Everyone loves a good cup of coffee. Even better is enjoying that cup of coffee at a great coffee shop where you can enjoy a relaxing environment, too. But, what if you could get more than just a delicious drink on your next trip out for a cup of joe? What if you could be a part of something bigger that is working to show your community how to celebrate diversity? Well guess what, there is a coffee shop in downtown Winston-Salem that is doing exactly that. Moji Coffee + More is serving up some delicious drinks and teaching this community a little something as well.
In 2019, non-profit organization, Moji Coffee + More, became a dream realized by Executive Director, Tim Flavin. After visiting a coffee shop that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, he knew the people of Winston-Salem needed a coffee shop like this. He immediately got to work securing funding and a building downtown to make it happen. At the same time, another group of people were having similar thoughts. They had already begun working on a marketing strategy with The Variable, a local advertising agency, in hopes of starting a coffee shop with the same goals in mind. As luck would have it, these two groups found each other and became one. Moji Coffee + More was born out of this collaboration. It took several years to get everything in place. But they opened their first location on Trade Street in 2019 and their second location in the Central Library in February 2020.
The word moji is inspired by the concept of emojis. Emojis inspired the name because they are able to express a message or feeling without verbal communication. The Moji Coffee + More team has defined Moji as, “The jolt of joy you get when you make others happy.” There is so much to that when it comes to this non-profit organization: its 15- member volunteer board, the employees, and the volunteers that contribute to the day-to-day operations. This isn’t just about employment; it is about meaningful and enriching experience and development for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
It is also about engaging the community to show them the benefits of celebrating this “neurodiverse” community. They aim to provide employment opportunities, life-skills, and professional development, while providing high quality, meaningful service to the community.
To reach sustainability as a new non-profit organization and provide as much as possible to the neurodiverse community, they have established local partnerships. Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools provides the building on Trade Street at no cost and the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners is supporting their growth in the Central Library location. They also work with local artists and businesses to offer opportunities to raise money and provide quality goods in their shops.
The Team they have put together at Moji Coffee + More is very special. Executive Director Tim Flavin is hands-on and oversees community outreach and development, while contributing daily to the day-to-day needs of the shop. General Manager Natalie Hughes takes care of daily operations with the help of a multi-talented management team, Courtney Swartz at the Central Library location and Jade Deaver at the Trade Street location. Every member of the team brings not only their talent but their passion for advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Donna Zayas, who not only served on the first Board of Moji Coffee, but also started “Joy Prom” in Winston-Salem, a formal dance for the special-needs community. In addition to their individual roles, they all spend a lot of time teaching life skills to, and creating a positive work environment for, all of the 26 employees.
Lindsey Reitz is the 15-year-old daughter of Moji board member Charles Reitz. Though she is not quite old enough to work at Moji Coffee yet, she can’t wait till she turns 16 and has the opportunity to apply. When asked what Moji Coffee + More means to her and her family, she had so many great things to say. “This place is so great because it is a place where everyone can be accepted for being exactly who they are. All the baristas love their jobs and make sure they are bringing a jolt of joy with every cup of coffee they serve. Moji brings the best out in people. Not just the employees, but the customers, too.”
If you are interested in a great cup of coffee and an even better group of people, check out Moji Coffee + More today. They have two downtown Winston-Salem locations. 690 Trade Street is open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Their newest location, located at 660 W. Fifth Street, inside the Central Library, is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm and is closed on Sunday. For more information about this amazing organization, visit their website at mojicoffee.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.