Transcending Barriers: Empowered Autistic Entrepreneur Thrives in Small Business
Written by Grace Wood
At only 18 years old, Hunny Bea McGinnis is breaking barriers.
The Claremore native — who is transgender and autistic — has established a thriving small business that serves as a channel for empowerment and inclusivity. Their business, Hunny Pot Creations, specializes in handmade goods created with autistic people in mind.
“I make a lot of interactive art pieces — things that you’re meant to feel and touch and that have all different types of textures,” McGinnis said. “I like to draw and color and create to help me regulate my emotions and de-stress from the high-sensory stress of being autistic.”
Growing up, McGinnis said they experienced a variety of symptoms that made them believe they might be autistic. They often disassociated and became overwhelmed in public, which made attending school and finding hobbies difficult. It wasn’t until a psychiatric evaluation at age 17, however, that McGinnis received their official autism diagnosis, confirming what they already knew to be true.
“I kept trying to tell my mom I was autistic, and she kept shutting it down,” McGinnis said. “One time, I almost had a meltdown when we were at the grocery store together. I was in a rush to leave, and as we walked to the parking lot, she started yelling at me and asked, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I tried to tell her I was autistic and overstimulated, but she wouldn’t listen. And then a few days later, we got the results back from the psych eval. I texted her, ‘I told you so.’”
Since being diagnosed with autism, McGinnis said they feel validated and like they have more tools to not only cope, but thrive. In addition to incorporating things like stimming tools and noise-canceling headphones into their daily life, McGinnis has found artistic expression to be a valuable aid.
“Since learning I’m autistic, I’ve learned to unmask, which has saved my life,” McGinnis said. “I’m learning what I need to do to accommodate myself and what helps me function on a day-to-day basis.”
McGinnis started Hunny Pot Creations as a creative outlet in 2020. The business offers a wide variety of creations — plushies, crystals, keychains, jewelry, art and other accessories — that McGinnis makes by hand.
Initially, McGinnis brought his goods to sell at farmers’ markets. Eventually, they made their way to vending at bigger shows and starting an online shop, which is still going strong nearly three years later. Notably, Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library in Oklahoma City selected one of McGinnis’ art pieces to be displayed in their LGBTQ+ Art Showcase.
The piece, which is covered with sensory-friendly materials, is just one example of the many creations McGinnis crafts with autistic people top-of-mind.
“I like to use materials with different textures that you can run your hand across and feel — they’re visually stimulating, too, which I like to keep in mind,” McGinnis said. “With some of the stuffed animals I make, I add rattles in them, or I’ll make parts of them crinkle, because that can be another way people like to stim. And with my jewelry, I tend to use beads that spin — that's a subtle fidget people can play with.”
As an autistic person who also uses mobility aids, McGinnis said having a solid circle of support around them is an essential part of the success of their business.
“I definitely have to rely on my loved ones to help me run my business at times, so that’s my advice to other autistic people who want to start a business: Find a good support team and find the accommodations that work best for you,” McGinnis said.
Looking ahead, McGinnis said they want to keep expanding Hunny Pot Creations by vending at bigger events, like the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival and the Oddities & Curiosities Expo. They also hope to purchase a van or travel trailer, which would allow them to travel to events all over the country.
More than anything, McGinnis said they’ll continue to use autism as a means for empowerment, both for themselves and for others, and to combat misunderstandings about what it means to be autistic.
“Many people have misconceptions about autistic people and they infantilize us — but we can work a job, be successful and have just as good of a life as anyone else can,” McGinnis said.