Cedar café recognized with U.S. business award

NANAIMO – Coco Café earns Ruderman Best in Business Award from U.S. organization.

Coco Café is one of 18 winners of the Ruderman Best in Business Award, announced last 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 Café is a co-op café and catering company that employs people with developmental disabilities. Founded in 2011, 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, in a press release. “Additionally we have seen that employees with disabilities improve the morale of their co-workers on the whole and also attract the huge market share of customers with disabilities and their families.”

Each year that Coco Café 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 Café. “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. 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.