Vanessa Vioude tutu customer
Vanessa Vioude, owner of Vioude’s Designs Tutu business, with one of her happy customers at the YASbiz celebration and expo in December 2016. Vioude was awarded funding to start the business as a participant in annual Ability Beyond’s Entrepreneur Pitch Panel for young adults affected by Autism.

BETHEL: Ability Beyond will be sending what it descirbes as “a group of ambitious interns” to pitch their business ideas in a “Shark Tank”-style Entrepreneur Pitch Panel on October 27th in Bristol as part of their Explorations in Entrepreneurship curriculum.

Support for the program comes from Autism Speaks, a New York research and advocacy group.

“The creativity of these interns is astounding!” said Michelle Ouimette, Managing Director of Ability Beyond and Roses for Autism. “When answering critical questions like: What am I good at?  What do I like? What are my challenges and resources? some of them discover a passion that they want to turn into a money-making venture.”

According to Ability Beyond’s announcement, “21% of the youth with disabilities ages 16-25 who complete the Ability Beyond Transition Services or Explorations in Entrepreneurship programs are pursuing or are self-employed. Of the remaining participants, 51% are employed within 1 year and 29% are enrolled in post-secondary continuing education.”

“We, as a society, must do a better job of preparing the most vulnerable youth for independence and success in adulthood, and a better job of connecting them quickly with adult services that were designed for their benefit,” said Ouimette. “Transition Services is a groundbreaking solution to the unfortunate reality that students with disabilities continue to receive ineffective, often impractical, preparation for the real world and real jobs.”

The group of ten graduates who are presenting their business ideas at the Entrepreneur Pitch Panel on the 27th have prepared proposals that include: Online Comic Book Store, Therapeutic Putty, Meditation CD’s, and Flavored Seltzer.

Updates will be provided for previously funded businesses like Vioude’s Designs Tutu Business. The members of the panel include David Bishop from Mona Lisa Restaurant, and Brittany Bidmead from Streetsmart Ventures, as well as supporters from the Bristol Chamber of Commerce.



Abiout Ability Beyond | Since 2009, Ability Beyond has provided services for transition age youth, primarily individuals with developmental disabilities and autism, designed to teach them critical and transferable employment and social skills.  These programs consist of internship rotations at a variety of host businesses, classroom instruction, and community business exploration, with the goal of securing employment after successful program completion. For more information,