A Canadian man with autism turned his passion into profit by starting a paper shredding company while in college. Fifteen years later, he has his own workspace, an employee, and he’s even buying his own home.
Aaron Grimm, of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. Throughout his life, Aaron was encouraged by his parents, Vanessa and Ken, who firmly believe their son shouldn’t be singled out for his disability.
Being practically nonverbal, Aaron received educational support and attended mainstream school—his parents got the school district’s initial refusal overturned at grade 7.
“We never entertained pity,” Vanessa told The Epoch Times. “We never allowed Aaron to feel sorry for himself. We raised Aaron the same as we raised his brother, to work hard, to do his best, and behave.”
Growing up, both Aaron and his older brother, Jonathan, attended church, watched hockey, shopped, patronized restaurants, and went to camp—just like their peers.
While developmental delays caused many of Aaron’s friends to socially outgrow him, Aaron was taught to make the most of his situation.
“I look back now, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that was for him,” Vanessa reflected. “But he has, he’s risen to the expectations every time.”
Her son’s journey to becoming a business owner began in 2007, while he was on summer break from college. He had a support worker who’d been looking into a summer job for him and had shortlisted paper shredding as a potential fit.
Aaron is geared toward tactile, sensory-oriented work. He’d been shredding paper for his father for years and loved the idea of that job. But he was adamant he should start his own business.
So, his mom encouraged him to take it seriously and come up with a name for the business, as well as cards, equipment, and advertising. Aaron rose to the occasion and conceived his company: AG Shredding & Recycling Services.
Five days after placing a local paper ad, he got his first job: 70 boxes for a Tim Hortons franchise. He started shredding in his kitchen, but his first shredder burned out the first day. His second shredder cost $750 with a warranty, while his third cost $3,000 and lasted 10 years.
Thanks to word of mouth, ads, and Facebook, Aaron’s business soon took off.
Today, Aaron rents a workspace of his own and has even hired a part-time employee.
Still enchanted by the sensory stimulation of shredding, Aaron sings while he works.
In 2021, Aaron’s support worker helped him fulfill a longtime dream: buying a home. With his parents in tow, Aaron viewed 15 properties, eventually settling on a modern, four-bedroom house with enough room for friends and support staff.
Touring the property, Vanessa had overheard him whispering to himself, “This is beautiful,” and she knew he’d found his place.
Aaron pitched in 50 percent for the down payment—from his disability savings—while his parents covered the rest.
Aaron’s successes in business—and in life—garnered international interest: The mother and son duo were invited to Ukraine to share how inclusion made such a big difference for him.
Vanessa now tells parents whose children are disabled to “dream big.”
“If you look at the disability, all you see is fear and impossibilities,” she said. “But if you look at the person, the fear goes away.”
Inclusion, she noted, means that the disabled are as much entitled to the world as anyone else is.
“This is his world too, right?” she said. “Not just yours and mine, and not just all the people that don’t have disabilities.
“It’s Aaron’s world, too.”