From a quick glance, Moji might seem like just another downtown coffee shop. Its quirky name and logo are adorned with bright colors, and it is nestled amidst the other art galleries and hip restaurants that run up and down Trade Street. Moji, however, is no ordinary coffee shop. By the year’s end, it will be staffed by people with various intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). “We need something like this here,” said Christy Davis, member of Moji’s Board and the parent of a daughter with a disability, “The people of Winston-Salem need it even though they might not realize it.”
When Moji opens later this year, its staff will consist of around 20 people from the IDD community. These will be paid workers who attend the cash register, who make your coffee, and who clean your tables. As stated on their website, part of Moji’s aim is to provide “meaningful, enriching employment” to members of the IDD community.
Moji, though unique in Winston-Salem, is not the only place of its kind in North Carolina. Tim Flavin, executive director and president of the board, first got inspiration for Moji after visiting Bitty and Beau’s Coffee in Wilmington, North Carolina—another coffee shop that hires those in the disabled community. Flavin was moved after talking with an employee about the success their business had found. “From then, I knew it would work,” Flavin said of opening a place like Moji in Winston-Salem. “It could happen.”
From there, the team behind Moji hit the ground running—opening a place like Moji requires a lot of time and passion. In addition to this, Moji is a non-profit, so most of the work came on a volunteer basis. A board had to be formed, a space acquired, partners found, equipment installed, a name and logo created, fundraising efforts started—just to name a few of the tasks at hand. What Flavin and the team behind Moji found, however, is that Winston-Salem has no shortage of people and businesses willing to support Moji and help it become a reality.
Flavin emphasized that this list has been accomplished almost entirely through collaboration and donation. The Variable, a downtown ad agency, helped Moji create a logo and promotional video. Twin City Hive Coffee is assisting Moji in the coffee operation part of business. With support from the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County School Board, Moji’s lease for the first two years will be free.
The excitement for Moji’s mission has clearly infected others. “When we heard about the idea of a coffee shop that would provide meaningful employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we knew right away that we wanted to help bring it to life,” said David Mullen, partner and president of The Variable. “We’ve helped develop the business strategy, naming and branding, space planning and design, content creation and social media, public relations and fundraising efforts. Our entire team is passionate about the Moji mission, and we have really poured our hearts and talents into helping create something that’s unique and special.”
According to Flavin, it’s clear why this excitement has spread. “It will be another cool place to gather with a friendly and open atmosphere,” Flavin said, “But also a place we can learn more about one another. People will have a chance to see how special this community is.”
The unique name, Moji, was created and defined as “the jolt of joy you get when you make others happy.” This fits both the community and mission of the coffee shop. “It’s memorable and different,” Flavin said, “and it also reflects the way many people with IDD have their own unique language.”
To Christy Davis, Moji’s slogan “Coffee and More” also seems to perfectly embrace its mission. Moji will sell coffee, merchandise, and art made by local members of the IDD community, but according to Davis, “it encompasses more than just what’s exchanged.” Flavin and Davis both emphasized the idea behind Moji is larger than a cup of coffee—it is about the voices that will be heard and the community that will be shared.
Moji is located at 690 Trade Street and will likely open sometime in December. Find out more here: https://www.mojicoffee.org/