As you may have heard, COCO Café received the 2015 Small Business BC award for best community impact at their annual awards ceremony in Vancouver last Thursday evening. Small Business BC is British Columbia’s premier resource centre for entrepreneurs supporting small business endeavours throughout the province.
We would like to send a huge thank you out to the Fairmont Pacific Rim, who accommodated 5 of COCO's Ambassadors for the evening (all of whom can not stop talking about their gorgeous rooms!).
Operated in Cedar, BC by Cedar Opportunities Co-operative, COCO Café is a social enterprise that provides training, employment and work experience for adults and youth with developmental disabilities. The SBBC award recognizes the success of the café in fulfilling its mission since opening in 2011.
“This award is the result of an amazing staff and the collective efforts of all those residents and businesses in the Nanaimo and Cedar area who have supported us over the past five years” said Patricia Johnston, a founding member of the COCO Board, in accepting the award “We hope this award inspires others to look at creative ways to incorporate inclusive opportunities for people with developmental disabilities into their own communities and businesses".
COCO café now employs a staff of 32 people, 14 of whom have developmental disabilities. Chef Melanie Cadden, COCO Café manager, who when reflected on running a social enterprise says, “Tonight’s recognition is meaningful for all of us. It means that we are getting the message of inclusion across, that we are being heard, and that employment for developmentally disabled people is part of making a community work”.
In addition to providing employment, COCO Café recently started a training program for people with developmental disabilities. “COCO Café does our community a great service by providing on-the-job training in the restaurant and food service sector to people with varying degrees of developmental disability” said Kim Smythe, CEO of the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce. “The output is well-trained, proud, successful individuals who can contribute on many levels in our community and achieve greater independence".
Today COCO's team had the great honour of hosting Nanaimo's Mayor Bill McKay who presented the SBBC Award to staff members who were not able to attend the event last week. After hearing from each team member about what COCO Cafe means to them Mr. McKay noticed a common theme, everyone spoke about being part of a team. "It is too often when we talk about teams, it is about on team winning or loosing" said Mr. McKay. "A team is not about competition, it is about belonging and supporting one another, and thats what you all are doing here".
Mark says " I love all of the friends I have made and get to work with". Paul likes to save his paycheques for a TV Guide each week and told us about his love for sports cars, especially Corvettes. One of COCO Cafe's first employees promoted to a Junior Support Worker program, Blair says she enjoys working in a supportive environment and likes passing on skills to her COCO teammates.