At the Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Fla., most of the employees have one thing in common: they've been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
As young adults they began to age out of the school system, with employment options in short supply. That's why John D'Eri co-founded Rising Tide Car Wash: to give his son, and others on the autism spectrum, a place to earn a paycheck -- and build a community.
D'Eri came up with the idea about two years ago when he was –- what else? -- driving through a car wash.
Why not build a business with the prime objective of employing people with autism, he reasoned –- not a charity or a "sheltered workshop" –- but a business with the potential to keep growing.
Although the repetition of a car wash might seem like a drawback, it's actually perfect for those on the autism spectrum who gravitate toward repetitive behavior. D'Eri relied on experts in the car wash business and those who employ people with disabilities. Together they spent almost two years testing systems and coming up with a training protocol.
D'Eri is insistent it remain a self-sustaining business -- because if it is, that means other people can do it too without having to depend on grants or government red tape. He employs 35 men who have been diagnosed with some form of autism and several who have moved up to manager positions.