Smart, capable, and cheerful. These are three characteristics employers look for when hiring for any kind of job. These are also three common characteristics in people with Down syndrome. Despite this correlation, adults with Down syndrome have a high unemployment rate. In fact, in 2017 the unemployment rate for people with any kind of disability was more than double the rate of unemployment of those without. (1, 2)
With these facts in mind, one woman took action. With a 500 square foot shop, 19 employees, and a cup of coffee, Amy Wright decided to become part of the solution.
How Coffee Is Changing The World
Having two children with Down syndrome, Amy Wright became familiar with what life is like for those with the genetic disorder. She also knows exactly what people with this type of disability are capable of, despite the fact the working world often denies them the opportunity. And so, an idea was born! Wright decided to start a coffee shop that offered employment to people with Down syndrome as well as those with other intellectual and developmental disabilities
In January of 2016, the first Bitty and Beau’s Coffee shop opened in Wilmington, North Carolina. Two and a half short years later, Bitty and Beau’s opened a second location in Charleston, South Carolina after doubling the number of initial employees at the first location. Then, just last month, a third location opened in Savannah, Georgia. Wright hopes to open shops all over the country in the coming years, and she is well on her way with this kind of momentum!
I have no doubt they serve an excellent cup of joe or the shops wouldn’t be popping up so quickly. But there seems to be something else grabbing everyone’s attention at Bitty and Beau’s. Wright describes it as a unique customer service experience. “Our community has completely embraced Beau’s Coffee,” Wright said. “Every expectation that we had has been exceeded.”
While Wright hoped from day one that Bitty and Beau’s would make a change in the world, she greatly underestimated to what extent. Since their humble beginnings, Bitty and Beau’s has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Good Morning America, People Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, and was even made the official coffee of the Rachel Ray Show.
Wright posted some of her thoughts on Facebook about what Bitty and Beau’s has accomplished over the years. “We knew we were creating jobs,” she wrote. “What we didn’t know was that we were creating a culture. Just look around Beau’s Coffee and you’ll find people from all walks of life doing life together. Everybody counts.”
Contributing To The Culture
If this cause excites you as much as the daily patrons, then you’re probably wondering how you can be a part of the magic! Luckily, there are some things you can do:
If you live close enough to a Bitty and Beau’s location, drop by to say hello, grab a coffee, and see for yourself what can be accomplished when people of all abilities are valued and appreciated. If a coffee shop has yet to be built in your state, you can still support the cause by shopping at Bitty and Beau’s online store or donating to ABLE to Work USA. This helps create more jobs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Maybe you know someone with a disability like Down syndrome who could use some encouragement, support, or just a friend. Go out of your way to help them feel accepted and loved. A little can go a long way, and often you’ll be surprised how much you can enrich each other’s lives.
Let your friends, neighbors, and employers hear this story and help change the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. As Wright said, “Our hope is that other businesses will see our success and realize the importance and benefits of hiring people with intellectual disabilities.” Spread the word, share the love, and change the world.
One Cup Of Coffee At A Time
Who would have thought that something as simple as a cup of coffee could make such a remarkable impact on the world? Wright shared, “My experience has been that people with special needs bring a refreshing perspective to every moment in life. Working alongside this population has been one of my greatest joys in life.” So once again, maybe it’s not the coffee that’s making the impact, it’s the people.