Bitty &Beau’s Coffee Shop, a chain of shops, is far much different and unique from the rest of coffee shops all over the US— it’s run by people with down syndrome.
In 2016, Amy Wright, a mother of two kids with Down syndrome, Bitty and Beau, opened a coffee shop and named it after her children.
The mom was aware of the large numbers of unemployed adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and decided to make a change.
“This idea of starting a coffee shop was really kind of like, how can we bring people together and have people with and without disabilities spend time together? Because, we think when that happens, walls come down, and people all of the sudden have a new and deeper understanding of people that are different from them.”
With more than 80 percent of people with intellectual and development disabilities (IDD) unemployed in the US, Wright decided to open Bitty & Beau’s coffee to create more job opportunities for them.
“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 created a path for them to feel more valued, accepted and included in every community.
Initially, the coffee shop had 18 employees, and this number has increased to over 60.
And In 2017, due to her advocacy work for people with disabilities, Wright won the CNN Hero of the Year award, which included $100,000 for her cause.
“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.”
Today, the coffee shop has become so successful— it has opened its business in three different location: one in Wilmington, North Carolina, another in Charleston, South Carolin and the most recent one in Savannah, Ga.
As the founder, Wright has revealed that she plans to open more coffee shops all over the country in 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.”