Jasmine’s Bunting Co. (JBC) helps set the mood for festive birthday parties, baby showers and holidays with colorful, customized, flag-style banners. While JBC produces a distinctive end product, the core of this Encinitas-based business involves something even more unique than the charming handmade décor.

JBC also provides essential employment to a number of exceptional individuals. By doing so, the company enriches the lives of these young adults with special needs—providing a workplace filled with joy, the dignity of self-support and the social nourishment of enduring friendships.

The unique business model originally formed when Laura Prince, owner of Sew Inspired (an afterschool sewing program in Encinitas), helped her 19-year old daughter Jasmine (who has Down syndrome) start her own sewing business. Prince taught Jasmine how to sew when she was 10, and Jasmine began making buntings as birthday gifts for friends.

Eventually, bunting requests flooded in from friends and family for holidays and baby showers, so Jasmine taught several friends to sew and help with the orders. Things took off and within weeks they were officially in business.

“Jasmine’s Bunting is special because it fills a need for people who are usually overlooked in the work world,” says Marie Lehman, JBC general manager and teacher at Sew Inspired. “It provides them with a safe, happy place to work, making a fun product.”

Transitioning teens with special needs into independent adults is an ongoing challenge. When individuals “age out” of the public school system, there are very limited options for what comes next.

Prince shares that 90 percent of adults with special needs are unemployed, mostly because they work at a slower pace. As a result, the manifestation of a company like JBC offers an innovative, admirable solution. Transportation is also a limiting employment factor, as individuals with special needs typically can’t drive. Lehman hopes the company can purchase a van in the future to facilitate this issue.

In JBC’s supportive work environment, young adults with special needs can thrive. Jasmine—who dreams of being the first Disney Channel star with Down syndrome—is a worthy role model for her peers. A hard worker and people lover, she exudes an encouraging nature. Jasmine loves country music and has been on stage with country music star Rascal Flatts three times! Whenever someone needs help—with sewing or anything else—she is available. Her qualities promote a happy, social work environment.

Maddie, another JBC employee, is 23 and also has Down syndrome. After her family moved to the area for a stronger community, Maddie met Jasmine at the youth group of a local church. She loves Bible study, working out, movies and—like many young people—has several celebrity crushes.

There’s also Delia, age 21, who has Cerebral Palsy and has used a wheelchair since she was 8 years old. She has some speech and learning challenges, but after meeting Jasmine in an adult transition program and then attending a field trip to Sew Inspired, Delia asked for work (her other job option was to pick up trash on the beach—in her wheelchair!). Delia likes music, Facebook, fashion, hair and make-up, and dreams of living on her own. She wants to work more than anything and rides the bus to get there. With initial earnings, she purchased a wheelchair ramp for her home.

“Having a future and hope and purpose in life is big,” Lehman says. “To be able to do steady work that you enjoy at a safe and happy job, is our goal. The options for work for people with special needs are almost none. We want to change that.”

“We hope to grow into a real sewing factory and employ lots of young adults with special needs,” Prince says. “We hope to not only have steady jobs for them, but include a mini-cultural school environment where we help our ‘yadults’ (short for young adults with special needs) stay current on social events, social trends and create an atmosphere of learning and growing.”

Jasmine’s buntings are available for holidays, birthdays, graduations and more—or they can be left blank for a decorative color splash. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and designs and are currently sold online. Prince encourages churches to order banners for Easter or wedding planners to offer personalized buntings to their clients.

The more orders that come in, the more jobs can be established at JBC for young adults with special needs. Consider supporting the dreams of these inspirational, hard-working individuals by ordering a bunting for your next special occasion at www.jasminesbuntingco.com.

Encinitas resident Lisa Pawlak is a contributing writer and mom of two sons.