New cafe operating on a non-profit business model
CALGARY -- A new cafe in Sun Life Plaza called the Lil E Coffee Cafe. is brewing more than coffee thanks to imaginative owner Paul Constance, who also aims to brew greatness by giving life skills and opportunities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by employing them.
"Effectively they work here for a year, we don't get rid of them but in that year we want to develop their talents, their skills," said Constance.
The cafe is named after his three-year-old daughter Ella who has Down syndrome. Constance says he saw a similar modelled business while on a trip to the U.S. and thought there was fit in the Calgary market. He's already seeing interest from others.
"There will be other parents like me who see this and want to do the same thing," said Constance. "We've had individuals from Toronto, Hamilton, from Saskatoon, from B.C. who already want to do this. A person in Malaysia wants to open one there, and we want another one in Calgary so the country has embraced it a lot quicker than we're ready for."
Lil E has 10 staff with disabilities that work in two shifts. Constance hopes this experience will help them to thrive at their next job.
"Other organizations are already reaching out to us saying can we hire your staff?" said Constance. "Do you have anybody else that you can't hire but is looking for a job?"
Rhiannon Tayler is 24-years-old and has Down syndrome. She's had a few jobs but is excited to be part of the team at Lil E.
"I was like, they are making my dreams come true but mostly I'm making my own dreams come true and I've never been so much happier," said Taylor.
Taylor takes orders and receives payment from customers. She needs a little help with counting the change.
"I have to work on my math skills a bit more because it's one of the things I have to work on," said Taylor. "My dad had always wanted me to work on my math skills so bravo for that."
Frederick Taylor is her dad and he says Rhiannon's personality is perfect for this job.
"We thought that this would be a very good program not only for Rhiannon but other people with cognitive disabilities cause the whole intention is to train them and set them up for possible future jobs," said Taylor.
"It's not my first job," said 20-year-old Michaela O'Neill. "I used to work at a little cafe but it got shut down because of COVID-19 so this is my second job and I really like it here. It's really nice."
O'Neill is autistic and says working at the cafe is building her confidence and she's not as shy as she used to be. Her parents were excited she got hired.
"They're very supportive," said O'Neill. "They really love me working here, they were so proud when they actually heard I got the job I was doing a dance, I was like yes!"
Dennis Agbegha volunteers at the cafe helping out where ever he can. He says this initiative makes the world a better place and gives people opportunities.
"When I was little (a person) gave me an opportunity to be a banker," said Agbegha. "Now I can call myself a commercial banker and it's about giving people opportunities so this inspires me to go out there and save people and just be good to people."
Learn more about Lil E Coffee Cafe here: www.lilecoffee.ca