The hammered-home business objective of a company’s managers is to maximize their shareholders’ value. Who are those shareholders? Investors, customers, employees. Sure, there are others, but that covers the basics. In the beach(ish)-town of Wilmington, North Carolina, Bitty & Beau’s brings shareholder value in a whole new way for an entire community.
In a time when hate and xenophobia are showing their ugly faces in public, a heavy dose of understanding is exactly what we need. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee (B&B) is staffed by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, creating a space of growth and appreciation for a class of employees who are typically not hired. Having spent many hours there enjoying their drinks and food while I studied, I can attest to their website’s assertion that customers “really come in for the unique customer service experience.”
Upon arriving, you’ll be greeted by one of their incredibly friendly employees who genuinely is excited to see you. The menu is kept fairly simple, disposing of the tens of thousands of combinatorial options some coffee places have. And if you’re the first to order that particular item for the day, you might just be lucky enough to receive a high five. While you wait for your playing card to be called (in lieu of names for your order, B&B uses playing cards), you have the opportunity to walk around and look at all the mural-size pictures of their staff; the Wall of Thanks that spotlights all the people who helped B&B open; and the pin map, where you’re encouraged to mark where you came from to visit. As for the taste of their mainstay drink, I’ll be honest: I’ve never had it because I don’t drink coffee. But a big sign on the wall informed me Rachel Ray has made it her official coffee.
Whether standing around talking or sitting at one of the many tables, you may find yourself suddenly in the middle of an impromptu dance party. Check out the video at the bottom for the happiest 90 seconds of your week.
If an amazing team of employees is the cake, and an amazing product is the icing, it might be difficult, understandably so, to offer the sprinkles. But alas, the stellar service train does not stop. Instead of offering more seating (which truthfully is not needed), the owners decided to build a private meeting room that seats up to 10 people. You can reserve it through their website for the whopping price of $0. That’s right, they’re giving back to a community they feel has given them so much love; or as B&B puts it: “Pouring it forward.”
The most important element of B&B is how they are changing the way see others. They put you face-to-face with any gaps in your understanding of people who are different from you. It’s the presentation of productivity and true happiness that makes you look internally. B&B may have started to impact the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, but it is so much more than that now.
In the world we live in, with so many opportunities to reach out and connect with an individual so different than ourselves, it is absurd to close yourself off in a bubble. It is at the crossroad of choosing to extend our hand or put it in a pocket that you get to look into yourself even deeper.
I would first invite you to visit their Wilmington location, or if you find yourself in Charleston, check out their new location set to open in October 2017. If you can’t make it there, I invite you to reach out in your own community to participate in or support the I’m In To Hire initiative started in 2014.
Bitty & Beau’s is one of the leaders in showing us how to change our perspective of one person and that together we can change the world.
Now for those 90 seconds of pure happiness I promised you: