I wear a bracelet everyday that says, “It’s more than a cup of coffee,” the slogan for Bitty and Beau’s, a coffee shop in Wilmington, NC. This shop showcases the strengths of those with intellectual and developmental delays; not just that they can make a great cup of coffee, but also the unique values they bring to society.
Since I'm used to wearing this bracelet, I often forget it’s around my wrist. It wasn’t until Hannah asked what it meant to me that I realized the potential in my vision.
My involvement in the special needs community began on the 3rd grade playground. My relationships with those with special needs started in the classroom, strengthened at sleepaway camps, and grew into friends I vacation with. This community has shaped me into the person I am today. They’ve taught me to be confident, trust my instincts, and recognize the strengths of others, and that’s why I didn’t hesitate in sharing my vision with Hannah.
That vision was to develop my own coffee shop like Bitty and Beau’s on my college’s campus, with the hope of one day spreading this organization to colleges across the country. Hannah and I approached Elise and Odai, knowing that their skillsets and personalities fit well into our mission of blending communities. It was at our first meeting as a team that we realized we had found ourselves in the midst of something special, something that could make a difference in society.
The special needs community is home to some of the kindest, happiest, and most genuine people I’m lucky enough to call my friends -- often after class I check my phone to 12 unopened texts, 5 missed facetimes, and 3 missed calls, all from different individuals in the special needs community. However, I recognize that not everyone has the opportunity to interact with this community in the ways that I have been able to, and that’s why I wanted to start 321 Coffee. I want to provide an opportunity for the NC State community to engage with and learn from these amazing individuals just like I have all my life.
I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made so far, and I can’t wait to see where 321 Coffee will go.
-- Lindsay Wrege, CEO