The Nest Coffee House operates as a for-profit subsidiary under A Little Compassion Inc. (ALC), a nonprofit organization committed to transforming the lives of young adults with disabilities. At ALC they understand that finding your place in the world can be tough and it is even tougher for a young adult with autism, an intellectual or developmental disability. ALC has set out to make that journey smoother by creating employment and social opportunities for these young adults in our midst who need an opportunity to shine.
Capital Access (Grants and Donations)
CTSBDC, the Perfect Match
Jane needed help to learn how to create and run both a nonprofit and a business venture such as a coffee shop.
CTSBDC Business Advisor Jim Jackson provided valuable guidance on accessing data related to traffic patterns in Deep River, Connecticut. Additionally, Jim offered one-on-one assistance in various aspects, including budgeting, pricing out food and beverage options, and creating a comprehensive staffing plan. He was not the only advisor in building up Jane’s dream, CTSBDC Business Advisor Mary Kay Della Camera helped Jane to determine that a not-for-profit organization was the likely best structure for the core organization and ability to raise money.
“Jane came to the CTSBDC with both a mission and a dream. She was determined to fill a gap in the social and employment opportunities available to young adults on the autism spectrum in the lower CT River Valley area. She had a clear picture of what the facility could be, but not what had to be done to bring it to fruition.”, comments Jim.
“CTSBDC Business Advisor Jim Jackson was the perfect teacher, coach, and counselor for me.”, says Jane.
Furthermore, Jim played an integral role in helping Jane determine how to incorporate revenue generation to support the mission of the organization. This resulted in Jane deciding to set up a for-profit component for her initiative. “He was a shoulder to cry on (because I did), and my cheerleader, Jim was there every step of the way.”, comments Jane.
The grand opening was in 2018. The Nest Coffee House has grown into a gathering place for the entire community with sales averaging $15,000 per month and increasing or rising growing. They have a staff of 14 individuals, 90% of whom are young adults with disabilities. “We hope to someday expand to have The Nest in other locations across the state and perhaps on the East Coast.”, Jane highlights.
In 2022, with Jim Jackson's assistance, the company introduced Doggy Barks, a dog treat based on used whole grain from local microbreweries and peanut butter. This provided A Little Compassion with a much-needed additional year-round revenue source to supplement income from The Nest Coffee House. Doggy Barks is currently on sale in at least 17 stores around the area.
Creating Their Own Path
The desire to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities began for Jane as the Founder of A Little Compassion Inc. (ALC), back in high school as a special education classroom volunteer. She went on to become a rehabilitation counselor, yet it was when her own daughter was diagnosed with autism that the dream to change lives became a real need. “Things changed dramatically when their daughter landed a job in a small bakery where she quickly became an indispensable, much-loved employee”, Jane says. When the bakery closed, Jane realized that the bakery created a very special and seldom-found culture that had allowed her daughter to be successful. She knew that she needed to create something.
CTSBDC, Highly Recommended!
Jane highly recommends connecting with SBDC's advisors and taking advantage of their classes and resources. According to Jane, working with CTSBDC is a must for any small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur. She emphasizes the immense value of having an advisor who is not emotionally attached to the business plan, as it proves to be extremely helpful. “Their (CTSBDC Business Advisors) ability to access information to guide you is top notch and although the advisors are there as a guide, they do get into the nitty gritty with you as needed., adds Jane.
Young adults with autism (ASD) and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) face daunting barriers in finding and keeping meaningful work as well as in becoming active members of their community. Having the opportunity to learn to work in an environment that fosters growth is something most young adults with disabilities never have. 80-90% of individuals with ASD or IDD are unemployed. In the next decade, over 500,000 young adults with ASD will age out of high school and its supportive services into adulthood without a safety net.
Congratulations on the achievements, Jane!