington, DC. This meant that The Arc’s newest project in honor of self-advocate entrepreneurs will become a reality in this year’s Marketplace on October 26 and 27! I feel that The Market will be the crowning achievement, which makes the 2012 National Convention EXTRA special.
There is plenty new and different that will already make this year’s Convention unique and one of a kind. We are co-hosting this event with Inclusion International, and up to 150 international visitors from countries around the world will be in our nation’s capital attending the conference. This will be an opportunity for attendees from the United States to mingle with professionals, family members and self-advocates from Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. We will have the chance to learn about the issues surrounding the inclusion of self-advocates in other nations, and explore our own issues and accomplishments surrounding inclusion through a fresh set of eyes.
We were determined to make Entrepreneur Alley bigger and better than EVER this year in honor of this year’s theme of inclusion. There was only one problem: we were getting feedback from self-advocates that travel to Washington, DC and lodging were often hurdles too expensive for our self-advocate microbusiness owners to climb. This is why I LOVE working at The Arc: instead of giving up on this dream, we took this issue as a challenge. And from this challenge, The Market was born!
I have been working the phones for weeks straight pitching our new opportunity to self-advocate run businesses across the country. Sign up to be a part of The Market, and The Arc’s team of dedicated staff and volunteers, spearheaded by yours truly, will sell your merchandise for you right in the heart of Entrepreneur Alley! The area will be set up as a bazaar with a biography and photo of each self-advocate owner, so that their stories can be told. Or, if you prefer, you can send us your marketing brochures, pens, flyers, key chains, or other materials to display and all of our national and international attendees will be able to learn more about you and your business. We waited in anticipation to see if the idea would break through and attract attention, it is always a nail biter to see if a new concept will gain traction, and we are now exited to announce our first 6 vendors at The Market!
- Aid for Abby features the artwork of a young self-advocate on the autism spectrum named Abby. She loves to share her paintings with the world, and she and her mother Bonnie also sell special handmade dog treats.
- JennyLU Designs will be selling charm earrings and necklaces created by a special and talented artist named Jenny, who has Williams syndrome.
- Just for You CardArt features the handmade greeting cards of best friends and self-advocates Donna and Jenna. Their cards sold wonderfully at The National Down Syndrome Congress in Washington, DC this month, and they cannot wait to share them with us!
- Through the Same Door is led by self-advocate activist Micah Fialka-Feldman, who loves to tell the inspirational story of his life on the front lines in the fight for inclusion in higher education. He also sells DVDs which tell this story.
- COMAAT stands for Changing One Mind at a Time, and is run by Jennifer Walsh, a self-advocate with a Master’s degree who speaks at conferences and gives seminars on inclusion.
- Casey’s Cookies is a tiny non-profit, which sells homemade cookies, which are baked, packaged and sold by self-advocates in the state of Florida.
I want to thank these self-advocate business people for answering our call to join us at The Market this year and hope that this will be the first of many such events to come! If you are a self-advocate entrepreneur, who would like to sell your wares but is unable to afford travel, it is not too late to join The Market! Please call me at (202) 534-3720 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details, and I would be happy to sign you up. If you are a supporter of The Arc, who will be attending Convention this year, please be sure to stop by The Market this year to support these wonderful microbusinesses from across the country!