Central Florida program helps people with Down syndrome launch their own small businesses

Central Florida program helps people with Down syndrome launch their own small businesses

ORLANDO, Fla. — A program that began as part of a brainstorming session by the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida for a way to empower its adult members with the skills they need to create their own businesses has turned into a national model.

Allison Fogarty, of Clermont, jumped at the chance to be a part of the first Entrepreneur Academy at the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

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Born with Down syndrome, Allison’s greatest challenges have been medical hurdles that left her with a feeding tube for 2 years.

“Everyone told us she was unemployable,” her mother Pat Fogarty said.

But the 29-year-old is now thriving as a small business owner.

Allison is the CEO of Doggy Delights by Allison crafting batch after batch of her homemade healthy dog treats.

Big-business owner Ryan Rapolti directs the nonprofit’s academy. He, along with heads from numerous corporations, showed Allison and her classmates the ropes of starting and running a licensed business.

“She was in charge and she was responsible, and I think that made all the difference in the world,” Pat said.

This past year, Allison became the first person with Down syndrome named to the Orlando Business Journal’s 40 under 40, and she now guest lectures at the Entrepreneur Academy.

Allison’s motto? “You have to think big to be big!”

“People like Allison are changing perception,” Rapolti said. “What she’s doing it great for her but she’s impacting thousands of families.”