Kristy LaCrosse—Someone You Should Know

January 2016 View more

NMAG0116_SYSK_nm Kristy Lacrosse & Austin Love 1_800pxKristy LaCrosse was searching for opportunities to create long-lasting job skills for her son, Austin Love, who is autistic. When the Naperville mom couldn’t find any suitable opportunities, she took charge and created a small home-based business to help her son and others with autism. Now the company, “Have a Happy,” is flourishing thanks to her vision and commitment to making a difference.

What inspired you to create the company and how did you come up with the name “Have a Happy?”

Like many young adults on the spectrum, Austin struggles with anxiety, OCD and other issues. While he is considered to be high functioning, there are still things he struggles with on a daily basis. It’s become clear to us over the years that a typical 9 to 5 p.m. job will be very difficult for him. Even searching for volunteer opportunities to gain job skills has been difficult. Since I couldn’t find them, I decided to create them. Starting with an online company was a good fit because it gives us the flexibility we sometimes need when Austin might be having an off day. Long term, we know we want a business we can grow and add individuals who are on the spectrum and we feel this business will allow us to do that.

Have a Happy is a phrase that my dad has been saying since the late ‘60s. He always said it whenever someone was having a birthday or anniversary. To me, Have a Happy is about versatility. There is always a hint of optimism—we’re all about optimism in our family and our company.

What is the company’s mission?

The heart of “Have a Happy” is to help Austin and others, including the customers who purchase our products. For Austin we are working on his job skills. As sales increase, we will be able to give others similar opportunities to work on their job, life and social skills. Austin’s a junior in high school now. We purposely started Have a Happy before he was out of high school so it has time to grow and we have time to fine tune it before he graduates. For our customers, we want to offer a quality product that is a reminder that any day can have elements of good in it.

What are some of the products available and how can people purchase them?

We have a variety of trademarked items available for sale on our website ( and at a handful of shops in Illinois and Washington State. We offer mugs, water bottles, notecards, tote bags, t-shirts and hoodies. Our mugs are our best selling items. They are affordable and people comment that they love waking up and using them first thing in the morning. Recently, our white water bottles were added to bTizzy’s website ( It’s a great site that offers products made by People with Disabilities. March–May we donated 10 percent of our sales to Autism Speaks.

“Have A Happy” is more than just a business. What are the life lessons and skills you hope to teach Austin and other people with autism?

I want Austin to learn basic job skills that he can apply in any job; getting to work on time, common courtesies, following simple directions, asking questions if he doesn’t understand something. But more than that, I want Austin to know he is valued and that he can and should be contributing to the community around him.

What has been the most gratifying part of your mission?

By far it’s the pride that Austin takes in “Have a Happy.” We aren’t the fastest growing small company. We aren’t making millions. But we are changing Austin’s life. When he learns a new skill—like checking inventory—I feel a bit of relief. I know that’s a skill that he can apply and use in another job setting. I asked Austin where he wants to be in five years. He said “I’ll be in college and working with Have a Happy, of course!”

Photo by Robyn Sheldon