By Natalie Hughes
Moji Coffee + More, as its name implies, is much more than just a coffee shop. It is where joy happens. It is where differences are celebrated. It is where people are empowered. That’s why they’ve defined the word “Moji” as “the joy of jolt you get when you make somebody happy.”
So what makes Moji Coffee + More so joyful? Is it the brightly colored atmosphere or happy paint splatters that decorate the floor? Is it the enthusiastic greeting you receive when you walk through the doors? Is it the splendid art covering the “Moseum” wall? Yes, it is all of these things. But the best part about Moji Coffee + More is its people. Moji Coffee + More is making a wave in the local Winston-Salem community and beyond by employing people with disabilities, or as they like to say, people with DIVERSE abilities!
About 70% of people with disabilities are unemployed, which is why Executive Director, Tim Flavin, was determined to establish a place right here in Winston-Salem that would work toward lowering this number and empowering the disability community. As a vision became a reality, the coffee shop opened its doors on Trade Street in 2019 and since has provided not only employment but job readiness training to over 30 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Not only have these individuals succeeded as baristas, but they have shown the community much more.
The employees at Moji Coffee + More, playfully called Mojistas, spend their days mastering skills as baristas with the guidance of a job coach, but their training goes beyond that. Each day is an opportunity to work on various vocational skills such as communication, job preparedness, cashier skills, customer service skills and much more. For Mojista Sam Garrison, who now has moved into his own home and obtained a second job, Moji is “an opportunity to have a job like anyone else and to be able to have independence like everybody else to work toward my goals.” Known for his punny jokes and willingness to help whoever is there, Sam is just one of the many individuals Moji has seen gain independence and confidence from their time on the job.
“At the heart of Moji Coffee + More is the desire to show the community and the world just how capable people are, regardless of their differences. I have met some of the hardest workers in my life here and have seen so much self-growth. It’s something I would want any employer to be a part of and share the joy of celebrating these people” says Natalie Hughes, General Manager of Moji Coffee + More. She explains their hope for 2021 is to share their mission broader, inviting other employers in the community to follow suit in providing well-deserved employment to individuals with diverse abilities. “We are actually working with Leadership Winston-Salem to gain a commitment from other employers to hire and to share how they can support employees with disabilities in an inclusive manner.”
The possibilities for the individuals at Moji Coffee + More and thousands of others in the disability community of the Triad are boundless with the support of a good team and most importantly, the belief in them and their capabilities. Amongst some of the talented individuals at Moji Coffee + More are artists, writers, musicians, historians, bakers, and so much more. This past year, Moji Coffee + More has supported several people with IDD by highlighting their abilities and liasoning other roles in the community. Meagan Matejka, a Mojista and colorful artist, was selected by the Public Arts Council to have her artwork on a bus station as a part of the city Artistic Bus Shelter Program. Claire Athens, who loves ancient history, is now baking at the new Ketchie Creek in Clemmons. Matthew Kelly, another Mojista, works a second job with UpDog Kombucha.
Tim Flavin, Executive Director and Special Olympics coach of over 25 years, explains why expanding the mission beyond the walls of Moji Coffee + More is so important to the disability community. “For some, this job may be theirs forever. For others, they may not want to serve coffee, but here is a place to start. They may want to go one to be a librarian, a nurse, a writer and we want to help them get there.” Along with the hopes to see their own team grow, Flavin explains that the team at Moji Coffee + More wants to impact as many lives of people with disabilities as possible. “We are so proud of the people we’ve hired. But as we began to hire people in the community, we thought 31 is a good number… but what about everyone else.”
Despite all obstacles of 2020, the team of Moji Coffee + More is hopeful for an impactful 2021 where even more individuals with diverse abilities can be employed and empowered. To support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and help create future opportunities, you can now give directly toward their employment through Moji Coffee + More’s UPLIFT Campaign. Visit mojicoffee.org/uplift today to learn more.