KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — An inclusive coffee shop that employs people with disabilities is coming to Knoxville.
The owners of Bitty & Beau's Coffee are searching for their newest location and plan to open by the end of the year.
"We have lots of dance parties, conga lines, it's a very fun place to visit and work," co-owner Amy Wright said.
Amy & Ben Wright opened the original shop in January 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina, in honor of their children---Lillie, Emma Grace, Beau, and Bitty.
Lillie was born with autism, and Bitty & Beau were born with Down syndrome.
The Wrights said their business model creates a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted, and included in every community.
"The fact that 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed in our country is just an unacceptable statistic to us, and our approach is just to continue opening these coffee shops and show the world what's possible and hopefully have other businesses pick up on what we're doing and find ways to employ people with disabilities in their workplaces too," Amy Wright said.
The coffee shops are now popping up all over the country with 11 locations across the U.S. and 15 more locations in the works.
Bitty & Beau's employs more than 300 people nationwide with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"People with disabilities want to earn a living and save for their futures. Many of our employees have gone on to rent apartments on their own or buy an automobile or plan a trip so that is one of our requirements of all of our franchisees is that all of our employees are paid at least minimum wage and most of them more than that. They also earn tips, and it's something that they deserve," Wright said.
Bitty & Beau's Coffee is known for its fun atmosphere and its celebratory hiring process.
"We make a big deal out of hiring our employees because most of them have never had a job before, so we try to make that moment as special as we can. I get goosebumps when I think about it," Wright smiled.
A job fair is planned in the coming months for potential employees with or without disabilities.
Click here to apply.