In Wilmington, North Carolina, Amy Wright opened up a Coffee Shop that employs people with mental disabilities. In fact, her entire coffee shop staff is almost completely made up of people with these disabilities. And not only does the business do well for itself, it is actually thriving. The coffee shop has over 40 people with mental disabilities, and two managers who have degrees in special education.
This began when Wright and her husband found out that nearly 70% of adults with mental disabilities did not have jobs. It was an issue that was close to the hearts of this couple, because two of her four children suffered from Down Syndrome. As the owner of the coffee shop Bitty and Beau’s Coffee (named after her children with Downs), she knew that she had to do something about the situation.
“It hit me like a lightning bolt: a coffee shop!” said Wright, “I realized it would be the perfect environment for bringing people together. Seeing the staff taking orders, serving coffee — they’d realize how capable they are. Our wait time is no longer than any of our competitors. Â They’ve all gotten really good at their jobs and step up if somebody else needs help.” All the profits of the coffee shop are given to Wright’s nonprofit organization Able to Work USA.
“Creating this has given people a way to interact with people with disabilities that they never had before,” she added. “This is a safe place where people can test the waters and realize how much more alike we are than different. And that’s what it’s all about.”