Group of special needs adults in San Clemente start small business during pandemic

What started as a quick solution to a mask shortage during the pandemic has turned into a flourishing business for a group of San Clemente adults living with autism. 

Zuggy Etc. was born from the vision that members of the special needs community deserve to have something of their own to work towards and be proud of. 

"Sewing keeps me busy," said Juan Garcia, who was diagnosed with autism as a child. 

Autism is a bio-neurological development disability that generally appears before the age of three, according to the National Autism Association. It impacts the development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals who have been diagnosed typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication. 

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"It’s given them so much purpose," said Juan’s caregiver, Kay LoperLeddy.

Garcia and a few of his friends living with Autism recently developed a passion for sewing and entrepreneurship.  The group decided to launch selling seasonal items like custom shirts and mugs, but their specialty is hand-sewn Aprons. To date over 200 aprons have been sold online.  

"My Aprons have been selling like wildfire. It gives me a good schedule," said employee Paul Baker. 

"They like to see where the orders come from. After the first apron sold online, they started coming from Puerto Rico, New York and all across the country," said Jennifer Tracy who helps run the small business. 

They hope to expand the business, engaging and employing as many team members as possible.