The Wright family (from left: Bitty, Lillie, Amy, Beau, Ben, Emma Grace). Source: Matt Ray

Harvard Business Review

How US chain Bitty & Beau’s Coffee created a business with meaningful employment for people with disabilities

Harvard Business Review
12 minute Read

By Amy and Ben Wright

It might sound like a cliché, but the idea for Bitty & Beau’s Coffee really did come to Amy in the shower. At that time, in 2015, our youngest two children, both of whom have Down syndrome, were six and 11, and we’d been talking about what their future as teens and then adults would look like.

When we learned that 80% of people with disabilities in the United States are unemployed, we were determined to make sure that our kids Bitty and Beau would not become part of that statistic. We thought the solution could be as simple as demonstrating the intrinsic value we saw in their lives and those of others living with disabilities.

Amy’s shower idea? To open a coffee shop in our hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, that would employ mostly people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. What better way to both create jobs and bring people together? Within three months we’d hired 19 team members and opened the first Bitty & Beau’s Coffee. Within six months business was so good that we were able to move to a space 10 times the size of the original one and build our own roastery. Seven years later we have 17 locations across 11 states and the District of Columbia — with four more slated to open in 2023 — employing more than 400 people with disabilities.

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