That South Africa needs more employment is not even vaguely open to debate. That disabled people require employment is also not open to debate. There are a number of service providers that will come to you and advise you on disability and place candidates etc etc etc. I'm a cynic when it comes to the latter. But then again, I'm just a loudmouthed so and so who happens to control the editorial content of this blog – just like Hlaudi, although unlike Hlaudi I don't increase my salary unreasonably, I do have matric and I am able to string a sentence together in English (Hlaudi does have an advantage over me in his mother tongue although his English logic suggests that even his mother tongue utterances might not be that coherent). Once again I digress.
My old friend Gary Hopkins told me about a business that he was involved in called "I love Coffee". This was discussed at a lunch overlooking Muizenberg beach a few weeks ago (oops – I am now sounding a little bit like Justice Malala), we hadn't seen each other in about 20 years so the beer and the good times took priority eventually. Gary's idea is actually really simple – start a company that sells good coffee and that is run and staffed by Deaf people. But it goes beyond this – if you want their coffee (and I would imagine that most people would) you are going to have to learn basic sign language. This is so much bigger than just mumbling an order at Starbucks – this is about engagement, it's about understanding the world of the Deaf and getting a decent cup of coffee in the process.
Gary has found a gym in Cape Town that is willing to host the pilot coffee shop. This is the start. The project has immense potential. I spoke to Gary yesterday and he was expounding vocally about this thing going global and that there was a great deal of interest. But in order for this pilot to succeed they are going to need a little bit of seed and operational capital. And I can see massive opportunities within that BEE scorecard that I so often deride. First I must focus on the benefits.
This is new, it's not a case of putting Deaf people in positions where they are never customer focusing or hiding them in the back room whilst they type up annual reports after cleaning cars and just before they sort out the mail. This is giving the Deaf an opportunity to feel integrated, to interact with customers and make a difference. I think every large corporate should have one of these shops or at least a kiosk in their lobbies. Engen Garages should have something like this in places where they don't have Muggs or anything like that. Every Pick 'n Pay should have one.
There must be some benefit to that organisation that is now involved. Here are a few (BEE) ideas – the business benefits will flow out of this.
- Skills Development. I have waxed lyrical about the sheer cost of Davies' ill thought out codes. However for those who have excess money to donate for skills purposes should you contribute to the ultimate training of these baristas and customer facing people you will be contributing to your BEE scorecard and the welfare of those who go through this training. Ignore Bolshie Bob and his deluded notion of black industrialists. What we need are skilled people across the board. Coffee is major business. It's huge in the cycling and running fraternities (used as a generic term and is not intended as an insult to the Oxford student whose voice makes it difficult to identify his actual gender), have you ever tried to get a seat at Croft in Parkview between 7 and 8 on a weekend morning. The queue at Motherland at 6:30AM, every morning is 10 minutes long.
- Enterprise and supplier development. Again we are forced to interpret Davies and his patsies' myopia when it comes to understanding what a supplier is. My interpretation is that the ED beneficiary should be on the supplier database to be a supplier. Technically this could be them selling you one Bic lighter a year. But if you have these guys in your lobby and you place orders for coffee and brownies etc then they are a supplier. The sky is the limit to what you could do as a team. If they are in your lobby then you have a day to day experience of their business and can start contributing a variety of skills to ensure that they become a sustainable and viable concern. Hell if you like the woman behind the counter, perhaps you could hire her.
- SED – this is a SED programme but I think that it's not intended to be one. This is not about handouts, it's about careers, self-esteem, integration and good service and coffee. Your relationship with this company must be strictly commercial.
And then there are tax benefits. I'm a little scratchy here, but I think there are tax benefits for hiring or supporting disabled people.
Please watch this video, Gary would love your financial support during the initial phases. I will make sure that all the BEE documentation you require is completed and done and looks fantastic. I'm excited about this. You can contact Gary directly or through me, send him an email – even if it is to tell how great this thing is.
And – the company has all of its BEE credentials in place.
Now all we need is a Deaf-owned and managed brewery.