Coco Cafe is a project of Cedar opportunities Cooperative. COCO was started by a group of families who live in the Cedar/ Yellowpoint/ Cassidy area, all of whom have a family member with a developmental disability. This is a rural area, there is limited public transportation and many areas which are isolated. School students with developmental disabilities can take school buses and are integrated into the local elementary and high schools. However, once students have finished school, there are no services or programs available in the area. As a result, families with an adult family member with a developmental disability are faced with the choice of either moving out of the community, seeing their family member become increasingly isolated, or committing to driving their family member out of the community to programs and services in either Ladysmith or Nanaimo.
In 2004 the families started meeting as a group for picnics and began talking about their difficulties, their dreams for their children and their children’s abilities and interests. They found that opportunities for employment and for making friends were the greatest needs for all family members.
Over the course of four years, they became increasingly more organized and began to look at possibilities that would fit for COCO. They invited several speakers to their group and looked at many options (including forming a business partnership, extending micro-boards, and forming a community service society). After extensive research and consulting with experts in several fields, the group decided to form a co-op with the intention of starting a business. After talking to community members, local business people and local government representatives, a decision was made that a coffee shop would fit all of the criteria and would fill a need in the community.
THEY WANTED A BUSINESS THAT WOULD PROVIDE:
Many opportunities for socialization
Visibility in the community (rather than a home based business)
Opportunities for job carving (a business that allows for a number of different jobs which can fit with people’s interests and abilities)
A business that fills a niche in the community and is profitable (self-sustaining)
A Unique Business – it has typical employees and employees with developmental disabilities. Employees with developmental disabilities are supported by trained support workers who also work in the cafe and on the catering team
A Community Hub – a local, comfortable and appealing place to meet in Cedar
Successful – it fills a need in the community – we see daily community support