321 Coffee – Expanding Opportunity through Accessible Tech

There’s a lot one can do when given just one opportunity for growth. And everyone deserves an opportunity in life. It can provide hope and meaning—two very important facets of finding fulfillment. It probably comes as no surprise that there are plenty of people who may go their entire lives without being given a proper chance for improvement. 

Thankfully, there is a great group of people and Small Business Owners in Raleigh, NC, who strive to minimize this. Lindsay Wrege is the CEO and Co-founder of 321 Coffee, a nonprofit coffee shop that relies on technology to operate smoothly and employs neurodiverse adults, or adults with intellectual and development disabilities (IDD). And her business’s mission? It’s to provide meaningful employment for adults with IDD and to create a model of inclusion that other businesses can follow. 321 Coffee currently employs 21 people with IDD, all of whom are making over the federal minimum wage. Through their work, 321 Coffee continues to make a deep, meaningful impact on each and every one of its employees—advancing equity, providing opportunity, and teaching valuable life and technological skills that enable their employees to live life to the absolute fullest. 

Built on Inclusivity 

Lindsay’s mission of creating an opportunity for meaningful employment for individuals with IDD started long before the shop existed. She, alongside three other NC State students, put their heads together and brainstormed how they could help make a difference. What they landed on was 321 Coffee and the idea of a workplace that’s welcoming to anyone and everyone.  

They began by hosting pop-up coffee services at various events on campus and around the Raleigh area, renting tables from the student union and serving coffee from Starbucks. From there, they gained traction by attending any event they could, garnering followers along the way to rally behind their mission. They continued to push their business ideals every Saturday under a tent at the North Carolina State Farmers Market.  

Going from using dorm rooms as kitchens and storage units to being permanent vendors at the Farmers Market with a full-scale coffee kiosk, Lindsay and her team now operate a smooth-running business machine in Raleigh, having persevered through a great deal of challenges. Lindsay updates us on her progress. “We’ve got a completely inclusive staff,” she said. “We’ve got individuals with down syndrome, autism. You name it? You’ve got a place here with us.” This inclusivity starts at the top and encompasses the whole idea behind 321 Coffee. 

Keeping Up 

Since its inception, 321 Coffee’s problem—at the core—has been that people with IDD suffered from a lack of employment and professional opportunities. 

“The solution is not ‘you can work, but you have to be a barista.’ That’s not a true solution. A true solution is overall systemic inclusion. And so, when I think about 321 Coffee—and how we can really create a lot of value in this world—it’s by showing and showcasing what these individuals can do as a team, in a job, in society.” – Lindsay Wrege 

In order to achieve this goal of systemic inclusion, 321 Coffee had to think bigger than simply serving coffee. Providing their employees with a chance for true, personal growth required supplying tools and knowledge to succeed in life beyond their store. That’s where technology comes in and plays a pivotal role.  

Technology is an amazing and versatile tool, but for 321 Coffee, the challenge was a matter of finding the right technology. But, in doing her research, it wasn’t long until Lindsay discovered that a plethora of the user experiences and interfaces weren’t conscious of their usability, or lack thereof, for people with IDD. Many of these interfaces can be cluttered and hard to use in situations where the neurodiverse community needs and benefits from a streamlined and reliable solution. General technology doesn’t have neurodiverse users in mind and it’s important for Small Businesses, like 321 Coffee, to have a technology partner that holds similar values of inclusion, equity, and accessibility.  

Easy as 1-2-3 

321 Coffee is a crucial player in the fight against the unemployment issues in the IDD community. And this places an extra level of importance on their technology. The tech is everything. “That’s where the orders get placed—where we track efficiency. We’ve got a huge back end where we track orders that are incoming, the status as they’re going through fulfillment. And so that’s what we are working with our baristas on, is teaching them how to use this interface and how to interpret the new orders, and how to use that technology to aid them.” It’s clear to see how essential an easily understandable interface is for 321 Coffee.  

Lenovo’s durable and dependable ThinkPad X12 for the staff streamlines a lot of the operations on the fulfillment side. As one of their employees says, “it is very easy to use the technology to ring orders.” It also provides the ability to build out and track the work in progress, track the finished goods, and collect data from past experiences.  

With the ease-of-use and inclusivity of Lenovo technology powered by Windows 10 Pro—especially for individuals with IDD—321 Coffee runs efficiently, effectively, and with great success. Windows applications are designed with neurodiverse users in mind, and they far exceed the user experience of other applications. Thanks to a special feature that provides neurodiverse users with sequential structure when tackling tasks, Windows devices give the IDD community a tech tool made specifically for them. Lenovo devices running Windows also have special formatting for better readability to support those with dyslexia, autism, and down syndrome. Plus, Lenovo’s Premier Support mitigates any down time—providing elite around-the-clock technician support that can help to eliminate any hitches that may arise.  

Outfitted with everything they need and more from a technology standpoint, Lindsay Wrege and 321 Coffee can continue operating at a high level and providing people with IDD with a great opportunity at life. Because, in the end everyone deserves an opportunity. The world is better when it’s more inclusive. And 321 Coffee, powered by Lenovo, is working to make this a more expansive, and inclusive reality. 

  • This is fantastic! Great opportunity’s.


  • This is fantastic! Great opportunity’s.