Down syndrome is ‘snow’ problem for North Texas entrepreneur

Down syndrome is ‘snow’ problem for North Texas entrepreneur

Down syndrome is ‘snow’ problem for North Texas entrepreneur
October 11
23:29 2017

At 21 years old, Blake Pyron has accomplished everything from starting his own business to co-sponsoring a bill for legislation — all while being Texas’ first business owner with Down syndrome.

In high school, Blake found himself working at a local barbecue restaurant in his hometown of Sanger, Texas, located just north of Denton. After a year, the restaurant closed and Blake found limited employment opportunities as graduation was quickly approaching.

“We had a problem when Blake started to see his older brother Mitchell being able to work for his goals, but Blake was always asking, ‘What about me?’” Blake’s mother Mary Ann Pyron said.

This became an issue Blake and his parents, Mary Ann and Billy Pyron, spent many nights discussing over dinner at their kitchen table.

“I still wanted to be able to make my own money,” Blake said. 

Though the Pyron family acknowledged this was discouraging for them in the beginning, this is no unfamiliar hurdle for people with Down syndrome. The National Down Syndrome Society reports that one in 700 people in the United States is born with Down syndrome — approximately 6,000 people per year.

With the help of his parents, Blake didn’t let a situation he could not change deter him from pursuing his dream. This determination, combined with extensive research into fields that Blake felt comfortable taking charge of, led to the creation of Blake’s Snow Shack on Oct. 12, 2015.

“We have always operated under the idea of not allowing society’s expectations and limits to become our reality,” Mary Ann said. “We didn’t want that for our son, and he didn’t want that for himself.”

Before long, the Pyrons learned these societal limitations were only the beginning of their obstacles to overcome.

In the early stages, the family didn’t struggle with Blake’s extra chromosome, but they instead struggled with being taken seriously as a business.

Much like many small business owners, Blake was met with the difficulties of creating a business with low startup funds and next to no advertising — with the exception of social media.

“Social media definitely helped get our story and business out there, but we just couldn’t do everything,” Mary Ann said.

Concerns of financial, emotional and even physical stress were soon laid to rest after an unexpected call from WFAA’s Lauren Zakalik in January 2016.  After just three months in business, news and entertainment outlets from all over the country caught wind of Blake’s story.

As a snowball of contact from USA TODAY to Good Morning America and even NASCAR made its way to a small North Texas town, the Pyrons realized they tapped into something sweeter than just a cool summertime treat — they showed a story of inspiration.

“What we thought would just be a chance for Blake to make a little bit of money turned into a platform of hope for others,” Mary Ann said.

But the phone calls didn’t stop there. 

Local organizations and agencies reached out to Blake’s Snow Shack to help in any way they could, including Dallas advertising agency Nametag and Flower Mound-based The Boardroom, an organization designed to help business owners further their company’s business model through investments and experience working with fellow entrepreneurs.

Blake and his family were extremely well-received in the Boardroom and are now winners through our organization,” said John Brown, chairman of CEO CLUBS, which hosts The Boardroom.

Just as the Pyrons were riding a new-found wave of success, they were just as quickly on the cusp of nation-wide attention. They were hit with another roadblock: the United States Government.

Currently, laws are in place that limit the amount of money someone with a disability can have in their savings account. Many don’t realize these laws are not exclusive to people with Down syndrome, as anyone with a disability — including victims of accidents and disabled veterans — can benefit through the proposed ABLE to Work Act (ABLE).

“We could have let it discourage us,” Mary Ann said. “But instead we chose to pack up and head to D.C. to find our congressman to change this.”

The Pyrons did not just find their representatives. They sat down and spoke with U.S. Congressman Michael C. Burgess of Lewisville to discuss ABLE in hopes of gaining support and raising awareness. Blake and family are optimistic that they will be able to help the bill be passed by the end of this year.

As the colder months are coming back around and October kicks off Down syndrome awareness month, the Pyrons look forward to the new opportunities they’ve been afforded through Blake’s story. This winter, though Mary Ann still works her day job at a credit union, Blake and newly-retired Billy hope to be able to travel the country and share his story through public awareness speaking.

Make no mistake, however — Blake’s story is not one to feel sorry for.

“Some people have stopped us before and told us how bad they feel for us,” Billy said. “But there is nothing to feel bad about. We are proud to be parents of a child with a disability, and Blake is not a burden.”

Regardless of the countless complications that only those with disabilities and their loved ones can truly understand, Blake doesn’t seem to question his future.

“I want to do this forever,” Blake said.

 And if there’s one question Blake certainly isn’t asking anymore, it’s “What about me?”

Featured Image: Blake Pyron stands with his mother, Mary Ann in front their second snow cone trailer. Blake’s Snow Shack has been in business since October 2015. Alec Spicer

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alec spicer

alec spicer

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