Young Charlottetown boy with autism creates business of 'conversation starters'

10-year-old Michael Williams is selling jars full of 'conversation starters' to help people who have trouble communicating.

10-year-old Michael Williams started his business with the help of the Young Millionaires Program

10-year-old Michael Williams is selling jars full of 'conversation starters' to help people who have trouble communicating. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

When Michael Williams was diagnosed with autism at age two, he couldn't speak.

His mother Faye Williams said she taught him how to say one word at a time, with some words taking up to two weeks for him to grasp. His first word was "help."

Now, at age 10, he's a young entrepreneur using his experience with the challenge of language to help others.
Michael sells mason jars filled with conversation starters.

"Michael has autism, and one of the greatest challenges is conversation, and getting it started," said Williams. "I find that's a challenge for people who don't have autism and a lot of adults that I know.

"It won't just help children with autism, it will help everybody. No one talks enough."

He sells mason jars each filled with 50 conversation starters written on colourful paper. He sells one jar for $10 or all three jars in the set for $25.

One jar costs $10, or you can buy the whole set for $25. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

Michael said he wanted to make conversation starters because he likes to help people.

"We brainstormed so many cool ideas," his mother said. "This really seemed to fit."

One of the conversation starters asks, "What is your favourite thing to do outside?"

Michael's response: "I suggest trampoline."

Learning about entrepreneurship

Michael is homeschooled by his mother.

"Part of his homeschooling curriculum is small business," said Williams. "I'm always trying to find new things for him to do."

She said they became interested in the Young Millionaires Program, a summer program for youth aged 8-16, according to its website.

"The Young Millionaires has been such an awesome way to think about business," said Williams. "He did a cost sheet and learned what income is."

Williams said Michael went to three business classes as part of the program. Some of his tasks included opening a bank account and conducting a market research survey. He only expected to get five or 10 responses, but had over 70.

Michael's business plan was approved this week.

A chance to win

It's only been one day since Michael started selling the conversation starters, but business is already booming.

Michael is going to donate $1 from each sale to Autism Society Prince Edward Island, of which his mother is the president.

'It makes me so proud of how far [Michael] has come,' said his mother Faye Williams. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

They just received a surprising donation themselves.

"My boss, David Carver, messaged me this morning and has donated two premium grand stand tickets to our AtlanticFest concert, worth over $400. Everybody who makes a purchase from Michael all summer, until the middle of August, will get ballots to win those two awesome tickets," said Williams.

Williams says she hopes Michael will have a long life in business.

"It makes me so proud of how far [Michael] has come, and the big heart he has," Williams said, choking back tears.