IT was supposed to be a break that will help me to do my hundred and one things. Before I knew it, two years passed. I didn’t do my hundred things but I did one. I registered a business called Able Bakers Enterprise with one employer (that’s me) and one baker, namely Nicholas.
Able Bakers has one corporate customer, Xiao En Memorial Park to whom we supply mini muffins and cookies. To say we are grateful would be an understatement as most times they are our only customer! The only way we can reciprocate to the continual support is to ensure our muffins and cookies are of the best quality always.
As a mother with a son who will need some form of support throughout his life, this work opportunity is immensely important. The reality of having some form of work and getting paid does a lot for the confidence and self esteem because many of them do realize that people go to work and get some form of financial rewards that allow them to purchase and have things. And they learn to follow through, stay on task and develop a higher level of comprehension and empowerment. The human brain learns every day, every minute and every second through doing things, listening and watching.
Today, Nicholas mixes the cookie dough and cake batter independently. He knows the steps and sometimes reminded me of an ingredient that I have missed. Though he has not perfected his weighing of ingredients, he does his best. The kitchen is a wonderful classroom. It teaches many things in real time; like the importance of cleanliness, listening and following instructions, reading the recipes, that there is a beginning and end to a task and, maybe best of all is getting rewarded for a job done, not just in kind but cash too!
I just hope that more companies would see the value of supporting small home-based outfits like us because it provides direct employment and greater independence to those involved. There are so many types of work/jobs that can be done at home centres. In fact, it is not at all that uncommon in today’s world, for people to work from home because of various factors. To us, this home business takes away travelling time and reduces stress. Though I would like Nicholas to be more independent and self-sufficient, at the moment I know he is not capable of travelling on his own. So for people like Nicholas and I, working from home offers certain flexibility in terms of operation, time and, removes whatever bureaucracy because few personalities are involved. The home is also a secured and safe environment for Nicholas. And it is easy to rope in family members when there is a need!
When we have baking for the day, Nicholas is very focused on his tasks and easy to work with. At the end of each session which is about 3 hours, I will get him to sign a book and pay him for the hours worked, which is RM7 per hour. He keeps the money in his wallet and uses it to pay for some of his activities like bowling with Special Olympics Selangor or treat the family to some ice-cream or snacks. At the moment, Able Bakers Enterprise’s CSR is only dedicated to one particular employee who gets sponsorship and incentives in the form of extra-curricular activities like swimming lessons and camping trips.
Come 2020, perhaps we have to increase our product base by at least one more item, maybe jam, something that can keep for a little longer. At the moment we only bake cookies, muffins and cakes upon order. We make sure that all our ingredients are fresh; use home-pureed fruits for flavours and colours; and add wholesome products like ground flaxseed and bran. Being small has its advantages although we did try to expand our employment base.
In mid 2018 and early 2019, I tried to bring in another young adult with learning difficulties. The idea was to reach out to one other person with learning difficulties. Unfortunately it did not turn out too well. We just did not have enough work and I also realized that parents have to be involved to a certain extent. Perhaps I was just not ready to train and have another person in the kitchen. Nicholas has been in training since he was 12 so he does not get too weird out when Mum is hyperventilating over a mess or a tray of burnt cookies.
He is now 23 going 24 and the good thing is that he still looks forward to baking. Recently, after all these years, he found out that there is such a thing as a rotten egg which he is never to add to the cake mixture. The smell hit me before I could stop him from dropping it into the cake mixture. He got an earful for not recognizing a rotten egg to which he calmly came up with the phrase “dirty egg” and that struck me on how people with autism may look at things. I learned something there. He is a visual learner and if I had prepared him for a “dirty egg” situation perhaps the cake mixture could have been saved. So we are still a work in progress, moving at a snail’s pace. But we are getting there…one day at a time.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop …Confucius