Autism Activist and Entrepreneur Aaliyah Alicia Thompson is Living Her Beautiful Dream

Blog: Autism Activist

April is Autism Acceptance Month! So, in today’s blogpost, we’re featuring a young entrepreneur with autism who recently founded two businesses designed to encourage inclusion and provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

With the help of devoted family members, Aaliyah Alicia Thompson opened Aaliyah’s Beauty Bar in Jonesboro, Georgia, in 2022. Thought to be the first salon in the country started by a person with autism, Aaliyah’s offers nail, makeup and hair styling services “for ALL women no matter their shape, size, skin color or capabilities.”

Just eight months after launching her beauty bar, Thompson, who was diagnosed with autism at age 5, founded the Aaliyah School of Nails in Jonesboro. The school is specifically meant to provide training to aspiring nail professionals with autism.

“I am thrilled to be launching my nail school and to continue my journey as an entrepreneur,” said Thompson in a news release. “As someone with autism, I know firsthand the challenges of finding opportunities in the workforce. But I also know that individuals with autism have unique talents and abilities that can be harnessed to achieve great things. I hope that my nail school will serve as a model for inclusive entrepreneurship and inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter their background or challenges.”

According to the news release, the Aaliyah School of Nails will train students in nail care and design services as well as business management skills. Upon graduation, students will be certified nail techs with the skills needed to start their own nail salons, or to work in a nail salon owned by someone else.

Thompson’s groundbreaking work is being recognized within and outside of the beauty industry. Recently, she became an ambassador for McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden Change Leaders program and in 2023, Thompson was awarded $10,000 at the Afro Tech conference in Texas. Last Christmas, she donated half of her award money to 10 single parents raising children with autism. As someone living with autism who was raised by a single mother, Thompson has a keen awareness of the needs of families in challenging situations, especially during the holiday season. As she told Atlanta-based news station 11 Live, “My mom was a single parent, and there was a struggle. She worked so hard”, said Thompson. “I’ve seen a lot of people struggle nowadays because it’s a lot of work to build yourself up.”

Added Thompson, ““Follow your passions. You are smart. It doesn’t matter what people think.”