• Kelli Munn

Jules's Dream Becomes Reality With Small Business

FSACentral is proud to once again celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month by featuring people with disabilities who are out in the workforce.

Name: Billy Jules

Hometown: Immokalee

Employer: Billy's Fresh Produce

Position: Owner

Length of time at current job: 1 year.

Billy Jules has always wanted to be a business owner, a desire he made known to his teachers and other support providers and friends while in Immokalee High School's transition program. Last year that dream came true with the formation of Billy's Fresh Produce. With the help of his support provider, Alma Cisneros, Jules purchases produce from wholesalers in the farm community he calls home during the week to take to the Ave Maria Farmer's Market on Saturdays in November through April. Billy's Fresh Produce also has a contract to provide produce to a restaurant in Immokalee.

Jules put his advocacy skills to work when he realized he needed a vehicle to transport his produce and equipment. As he prepared to apply for a loan at a local bank, learning of the need, the Barnhardt family in the community provided a van for him and On the Spot printing donated signage for the van.

Jules and Cisneros want to thank the Immokalee community that has been extremely supportive of the business. His story is a reminder that career dreams can come true for people with disabilities, even early in their lives.

What is the best advice or encouragement you’d give to a fellow self-advocate about starting a business?

"The best advice I could tell them is to get a lot of support from friends and caregivers, pastors, and teachers." He added that business owners need to talk on the phone quite a bit, which is something Jules enjoys but has had to work on.

What advice would you give employers about hiring a person with a disability?

"Give them a chance to experience a job, just like they would any other potential employee."

What’s the most important employment-related challenge you face as a person with a disability?

Jules said he is sometimes challenged with counting cash and making change quickly at the Farmer's Market. He needs extra time to use his calculator and count out the change but says his customers understand and are always friendly and patient.

Which agency was the most helpful to you in accessing and maintaining employment?

Jules gave a huge shout-out to his provider agency, Community Resource Network of Florida (CRN), and his teachers in the high school transition program, particularly Kelly Stevenson-Crews who is also an award-winning Special Olympics basketball coach. CRN assisted Jules with making changes to his iBudget Medicaid waiver cost plan to provide services to support his business.

In your opinion, how does working or owning a business affect a self-advocate's quality of life?

"You get paid! I feel great owning a business. This is my dream come true and I’ve got all the support I need for my dreams coming true."

FSACentral would like to thank Jules for his time and thoughtful answers.

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Florida Self-Advocacy Central is the news and information arm of Florida Self-Advocates Network'D or FL SAND

FL SAND and Florida Self-Advocacy Central are projects provided by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc., supported in part by grant numbers 1801FLBSDD, 1901FLSCDD-01, and 2001FLSCDD-01 from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.