The founders and employees of Beau’s Coffee embraced in a group hug Tuesday morning at the University of North Carolina Wilmington during this year’s Coastal Entrepreneur Awards.
They had just found out that their business, a coffee shop that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, had been named Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year.
In January, Beau’s Coffee opened at 4414 Wrightsville Ave. in Wilmington, and since then, the shop has gained a local following and national attention that includes being featured on The Rachael Ray Show.
Employing 19 people with IDDs, the first location of Beau’s is on track to generate $500,000 in sales this year, said Amy Wright, who founded Beau’s Coffee with her husband, Ben. And the shop’s success story has also generated interest from potential franchisees across the country.
“In a short time, this year’s winner has shown that when you have clarity of vision and purity of purpose, the community responds and people line up literally around the block to access your product,” said Brendan Collins, CEO of last year’s Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year winner Mimijumi, as he announced Beau’s as this year’s recipient in UNCW’s Burney Center.
Beau’s Coffee was also this year’s CEA retail category winner. The Coastal Entrepreneur Awards are a joint program by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The Wrights viewed opening Beau’s Coffee as a means of employing people with IDD but also changing perceptions about their employment possibilities and role in society. The two youngest of the Wrights’ four children – the shop’s namesake Beau, 11, and Bitty, 6 – have Down syndrome.
A third of Beau’s Coffee’s profits have come from merchandise sold at the shop, including T-shirts, hats and coffee mugs, the Wrights said.
“People come in for the coffee and stuff, but they really come in to experience it, and then I think their way of showing their support is buying the merchandise and wearing it or using it,” Ben Wright said.
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Posted in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal
May 24th 2016