Few companies give opportunities to this population that needs recognition and feel productive in society

Juan Luis Sánchez Saldaña and his wife Susan Tarka Sánchez decided to open their flower business Frida Pickles in the city of San Gabriel, California to train and employ his own daughter and other young people with special needs.

"My vision is to look for investors to open more businesses such as a ice cream shop and a dog grooming salon that employ people with some type of disability.”, Explains Juan Luis.

He is from Coyoacán, Mexico; Susan, his wife, is from Palo Alto, California. Both met and married in London. The couple had Sofia, their only daughter, who is under 11 years old.

Sofía Sánchez grew up in the flowers of her mother's garden Susan Sánchez. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion).

“Having a daughter with a disability is like having four children,” says Juan Luis.

“I love making flower arrangements,” says Sofia, who was born with autism. His mother has been his teacher in flowers since he was practically born.

His parents opened the flower shop on August 14. “The initial idea was to open a restaurant because I had a taqueria in London,” says Juan Luis.

But they decided on the flower business because Susan studied botany, and she loves planting and caring for plants and flowers.

“We decided to put Frida Pickles, because that's what our pet of the Tibetan Terrier breed is called, ”says Susan.


Frida's name was given because Juan grew up very close to the house of the artist Frida Khalo in Mexico City; and pickles (pickles in Spanish), because Susan likes them a lot.

But the name has even greater depth. The dog Frida Pickles She was rejected by a breeder for having a pink nose. "So we feel we should employ people that society doesn't want," he says.

Knowing first-hand the needs of a special child through his daughter Sofia, Juan Luis and his wife Susan did not hesitate to accept the proposal of the Alhambra Unified School District to train and employ young people with disabilities.

“We have eight students who come to learn the flower shop business. Some come from the Alhambra School District, and others from the San Gabriel School District, ”says Juan Luis.

Juan Luis Sánchez Saldaña teaches young students the flower business. (photo provided).

In the flower shop Frida Pickles, the boys learn not only to make floral arrangements but also the accounting management of a small business and to do audits. "Many of these children are quiet, they don't talk much, but they are true computer geniuses”, Comments Juan Luis.

Both school districts offer their students with disabilities paid internships in business. These do not have to make any expenses.

“It's a very good project because we are all human, and these boys have to be given an opportunity to move forward,” says José Luis.

And he adds that you have to help them have a voice and vote, and they can live well.

For the Sánchez family it is very important that young people with disabilities learn and work in a quiet work environment. (Photo provided).

He also notes that it would be great if parents with special children were trained to open their own businesses.

"There are few jobs for them; or those that exist are not well paid; or represent a lot of stress. We want to create jobs where they can work with traquility and grow in their skills”, Explains Susan.

José Luis would also like more commercial establishments to open the doors for these boys so they can have decent employment.

Susan Sánchez with her daughter Sofia. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion)

A program to boost them

Harry K. Wong, administrator of the Learning Independence for Transition (Lift) program of the Alhambra Unified School District, explains that they have managed to place 55 students between the ages of 18 and 22 in 30 locations between businesses, non-profit organizations and schools in the school district around the city of Alhambra.

"The goal of the Lift program is for boys to become independent, learn skills, know how to drive on public transportation, cook and do their laundry”, Precise.

“We have students with more skills than others. Some after the internship, they get jobs in big companies like Home Depot. Usually, at the end of the program they have more skills for a job. We are continuously reviewing their progress with them, ”he explains.

Boys who participate in the Lift program earn the minimum hourly wage, Wong says.

Sofia with her father Juan Luis Sánchez, the small businessman who along with his wife Susan opened a business to employ their daughter and other children with disabilities. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion)

Big benefits

Michael Dergar, coach for the employment of the Alhambra Unified School District, and founder and president of the Academy of Special Dreams, he affirms that the main benefit of internships through the Lift program is to encourage students to feel useful and productive members of society .

"The challenge is that many businesses want to give us the opportunity. They do not take them seriously. There is a lot of labor discrimination towards the community with disabilities ”he points out.

And he mentions that unfortunately many employers do not want to feel the responsibility of a worker with disabilities.

“It is a problem that we see on a daily basis especially among large corporations. They fear hiring a person with special needs for fear of a lawsuit; and that prevents these boys from becoming independent, ”he says.

Sofía Sánchez learns the trade of the florist. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion).

The Alhambra Unified School District Lift program has two campuses: North Lift serving students with intellectual disabilities; and Lift South to those with severe physical disabilities.

According to statistics from the California Department of Employment, while 75.7% of the general population has a job, only 33.9% of people with disabilities are employed; and only 13.6% of those who have a disability in their cognitive development as slow learning.

Frida Pickles is located at 404 W Leslie Drive in San Gabriel, California 91775. On social media, it's like @FridaPicklesCo


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