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Lee's Summit man with autism finds purpose in running vending machine business

Jonah's Vending has multiple locations
Jonah's vending machine.png
Posted at 5:07 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 19:35:49-04

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — Jonah Taylor's family didn't think twice about his ability to become an entrepreneur. And now, stickers with his business's name, Jonah Vending, can be seen on vending machines around Lee's Summit.

"How old are you?" Kim Taylor asks her son.

Jonah Taylor pushes a button on his tablet. A computerized voice says, "I am 20 years old."

Jonah Taylor has autism and is nonverbal, so he uses his tablet to communicate. He's a man of few words but also an entrepreneur.

Jonah's parents, Tony and Kim, pondered ways to support him in adulthood, and they thought filling and servicing vending machines would be a great fit.

"If there's a definitive purpose and a start and ending, he can usually fill in the middle," Dr. Tony Taylor said, "and we thought that this process was something he could complete from end to end."

On Tony Taylor's day off, Jonah and he drive to each location that has a vending machine. Jonah stocks the machines and takes out the money.

"It's really fulfilling because it gives him a purpose, he gets out in the community," Tony Taylor said. "I really think it benefits everyone to see him participate in the community the way he does."

Those who ask Jonah if he's happy, will get "Bah," as a response, which means "yes." His parents said he enjoys what he does.

Jonah's Vending now has five vending machines at businesses around Lee's Summit, including Bridge Space, a business incubator.

"I don't think there's any limitations to entrepreneurship," Ben Rao said, president of Bridge Space, said. "Our mission at Bridge Space is to help small businesses and entrepreneurs get them the resources to build bigger and try to create jobs in Lee's Summit."

Jonah Taylor's family works with Developing Potential Inc., which provided him with a job coach.

Lori Oxborough, program director for DPI Employment Connections, said this kind of community support is essential for young adults like Jonah Taylor.

"Many of our jobs are all customized to the individual, so it's not just a job we place them in," Oxborough said. "They actually go through the process and we really figure out what their themes are, then we talk with the employers and they customize the job for them, so it's an awesome partnership with so many businesses we have."

The vending machines come at no cost to Jonah Vending's customers. Jonah Taylor and his parents hope to expand even more.