Mainstream media and negative interactions on the street might cause you to think that the world is a dark and hateful place—but thankfully this isn’t true. Many positive and inspiring people exist and they’re doing their part to make the world a better place. Amy Wright of North Carolina, along with the folks her business employs, fall into this category.
Three years ago, Wright, a mother of two children with Down syndrome, Bitty and Beau, opened a coffee shop. She named the cafe after her children. Her other bold decision was to only employ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
“It hit me like a lightning bolt: a coffee shop! 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.”
The coffee shop is a path for people with IDD to become more valued, accepted, and included in their local communities. Furthermore, it is helping to decrease the unemployment rate for individuals with IDD, which currently stands at about 80%.
“Creating this has given people a way to interact with people with disabilities that (they) never had before. 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.”
When the venture began, the shop had 18 employees. Soon, that number quickly grew to 40. In 2017, Wright won CNN‘s Hero of the Year award for her advocacy work for people with disabilities. The award included $100,000 toward her cause.
In February of 2018, Bitty and Beau’s Coffee opened its second location in Charleston, South Carolina. It now employs approximately 80 people.
In January of 2019, the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the third Bitty and Beau’s Coffee was held in Savannah, Georgia. The new establishment will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. As The Mighty reports, celebrities including Rachel Ray have been spotted at the shop.
Wright has no interest in slowing down. In fact, she hopes to open several more locations across the United States within the next few years.
“Our hope is that other businesses will see our success and realize the importance and benefit of hiring people with intellectual disabilities. When other businesses begin to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, this will truly affect the unemployment epidemic.”
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