MICHAEL EVANS and LINDSAY WREGE
As told by Michael and Lindsay.
321 used their Big Idea Grant to take their inclusive business model out into their community, by way of an electric coffee truck.
THE 123 of 321
We started 321 Coffee when we were students at NC State University, with a vision to create job opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We now roast our coffee, operate three shops, employ over 40 people with disabilities, and have plans for more.
OUR BIG IDEA GRANT IS PAYING FOR AN ELECTRIC TRUCK…EVENTUALLY
Our original plan was to use the grant to purchase an electric truck we’d use like a food truck, only for coffee. We’d like to be out in the community more, and we want our employees to get in front of more employers. But like everything else, there are supply chain problems and we have not been able to actually get the truck yet. So in the meantime, we are focused on continuing to create new ways to give people with disabilities an opportunity to work. And when we do finally get the truck, it will be put to really good use.
“We saw a statistic that said 80% of disabled people are unemployed. And that's not necessarily that people don't want to work. It's that they're not being considered, nor being hired. That got us thinking about sustainability in terms of people. How can we create opportunities in our community for people with disabilities?”
WE WANT TO DO A LOT!
We’re building a super-accessible coffee roastery too. Beyond believing in environmental sustainability, we wanted to help create a sustainable workforce. We wanted to create a place where people with disabilities could work as independently as possible. And we wanted to invite other companies to see accessibility in action, and be inspired. How could we challenge them to make their operations more accessible too?
START HERE, GO ANYWHERE
We want our employees to use 321 Coffee as a stepping-stone to further employment. People on staff here can whip out lattes better than I can, and they do latte art, too — and they've learned and grown so much. When you set the bar high, you can really watch people grow and achieve.
TO US THE BIG IDEA GRANT IS….
A means to act on our ideas. So many of us dream big, but we’re not always able to act on it. The Big Idea Grant empowered us to act on it.
LINDSAY AND MICHAEL’S 5 WAYS TO SUCCESSFULLY HIRE INCLUSIVELY:
BE OPEN TO ALL.
You can’t categorize who you want to hire by race, age, gender, or disability unless you want to get in trouble.
SHOW PEOPLE YOU GET THEM.
Representation matters. Who do people see on your website or social media? Make sure disabled people are included.
Find local groups and achievement centers that provide resources and job placement to individuals with disabilities. Reach out.
SET PEOPLE UP FOR SUCCESS.
Ask what accommodations people need in order to be successful. Phrasing it “so we can best support you” is key. Recognize that people learn in different ways, and support that.
MODEL YOURSELF AFTER OTHER BUSINESSES THAT ARE DOING IT.
If they’re pro-actively inclusive, they’ll gladly share what they’ve learned.
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