We built a Coffee Shop designed from the ground up to employ people with disabilities. Now, COVID-19 poses an existential threat to our business and our mission.
For people with disabilities, a job is more than just a paycheck. A job means a sense of pride and accomplishment. It means connection to the community, friendships, dignity, respect and a chance for independence. However, nearly 80% of our neighbors with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed.
At Perky Planet we utilize universal design, technology, and inclusive business practices to eliminate barriers to employment. Today, our business faces an existential crisis- the second in the space of a few months for us. Our shop is closed, our employees and unemployed, and our mission is in doubt.
If we are allowed to survive this crisis, we believe we can create a profitable, repeatable business model that can extend our reach to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in many communities.
Funds raised will be used to help our coffee shop through this crisis. We hope to be able to resume operations without having to incur more debt from the disaster loan programs.
No one knows what Main Street businesses will look like on the other side of this pandemic. It is very possible that only the chain and online retailers will survive. This is your chance to help determine what the future retail landscape looks like.
We think we what we do is important and worth saving. Thank you for including us in your thoughts.
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For people with disabilities, a job is more than just a paycheck. A job means a sense of pride and accomplishment. It means connection to the community, friendships, respect and the chance for independence. However, nearly 80% of our neighbors with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed.
At Perky Planet we utilize universal design, technology, and inclusive business practices to eliminate barriers to employment. We provide meaningful, competitively paid and inclusive work that fosters a sense of worth and purpose while creating a venue for our community that fosters understanding and respect for people with disabilities.
By creating a profitable, repeatable business model we intend to extend our work and our reach to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in many communities.
We currently serve our neighbors with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community of Burlington, Vermont. By creating a profitable and repeatable business model we intend to expand our reach to other communities and act as an inspiration to other businesses to include people with disabilities in their workforce.
Specifically, our current employees are mid-to-high functioning individuals with chromosomal differences and traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries in Northern Vermont, US.
We have found that our business is also being utilized by the disabled community as an asset and as an inspiration. We are often visited by caregivers, their clients, and schools. For children with disabilities, their dreams can seem limited. By seeing people who look like them in the workforce we are providing hope and a purpose to people who have none.
We operate a coffee shop that provides quality products and service to our customers. To accomplish those business goals, we provide the tools and training that are needed by our disabled employees to complete those tasks that have been out of their reach before.
Those tools include automated systems and machines that were created by the industry to eliminate jobs and have repurposed them to empower our employees. This use of automated tools, universal design, and a willingness to adapt business practices has enabled us to tap into a highly motivated and under-served workforce.
Our employees develop a sense of pride and accomplishment while receiving competitive pay, our business benefits from a stable talent pool, and the community is given the opportunity to get to know, value, and respect their disabled neighbors.
Our business structure is for-profit. Our intent is to prove that creating an enterprise designed to employ people with disabilities is a business advantage. We intend to expand our reach by repeating our successes as well as modeling a profitable, diverse, repeatable business culture to other organizations.
We currently employ 6 individuals with disabilities, most of who have never had a paying job before. Our work fosters a sense of worth and accomplishment while providing competitive pay and inclusion within the community. Currently over 2,500 interactions per month between the community and our employees have fostered understanding, respect, and friendships. We are breaking down barriers between the community and our employees.
While we can quantify our impact by number of employees, payroll dollars, pounds of coffee roasted or number of lattes served, those measures do not reflect the value of our business.
Ten years ago Ian suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him deaf, robbed him of his peripheral vision and left him with cognitive and personality issues. This past year has seen Ian develop a sense of purpose, personal pride, and accomplishment. His outlook on life is improved, his relationships with his family are stronger, and his connection with the community is much better. I don't know how to quantify that.
Kate, our Special Olympic gold medalist has Williams Syndrome. This condition tends to both isolate her and at the same time gives her a markedly outgoing personality and exceptional verbal skills. Our coffee shop provides a venue for her to engage with the community and also enriches the lives of every customer she interacts with. We can not quantify this using payroll statistics.
Our brave little coffee shop addresses the multiple levels of framing design challenges, employing creativity and building empathy into an entrepreneurial opportunity with the potential for systemic social change.
Most efforts to include the disabled population into the workforce are the result of charitable activity or through public-funded agencies. These efforts are reliant on funding from outside the organization and as such are constantly reliant on the donations of contributors or the placement of tax revenues.
By viewing the disabled population as an untapped business asset and developing our business model around them we seek to create systemic social change. We intend to create a profitable, repeatable, socially responsible business model that offers an acceptable return on investment at an acceptable risk level to tap into investment capital. By doing so we eliminate the need to look outside the organization for funding and the constraints that imposes.
Our family owned business is uniquely equipped for this venture. Richard has decades of experience as a business analyst and consultant to the hospitality industry and had deployed technology solutions to dozens of restaurant and coffee house chains. Chris is a special educator and has developed outcome based learning systems for many differently challenged students. Kalee has an MBA and an MPP in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Management. Our team is also composed of parents and industry professionals that volunteer their time and energies to our cause.
We also have the distinct advantage of action. We are not just talking about making change, but are engaged every day in executing our vision. We are constantly learning what works and what does not. We are making a positive difference in people's lives, despite being very small and poorly funded.
Our vision is no less than a societal shift in the way that our neighbors with disabilities are viewed. We envision a society where businesses and families, charities and organizations make the conscious decision to create meaningful, competitively paid and inclusive work for people with disabilities. That these ventures are sustainable and generational. That people with disabilities are given the opportunity to participate in the economy and as such are able to build self-worth and financial stability.
Today there are amazing families that recognize that their children will outlive the ability of the parents to provide support. In some cases they have made the decision to open cafes and car washes, bakeries and stationary shops to provide a place for their children to be part of the community and as a source of financial, emotional and social support. Each one of these businesses are build ad-hoc, and mistakes and successes are not transferable to other families. We seek to rectify that. #smallbusinessrelief
- Jennifer Jurasek
- Isabelle Fisher
- Deena Murphy
- Aaron Schwartz
- Julia Morrison
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