Grant Hobbs, who runs his home business Captain Cupcake. Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - Grant Hobbs, who runs the home business Captain Cupcake, said although he had high-functioning autism, he would be unable to work for someone else because he would get overwhelmed if he couldn’t work at his own pace.

“When I get stressed I just want to go into my happy or safe place and no one must come into that space. It allows me to calm down. Working at my own pace gives me more control over this kind of stress,” said Hobbs.

Hobbs said his mother encouraged him to do what he loves and he studied a City and Guilds Cooking course for one year, where the idea for his business was sparked.

“My love of baking started at a very young age when I used to help my mom bake, and my love grew stronger as I got older.

“But it was at the course, where we made really delicious cupcakes, that Captain Cupcake was born,” said Hobbs.

The entrepreneur said he faced challenges every day and that there were “special ways” that he dealt with various challenges.

“These are often more social issues, especially if you have high-functioning autism or Asperger’s, as it was first known.

“For example, I find it difficult to always understand non-verbal cues, like the way someone may pull their face or roll their eyes,” said Hobbs.

He said he also didn’t understand the nuances of speech, “like jokes that are a play on words”.

“In the workplace, this means that I wouldn’t understand if someone was just teasing me or if they were being mean,” he said.

He said he needed to work in a structured and systematic way that his brain understood, and that sudden unexpected change was not easy as it caused stress.

“Lots of noise may distract me from working in this way,” said Hobbs.

Last month, out of 100 applicants, the young baker was announced as the overall winner of the Durban Dessert Festival for his cupcakes.

“My plans are to continue baking and to start entering more competitions.

“I’m also planning to add cupcake jars to my range of goods, as well as to start manufacturing a top-secret product for coffee shops and restaurants,” he said.