Blending Passion and Coffee with Kerry Foodservice and Inspired Coffee

Blending Passion and Coffee with Kerry Foodservice and Inspired Coffee

The smell of freshly brewed coffee.

The gentle hum of a made to order blended smoothie.

Seeing smiles greet you as you walk through the door.

Coffee shops can awaken multiple sense at once.

For those at Inspired Coffee in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, they work to awaken another sense - belonging.

“A coffee shop is a place of community, it brings people together,” said Erik Barber, President & CEO of Inspiration Ministries.

We first introduced you to Inspired Coffee one year ago. Inspired Coffee hires, trains and coaches workers who have physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities. As part of a 12-month program, the workers gain skills in a real-world foodservice setting. As a partner, Kerry Foodservice offers training, help with menu innovation, and provides a full line up of DaVinci Gourmet, Island Oasis, Oregon Chai and Big Train at a reduced cost.

Connecting people through coffee

Inspiration Ministries, with Erik leading the charge, opened Inspired Coffee three years ago.

“This is a way for us to change the conversation about people with disabilities. When customers come into the shop, we want them to see there is something different and have that experience of interacting with a person with disabilities and leave with a smile on their face.”

“Being around people with differing abilities helps me understand people,” said Sabrina Nelson, who is a coffee mentor for new trainees.

Sabrina knows the power of Inspired Coffee well. As a person with differing abilities, Sabrina was one of the first trainees hired at Inspired Coffee three years ago.
Sabrina helps a customer with her order

“Meeting new trainees means learning their differences and figuring out how we can work together. It’s one of the things I like the most about working at Inspired Coffee. I’m always learning new things, it’s never the same. There is always something new to learn.”

Sabrina is currently learning what it takes to be a manager.

“I love teaching our new trainees skills and helping them learn about the coffee industry, it’s fun! Seeing new trainees progress here, and then seeing them graduate our program, is satisfying and wonderful.”

Building a community of support

In the past year, six trainees launched into new positions in the community.

“We just had a trainee start working at a local bakery and another went to a nearby campground,” said Angie Schubert, Training Director. “We work with our trainees’ new employers to help create modifications, when needed. Each trainee has their own unique abilities and challenges. We try to support them through those challenges and celebrate what they can bring.”

It’s a partnership that Angie says benefits Inspired Coffee, the trainees and the community.

“There is a huge shortage of jobs for people with disabilities in this country. Most people with a disability want to work. Creating that awareness and the ability to have training at a place like Inspired Coffee is so helpful.”

The ability to teach members of the community about people with disabilities is something Sabrina doesn’t take for granted.

“I like teaching people who don’t have disabilities about us, and what our program stands for. People don’t always treat people with disabilities as fairly as they treat other people. But once they get to know people with disabilities, they know they can be like anyone else.”

Partnerships, like the one with Kerry, are something Erik says helps the shop, and the training program, thrive. 

“This partnership means the world to me because it is enabling us to be able to provide this training program and help it move closer to sustainability,” said Erik. “Our training program is in continual state of evolution, it’s solid and we have a really good base. What we’re doing now is determining what the best practices are for the operational side of the business. Those things are important to us to get them nailed. The traffic continues to increase year-over-year.”

What’s next for Inspired Coffee?

“I’m hoping that we’re a hub for people with disabilities,” said Angie. “We’re starting a social night on Thursday nights to create a space that is welcoming and fun. I hope we’re a model for places. I hope we can grow and expand, where we can replicate what we’re building in Lake Geneva.”