Entrepreneur With Asperger's To Launch Food Truck For A Cause

Posted at 10:13 PM, Jun 23, 2016

Theresa Daniels said she's always felt a little different. After speaking her first words at the age of five, she was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism.

"You really don't know how to interact with people," she said, "you don't know what conversational piece to start off with, you really have to pick one and just go from there if you can."

But with help from her family, the MTSU junior is about to achieve what many only dream of. She's about to start her own business.

"These are the bread and butter, pun intended," she laughed, "of the business. These are the soft pretzels."

Funded by family money saved and a entrepreneurship award of $12,500 from LaunchTN, she plans to start a food truck called Theresa's Twists: Pretzels With a Purpose.

She says that purpose is putting people with disabilities to work. She knows first-hand people can suffer from depression without something to do.

"II tend to lack a bit of that purpose myself when I'm not in school because without it I tend to wander a bit," she said.

Theresa's parents, a retired pastor and a special education teacher, will help run the truck.

"We want to help build self-confidence and, especially for people with Autism, the social skills, the communication skills, and the job skills (they need)," said Theresa's mom Jody. Jody hopes to pair employees with Autism with a mentor who can work with them throughout the day.

They make the soft pretzels and smaller pretzel poppers by hand, and also offer candied pretzels with white and dark chocolate. They say even the food itself serves a higher purpose.

"The twists really do represent the uniqueness of people on the spectrum," Theresa said.

The Daniels are working to raise an additional $20,000 through Kickstarter to get the food truck up and running. They also hope to one day expand to a brick and mortar shop, where they can host practical lessons in life skills for people with Autism.