Why did you decide to start your own business?
I have 32 years of public education experience. I never set out to own a business. My desire was to continue being a school counselor and retire when my youngest child graduates (2023).
This business of creating a fully inclusive workplace, where people with differing abilities work alongside their typically developing peers, is a sweet idea—one that is so necessary, not only for those with disabilities. Typically developing people who are going into fields where they will be working with those different from them need the experience we offer.
I kept thinking someone else would do this. But it wasn't happening, so I decided it could be me… maybe I was the "somebody."
Where did the idea come from and how did you put it into action?
My community had a gap—we needed a coffee shop, a meeting place, etc. I gathered my tribe, talked to everyone I knew, reached out to people I thought would mentor me in the business side of things, and found an incredible local food guy (a former student of mine) who was willing to mentor me on running a cafe. In the beginning, it was lots of looking up businesses and programs online.
What makes your business unique in its field?
Half of our staff are differently abled. We place our employees based on personality, not disability. We presume competence and find tasks our employees can or want to master. Some of our typically developing employees don't want to run the cash register or take orders. We encourage them to try! It is a hard skill.