Getting your first job out of high school is not easy. And residing in a small town without a car restricts your options. For 22-year-old Forrest Beaudoin-Friede, facing societal prejudices is one more barrier he has to overcome.
At an early age, Beaudoin-Friede was diagnosed with Down syndrome. (About one in 700—or 6,000 babies annually—are born with Down syndrome in the United States.)
Forrest went to public school, learned to read and write, and concentrated in business management at ConVal High in Peterborough. He plays piano and has performed traditional Native American drumming across the country at powwows. One of his prized possessions is the drum-beater he received after performing with the elders of the Lakota Sioux at the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 2011.
Forrest also found a passion in the kitchen. “I trained myself to start cooking,” says Beaudoin-Friede.
After graduation, he held a maintenance job at Ocean State Job Lot for a year or two, but aspired to work in food preparation. He dropped off his resume at several local businesses. But there were no takers, he says.
Rowan Beaudoin-Friede, his 19-year-old brother, attributes the rejections to ill-conceived assumptions: employers see people with developmental disabilities as burdensome and costly. The reality is there are federal and state laws that provide services to help with facilitated employment. “Businesses need to have a better understanding of the resources at hand,” he says.
Rowan knew Forrest had ideas worth sharing. In high school, Forrest designed a business plan for a gluten-free artisanal bakery. “I thought it [the plan] was pretty cool,” says Rowan, who looked at the supply and demand in the area and realized the concept’s feasibility.
What began as a school project became the genesis for Best Brothers Bakery (facebook.com/BestBrothersBakery). In the summer of 2016, Rowan and Forrest raised $1,155 on GoFundMe to purchase grains and machines. By summer’s end, they reaped 200 percent on their investments selling their goods at farmers markets and taking orders for deliveries. They repeated the venture the following summer but grew frustrated with fighting the sporadic whims of Mother Nature. Even the threat of rain prevented people from showing up, says Rowan.
If this were to become a viable operation, they needed to sell to wholesalers and retailers. And this is the junction that they are at today. In between perfecting gluten-free recipes for pecan sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, pastries and breads, they’re meeting with small bakeries and other mom-and-pop shops to feature their baked products and mixes.
Meanwhile, Forrest has a job. He prepares the mixes. And the best part? “It’s allowed me to develop a closer relationship with Forrest,” says Rowan. The brothers fist-bump, saying in unison, “We’re the best brothers.” Adds Forrest, “And I’m a business owner.”