Meet Mia H.
Raising awareness of autism and other disorders, one cup of coffee at a time.
Mia H of Special Needz Coffee
"Because we all have the same goal in mind. We're all looking to empower individuals. "
Only one in 5 people with disabilities, including autism, are employed. Special Needz Coffee, based in Ontario, California, is trying to change that.
The mobile coffee business is staffed by about 20 adults with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. It seeks to raise awareness of autism and other disorders, one cup of coffee at a time.
We caught up with Mia H., administrative director of Special Needz Coffee, to learn more about the business.
Why did you decide to start this business?
My husband and I have a behavioral service practice, Behavioral Autism Therapies, which provides services for individuals with autism. We have been around now for 12 years. Many of the families we work with have grown with us into adulthood. Many of these families were not able to find meaningful employment for their children. And so, my husband actually came up with the idea to start a mobile coffee shop.
We wanted a place where children we've been working with who are going into adulthood can use the skills that they've learned through ABA.
Special Needz Coffee was really established for them. And, people were love coming up to the trailer, driving up, being able to pick up their coffee and really see the individuals that are working here.
Can you talk a little about the names of your drinks like "autism drip" and the QR codes you have on the cups?
We do a lot of work around raising awareness. The menu items are named after different disorders, not to create any uncomfortableness for anybody but to educate people about autism, schizophrenia and others. Although some people may think it is controversial that we named our drinks that way, it is getting the conversation started, getting them to understand a little bit more.
Do you have any advice for businesses that also want to employ people with autism?
I think don't be afraid and embrace their uniqueness, because everyone is unique and everyone brings something different to the table. And I just love to see them smiling when they're working and getting that experience.
I think there's a fear there. That's why one of our big mottos is: Break the Stigma. And for us as employers, with a background in behavioral therapy, it was a natural progression. There was no fear. The first employees are still with us today, many others have been with us for years. We consider them family.
What advice do you have for people that want to be an ally to the autism community?
We love partnering with nonprofit organizations. Because we all have the same goal in mind. We're all looking to empower individuals.
We're all looking to improve their quality of life. I think that being a community ally to an organization like Autism Speaks is huge because you are raising awareness, raising funds and doing research.
Do you have a personal coffee hack?
I just like my coffee really sweet. My hack is adding a little cinnamon powder on top. A little or a lot!
To learn more about Special Needz Coffee check out their Instagram channel.