Saturday 13 July 2024
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321 Coffee Partners with Lenovo and EngageNC to open a fully accessible roasting facility in Raleigh

321 Coffee employs more than 40 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These staff members show up every day excited to work and ready to contribute by roasting coffee, taking orders, making drinks, and interacting with customers

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RALEIGH, N.C., USA – 321 Coffee, Raleigh’s first coffee shop that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is proud to partner with technology giant Lenovo and Engage NC, a non-profit providing venture financing to make the workforce an inclusive space for people with all abilities. As part of this new partnership, 321 Coffee will open a fully accessible roasting facility, filled with Lenovo technology, helping them scale the company’s roasting capacity and enabling them to create new jobs and hire additional staff.

321 Coffee employs more than 40 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These staff members show up every day excited to work and ready to contribute by roasting coffee, taking orders, making drinks, and interacting with customers.

Currently, 321 Coffee has a waiting list of more than 100 people with disabilities who want to work for the company. With the addition of the roasting facility, job capacity at 321 will grow to support an estimated 200 new work hours per week for people with disabilities.

“There are many physical barriers that make roasting coffee with standard equipment difficult for our staff – those bags weigh upwards of 30lbs, and you typically have to raise them above your head to pour them into the roaster,” said Lindsay Wrege, co-founder and CEO, 321 Coffee. “With the help of our community partners Lenovo and EngageNC, 321 Coffee will be able to address this challenge and remove similar barriers through innovative design and technology to make the process more accessible.”

As part of this partnership, Lenovo is providing $150,000 and EngageNC is providing $50,000 to support the build and operation of the roasting facility during its first three years of operation. Lenovo is also providing $15,000 worth of technology to make the facility accessible for all 321 staff members.

“At Lenovo, our mission is to provide smarter technology for all, and we are proud to partner with organizations like 321 Coffee that are committed to fostering a more inclusive community here in Raleigh,” said Gerald Youngblood, chief marketing officer, Lenovo North America. “Technology has the ability to open doors for the future of a more accessible workforce, and we are grateful for this opportunity to implement Lenovo technology in a space where it will make a lasting impact.”

This technology partnership will help enable workplace independence so that 321 staff are empowered and confident in performing their job tasks without concern of ability. 321 staff will undergo individualized training on how to use this equipment, and accommodations will be made as needed to achieve job independence throughout the various roles.

The additional financial support from EngageNC will help bring these plans to life. EngageNC has been working with 321 Coffee since its early days of operating pop-up coffee shops, providing early financing and mentoring.

Bruce Kirschenbaum, President of EngageNC, said: “Our mission is to create employment opportunities for adults with Autism and other developmental disabilities. When we first heard about the plans of 321 Coffee to employ this population, we reached out and were very impressed with the vision and drive of their founders, Lindsay Wrege and Michael Evans. Their goals were perfectly aligned with our vision, and we wanted to support their business to increase the local job creation for this underserved population”.

To bring more public awareness to this innovative workplace, 321 will host tours and workshops at the roasting facility, welcoming other companies and individuals inside to showcase this new accessible technology in action and demonstrate how others can be more inclusive in their practices.

321 Coffee plans to start building out the roasting facility in October 2022 as part of National Disability Awareness Month.

About 321 Coffee

321 Coffee is a coffee shop and roaster built on inclusion. The company is located in Raleigh, and it currently employs over 40 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). They are the ones roasting the coffee, taking the orders, and making the lattes. Together they are demonstrating the value of an inclusive business model. The company is on a mission to change the statistic that 80% of adults with disabilities are unemployed. For more information, visit: Interested in how your company can partner with 321 Coffee? Reach out to

About EngageNC

EngageNC is a Raleigh based non-profit organization with the mission to create jobs and advocate for adults with autism and/or intellectual developmental disabilities in the Triangle. The organization was founded in 2008 by a group of self-advocates and families in order to assist others in better understanding micro-enterprise and asset building. Engage NC created the first Autism/IDD-focused venture fund in the Triangle. Their Ventures program supports early-stage businesses that are intentional about employing adults with Autism/Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (IDD).

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