When Michael Coyne couldn’t find a job, he took matters into his own hands and created one. Coyne, who has autism, decided to open his own coffee shop.
“After I turned 21, I applied to multiple places. None of them would hire me,” he told CBS affiliate WPRI-TV. Now, he works in what he calls a “beacon of hope” for people with disabilities.
Coyne decided to take business classes through Rhode Island Developmental Disability Center. Earlier this month, he went from business student to business owner, opening Red, White and Brew.
Now, he hopes to hire employees with special needs. “We just want to integrate,” he said.
Coyne’s mom, Sheila, said she hopes this business model can help people like her son, who struggle to find employment. “As parents, we look at our kids and see the value,” his mom told WPRI. “We see what they are capable of, instead of the system that’s consistently labeling them and putting barriers.”
“What I liked about the coffee shop idea is the community. We learn on both sides,” she added. “We teach people, ‘Yeah, he has a disability, but look what he’s doing.’ And he’s out in the community getting his social skills.”
In addition to autism, Coyne also lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar. He was a Special Olympics athlete and participated in a hospitality program in hopes of landing a job in the field.
Now, he’s doing just that — and helping his peers too. Across the street from Red, White and Brew is a shop called “Budding Violet,” where products crafted by some of Coyne’s peers are available for purchase, WPRI reported.
Coyne wants to send a message that individuals with special needs are hard workers too. He’s proud of his business — and many others are proud of him.
“He’s done amazing things,” his mom said. “And he’s just a really good human being. You feel that when you come in.”