Local Nanaimo, BC business, COCO Cafe, is one of 18 winners of the Ruderman Best in Business Award, announced this week. The Award recognizes exemplary businesses in North America that have demonstrated a history of employing people with disabilities, training and supporting them and developing innovative approaches to maximizing employee’s abilities.
COCO Cafe is a co-op run cafe and catering company that employs people with developmental disabilities. Founded in 2011 in the small rural town Nanaimo, British Columbia, COCO’s mission is to operate a successful social enterprise that provides employment, training and socialization opportunities for people with developmental disabilities within their community.
“As with all aspects of disability inclusion, the case for inclusion in the work force is not just one of fundamental civil rights, but one of business sense. People with disabilities are not only an untapped talent pool, but we have repeatedly seen that this group makes for some of the most loyal and hardworking employees in any company,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Additionally we have seen that employees with disabilities improve the morale of their coworkers on the whole and also attract the huge market share of customers with disabilities and their families.”
Each year that COCO Cafe has been in business it has been able to expand its hiring; it now has 33 employees, 15 of whom have developmental disabilities including Down syndrome, autism and intellectual disabilities.
“More people can learn life skills like cooking and baking and social interactions, and see if they like this kind of work,” said Melanie Cadden, General Manager of COCO Cafe. “It’s feel-good catering – when people hire us for their wedding, they like that they are supporting our mission.”
This year marked the second year of the award, highlighting businesses selected through a national nomination and review process by judges from the business and disability communities, including Richard E. Marriott, Chairman of Host Hotels & Resorts and the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. The Ruderman Best in Business initiative, in partnership with The Jewish Week Media Group, has raised awareness about the benefits of inclusive hiring for both employees and employers.
A few others winners from this year include: Uber, UPS, Xerox, WAWA and Safeway. In addition to the national, well-known entities who received the award, it was also given to many local businesses throughout North America, including COCO Cafe who advocate on behalf of those with disabilities through their employment practices.