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Recent graduate using degree to open coffee shop, hire people with special needs

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HARTLAND, Wis. — A UW-Whitewater graduate is not going into the classroom with her teaching degree. Instead, she plans to start a new business and hire on people with special needs.

Mackenzie Edinger is just 23 years old and has never owned a business before.

She believes the secret ingredient to her successful coffee shop called Inclusion Coffee Company will be her employees.

Her first hire will be Jack Ryan. She babysat Jack for two summers. “Just built that strong relationship with him, and I just feel he will be a good asset here,” said Edinger.

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“I love her. She’s very nice to me, and I like her a lot too,” said Jack Ryan, who lives with Down Syndrome.

Edinger says Jack is her inspiration. She plans to hire at least 20 people with special needs to start. She wants to give this vulnerable population more opportunities she feels are missed.

“Not just this community, but I think a lot of places. Other people may not feel these people have the same capabilities as others. I think that they do,” said Edinger.

“Our logo also is a bunch of people gathered around and huddled around, so I think in the logo itself shows that we are one big community and very inclusive,” said Edinger.

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The 23 year old graduated with a degree in early childhood education and special education. She plans to use her teaching skills behind a barista table. “Here they are going to be working on customer service skills and making the coffee and the food for our community,” she said.

Jack’s father Scott is not surprised. “I really feel fortunate as a parent that someone like this was brought into his life. It’s a parent’s dream come true. I think he’ll get on a first name basis on a lot of customers over time,” he said.

For 19-year-old Jack, it’s an opportunity for him to make his own money and become more independent, saying, “I’m going to try my best, I will.”

Click here to learn more about this Hartland company, set to open in March 2022.

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