Rodriguez: Tasium is a clothing line that has fidgety toys attached so people don’t lose the toy and can access the toy discreetly. Fidget toys are known to improve productivity and reduce stress for people with autism and people with ADHD. Fidget toys can help you scratch the itch of fidgeting in a more productive way.
Tasium sends one shirt and one fidget toy per order. It has a unique attachment so you can swap wriggling toys. The shirts are $ 25 each.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
Rodriguez: My young brother, Joel M. Rodriguez, has autism and I have been to every IEP (Individualized Education Program) with him since he was 7 years old. He learns differently. I learned about autism and how best to help it around the house. He has a lot of obstacles that he needs to break down, so my goal as I grew up was to minimize them. He’s a year younger than me – I’m 17 and he’s 16. I was born in Providence and now live in Woonsocket.
Q: When did you start the company and how did it come about?
Rodriguez: I founded Tasium in January 2019. In November 2020, it officially became an LLC. I’m a senior at the Met School (the Metropolitan Regional Career & Technical Center in Providence). During my four years there, I looked at various career paths. I wanted to become a teacher, a psychologist, and then I said: what about the business field?
My school has an entrepreneurship program, E360. You need to apply for the class. Lots of people want to get in. They’ll show you how to create a business plan and create a 60 second pitch. And one of the questions in the application is: What is your business idea?
During my four years most of my projects were based on autism and I wanted to do something with clothes. One day I was in my room and my little brother was looking for his favorite toy – one of those fidget cubes. He said worried, “Did you see it?” Then it hit me: I knew I wanted to make clothes with fidgety toys so as not to lose them.
Q: Why did you name the company Tasium?
Rodriguez: I had trouble naming the company. So I took the letters with the word “autism” and encrypted them. Then I picked the one that sounded most like a word. Tasium is autism messed up.
Q: Tell us about how you won the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge hosted by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in October.
Rodriguez: It’s like “Shark Tank” for young entrepreneurs. At the end of the E360 program at Met School, you will do a two-minute pitch. It’s called the “Fish Bowl” because it isn’t the “Shark Tank” yet. You do it in front of judges. You picked me to go to the NFTE competition.
It starts with thousands of participants from all over the world. Three from your region are moving on, and I took first place in the region. Then I was one of 30 nationals. It went to 15, to the last three, and then I won. The price was $ 12,000.
Q: What do you do with the prize money?
Rodriguez: I put the money into building a website and working with a manufacturer to make more shirts in bulk. Before that, I made the shirts from The Met’s Entrepreneurship Center, and homemade takes forever. Since the competition, I’ve worked a lot behind the scenes – obtaining intellectual property rights, patenting them. There are things that you must do before you can flood the market. If it’s not patented, someone could adopt my idea.
I’ve met with various autism support schools and organizations and should be getting my first batch of 120 Tasium t-shirts soon. I will donate a percentage of the shirts to each school with autism programs and get feedback on what they like and what they don’t. The rest of the shirts are sold. Pre-orders are available on the website.
Q: What does the future hold for you?
Rodriguez: One of my goals is to sponsor the Special Olympics. I want to bring these clothes to families with people on the autism spectrum as well. I want to flood the market with Tasium t-shirts and then expand it. We have fidgeting toys, but we build on them. I have a lot of cool designs in the works.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.