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Hawaiian family overcomes disability to share sweet success in the CSRA

The snack packs come in a variety of sweet and spicy flavors, and the prices vary depending on size. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Fanfan)

For many young children, life revolves around playing games, going to school, and drinking Capri Sun.

But five-year-old PJ Fanfan of Evans is already well on his way to becoming an entrepreneur, despite his autism diagnosis. Fanfan helps his mother, Andrea, run PJ’s Snacky Sack, which sells a variety of Hawaiian-inspired snack food bags at various locations throughout Columbia County. “It’s been great,” says Andrea. “We have yet to hear anything negative.” Many customers have shared their own experiences with autism.

PJ Fanfan and his mother, Andrea, started PJ’s Snacky Sack last October. He typically devotes one to two hours a week to prepare the snack packs, but it’s a full-time job for her. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Fanfan)

Customers have their choice of 11 flavors, and one of the most popular is called supa ono, which means super delicious in the Hawaiian culture. Prices vary depending on the sack’s size, but a regular size costs $4. She says the bags contain an assortment of snack pieces, including pretzels, rice crackers, and even gummies, as well as a variety of unique sauces.

PJ participates in many facets of the business, including packaging and labeling items. “I don’t allow him to do anything with the oven,” Andrea explains. He typically devotes time on the weekends and one or two hours per week to prepare the snacks, but it has become her full-time job. Andrea does much of the baking while he goes to therapy during the day. “I bake five days a week,” she states.

PJ and Andrea, pictured here with other family members, work together to sell their products at various locations in Columbia County, including the Evans Market and Recteq Grills. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Fanfan)

Completing his job duties has helped PJ become more focused, engaged, and motivated – essential attributes for an entrepreneur. “It’s been great for curbing his behaviors,” especially temper tantrums,” Andrea says. “Our big thing is getting him to socialize more appropriately with the public.” He’s currently learning to talk and has become better at following directions – skills that will help him communicate more effectively with customers. When PJ becomes frustrated or unmotivated, she and her husband, Pierre, don’t force him to continue working. “When it’s no longer fun for him, he probably won’t want to do it anymore,” Andrea explains.

She says the mother-son team started selling their homemade creations at a kids’ vendor day in Edgefield in Oct. 2020. Now local residents can find them and their products at the Evans Market – held on Saturdays in front of the new Columbia County Performing Arts Center – and other venues, such as movie nights at Recteq Grills in Evans and Screen on the Green in Grovetown. They can also place orders by sending Andrea a message on either Facebook or Instagram.

She says, for now, all the profits from the business go into savings. “We’re hoping he’ll one day continue this business,” Andrea adds.

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