Students come to us from all over the world to learn how to open a coffee shop business. Most of the time, their passion is centered around coffee. Sometimes, however, coffee is simply the business model that allows them to pursue another passion entirely.
That was the case for Taylor Gardner, founder and CEO of The Garden Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Las Vegas, Nevada, serving adults with disabilities. Taylor came to the Texas Coffee School Coffeepreneur® 3-Day Business Master Class to learn how to open a coffee shop business that would help her clients learn vocational skills. We recently interviewed her to share her inspiring journey as a Coffeepreneur. Taylor is just one of so many of our students who have used the power of coffee to serve an even bigger purpose–bringing people together.
Taylor, tell us about the Garden Foundation.
“The Garden Foundation is a nonprofit organization serving adults with disabilities, or ‘different abilities’ as we like to say, in the city of Las Vegas. Our goal is to support and enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing a place of education, inspiration, independence, and inclusion. We strive to help each individual reach their full potential, whatever that may be!
We created The Garden Foundation’s coffee concept Dig It! Coffee Co. to teach vocational skills to our young adults. People love coffee! We created a mobile coffee cart so that our individuals could sell coffee and flowers. It met our mission of spreading happiness while also teaching communication skills, money handling skills, self-confidence, and teamwork.
We quickly discovered how much our clients LOVED working. They loved engaging with the community, the fulfillment and value they found as they worked, and of course, the tip money.
We also saw how much the community loved what we were doing. They started to ask if we worked events, sold at schools, gyms, parties and business lunches… and so we did! It naturally evolved into a really beautiful business–one that was mutually beneficial. It allowed our young adults to feel valued and included in our community and it allowed our community to embrace inclusion in a way they hadn’t before.”
What in your life led you to creating this nonprofit?
“My little sister Lindsay is 30 years old and is the absolute light of my life. She also just happens to have Down syndrome. Lindsay attended a special education school up until the age of 22, and then attended an organization for people with special needs here in Las Vegas. Lindsay has a lot of needs and the organization was very large (due to a very large need in the community and not enough resources). People seemed to become a number and needs weren’t being met, not just of my sister but of many of her classmates in the program. When the organization couldn’t keep up with her needs, they let her go from the program.
This was devastating to my family and me. As we looked for other programs where Lindsay would thrive, we didn’t find anywhere that would not only suit her needs, but be more than a daycare. We did, however, find other families that were looking for the same things.
It was then that I knew something had to be done: The Garden Foundation was born. We’re smaller by design to cater to individual needs and goals. We’re not a daycare and have a schedule of classes and activities every day of the week. We encourage family involvement, and our clients become a part of our family. We’re a positive place where people can continue to learn, grow, and thrive.”
Why did you choose coffee as your business model?
“To be honest, I think I always knew it would be bigger than a coffee cart. I just had this feeling that one day we would have a place where not only could our clients continue learning and making authentic friendships through The Garden Foundation, but I knew I wanted The Garden Foundation and Dig It! Coffee Co. to be a place to help people reach their fullest potential.
It became very obvious from the beginning of our cart that our students wanted to be working. They wanted a consistent job, to be independent, be included, be valued, and earn a paycheck. I wanted to make that happen for them. A coffee shop was the environment that made the most sense. It wasn’t the hustle and bustle of a restaurant, but it was the experience of slowing down, bonding with the community and with human beings that a coffee shop just made sense.”
What do you love most about the #coffeepreneur lifestyle so far?
“Being a coffeepreneur/nonprofit-preneur/entrepreneur/ means my life is not at all a clear, laid out path. But the fact that I get to wake up every day and do what I love doing–and that just happens to impact people’s lives and families (and my little sister) in the most positive way–is just the best thing in the world for me.
It all comes down to something that Tom spoke a lot about in the Coffeepreneur® 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class, and I could not agree with more. He asked, ‘What is your why?’
I’m fortunate enough that my why is so strong that anything that comes up as a road block, is exactly that: just a bump in the road, a detour, a setback. But, I know my final destination. My sister, her friends, The Garden Foundation, and the families are my why, and I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.
The vision and potential of what I get to build is so exciting. It is hard, trying, and testing. It is a lot of work! But it’s also the most rewarding and fulfilling thing in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”