“Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is a new lens, one that changes the way people see other people. It’s about human value. It’s about acceptance. It’s about inclusion. It’s about much more than a cup of coffee.” – Wright
There is a very special coffee-house in America called Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop. The place was established with the intention of making a difference in the world. There, they doesn’t just serve energizing drinks and snacks – they serve an uplifting experience too. As their official website states, it’s a place where diversity “is not just appreciated, it’s celebrated.”
So what is it exactly that makes this coffee shop chain so unique? The business is a non-profit enterprise run by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The founders wanted to do something to improve the lives of employees and change the viewpoints of customers. They wanted people to see that people with disabilities were perfectly capable of working.
The reality of today’s world is that, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, fewer than 20% (18.7%) of people with a disability are in paid employment. Workers with disabilities are more likely to work only part-time, and they are less likely than their peers to have graduated college, which adds to the difficulty of finding work. Bottom line, they struggle to find a place in the working world and stigma is the biggest of all the obstacles.
Many people are ignorant to the lives, aspirations, and capabilities of those with disabilities; because of that, they wrongly assume that those people have little to offer. Often times, employers worry that they won’t be able to offer employees with disabilities the support they need in their roles.
“My employees are not broken; 200 million people across the world living with an intellectual or developmental disability are not broken. What is broken is the lens through which we view people with disabilities.” – Wright
The beautiful thing about Bitty & Beau’s is that it has already started to challenge people’s perceptions. The shop has become a warm community hubs where employees with disabilities are both visible and valued. It has put an impression on people who go there and is showing everyone that the people with disabilities are not broken. The founders hope that their success will inspire other companies to hire a diverse workforce, and to prove that taking a positive approach to hiring people with disabilities can be a great commercial strategy.
Why A Coffee Shop
Bitty & Beau’s was started by Amy Wright. She is the mother of 2 children with Down’s syndrome: a son, Beau, and daughter, Bitty. Knowing that the world is not an easy place for people with disabilities, she came up with a plan. “It hit me like a lightning bolt: a coffee shop!” Wright said. “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 inspiration came to Wright and her husband to start Bitty & Beau’s because of their children. Though, they didn’t only want to establish the chain just so that their children would be guaranteed a job. There was an even grander vision to it. They were looking to change the culture so that, when they were old enough, the world would be ready for them.
Then, the Wright’s opened the first Bitty & Beau’s shop in 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. It was such a success that a second store, located in Charleston, S.C., opened in February 2018. Bitty & Beau’s has received so much positive media attention that the company has even been featured on the Today Show, CNN, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, and the Rachael Ray Show. Both shops combined have around 80 employees. Their workers include people with Down’s syndrome, autism, and those who have yet to receive a diagnosis.
As advocates for the value, inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), the Wrights have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place for their children and others living with IDD. Recently, in 2017, Amy Wright was awarded CNN’s Hero Of The Year Award, which earned her $100,000 to help grow Bitty & Beau’s even further.
When Amy accepted her award, she said:
“I am bringing this home to the 40 employees who work at Bitty & Beau’s because they are my heroes. And most of all to my two youngest children, Bitty and Beau, who are my inspirations, I want you to know, because I know you are watching, that I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”
The shop receives positive reviews constantly. Customers love the drinks and the customer service. A recent reviewer on Yelp.com (where the average rating is five-star) describes the shop as “my favorite coffee shop on earth” with people who are “a better pick me up than caffeine could ever be.”
With the rising success of their business, they are currently searching for more locations to open up new shops. Their aim is to continue opening more coffee shops across the country to be able to offer employment for more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their ultimate mission is to change the way the working world views people with disabilities.