Currently, the food service industry is desperate to fill many job vacancies. “Esteamed Coffee” on south Academy Street in Cary doesn’t have that problem. They are fully staffed with 18 employee who are actually eager to come to work.
Esteamed Coffee is not your average coffee shop. The non-profit business exists to provide a rare opportunity for individuals with various disabilities to display their actual abilities.
Employee Chandler Meshwork has served in a few internships. “I didn’t really have like a real paid job, you know, before this,” she said.
“We are serving an under-served workforce and a part of our employment pool that is just under-utilized,” said co-founder Angie Hudson. She, along with business partner Tamara Lapsley, worked several years raising support to make their non–profit business dream come true.
Lapsley is a speech pathologist who has a close relationship with many individuals with disabilities. Hudson has lived with visual impairment for the last 30 years which made it more difficult for her to find employment.
They know their employees are especially motivated to succeed. “They really want to provide excellent customer service,” said Lapsely.
Hudson says the store’s environment of support is key. “This is a safe place for customers and our employees to interact with each other and get used to being around each other,” she said.
Their goal for most of their employees is that this won’t be their only job opportunity. “Our hope is that other people will come in and just see what great employees they make and want to hire some of them to bigger and better things,” said Lapsley.
Employees are trained to rotate through a variety of roles including working the cash register and filling orders. Mistakes will be made, but barista Michael Choate has a positive attitude. “I think my favorite part is that I can always get better at it,” said Choate.
He enjoys the work and interacting with regular customers. “That guy over there, he’s a regular,” said Choate, pointing across the room to Michael Coppotelli. He likes the coffee as well as the cause.
“It’s just something that’s near and dear to our hearts,” said Coppotelli, referring to his own daughter who at age 13 suffered a brain aneurysm. She still struggles with the effects as well as the lack of opportunities available to most people with the same challenges.
More than money, Cappotelli says, his daughter and the “Esteamed” employees want to feel valued.
“They just want to be seen as individuals that can hold a job and go through life like everyone else and I think that we should all be here to support them,” said Cappotelli.
Esteamed Coffee is 80-percent self sustainable through their profits, but depends upon donations for 20-percent of their revenues.
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