HOUSTON (KIAH) — The holidays are right around the corner and many of us are searching for that perfect gift to give to those we love. Instead of searching for the biggest sales and discounts on the shelves of big box stores, this year, think about giving the ones that you love a gift that was made with love right here in Houston. 

Aspire Accessories is a local boutique that is breaking boundaries for individuals with autism and special needs. Aspire focuses on creating employment opportunities as well as a social community that doubles as a support system for its artisans.  

Denise is the woman behind the idea of Aspire Accessories. She was inspired to create this business after her son, Nick, was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). At a young age, her son was informed by doctors of all the things that he CANNOT do, while Denise focused on what he CAN do.  

Holding attention to detail is an attribute that Denise noticed early in her son’s development. A leather craftsman, Peter Main, was introduced to Nick at age 14. Peter apprenticed Nick and taught him how to hand stamp and hand stitch leather goods.  Peter was amazed not only at Nick’s interest in the work they were doing, but also in the quality of the work Nick produced. This began to carve a path of meaningful work for Nick’s future.  

In 2011, Denise founded Aspire Accessories. It started with one product, the double wrap hand-stamped, rivet bracelet.  Nick would set the rivets and stamp them. Denise would set the snaps. Word spread, and Nick’s work began to get recognized. Several organizations began to reach out for customized bracelets. 

Denise states that this was more than just a mother and son project and “…there were many parents who, like me, would not accept NEVER!”. Others needed a path, similar to Nick’s, where they can use their skills to create purposeful work, despite their diagnosis.  

“I was passionate about helping this community succeed and I needed to grow Aspire Accessories to provide opportunities for others with ASD.”, says Denise. Within a few months we had hired 4 artisans and had produced over 600 bracelets. 

Joining forces 

Social Motion Skills is a nonprofit in Houston that teaches social and life skills to those with intellectual differences.  Nick began taking classes within this organization. The mission of Social Motion Skills and Denise’s business overlapped. In 2016, the two collaborated and created the Aspire Accessories work transition and training program for young adults with Autism and similar special needs. By 2021, Aspire had employed over 75 artisans, paying them real life wages with real world learning.  

The program continued to grow today. Denise says that “Throughout these years, the biggest lesson I have learned is that the only NEVER I believe in is NEVER BELIEVE IN NEVER.” 

Holiday ornaments, jewelry, personalized bags, mugs, and gift sets, can all be purchased though Aspire Accessories today! Gifting the gift of OPPERTUNITY to those behind the products at Aspire Accessories, is just as much of a present as the product itself.