Coffee is often the vehicle that drives students — it wakes them up in the morning, it's their go-to mid-day pick me up and, for many, it's a vehicle of socialization in the modern-day virtual world.
But for UNC students Jacklyn Googins and Hannah Steen, co-founders of B3 Coffee, coffee is also a pathway for the promotion of inclusion and diversity within and beyond the Chapel Hill community.
"B3 coffee is a nonprofit, pop-up coffee shop and online community that serves as a platform of positive visibility and community connection for people of all abilities," Googins said.
Googins and Steen said they also strive to dismantle the stigmas that often surround disabilities and other types of diversity. Within the organization, people with disabilities have leadership roles, Googins said.
In October 2018, Googins began a partnership with UNC's Best Buddies program, which partners community members who have disabilities with UNC students, named Best Buddies Brews. In January 2020, Googins and Steen branched away from UNC Best Buddies, making B3 Coffee a community-based nonprofit organization.
It was not long afterward that the ongoing threat of COVID-19 hit. But the restrictions that came with the pandemic also allowed them more accessibility to connect with each other.
Since the March outbreak, B3 has hosted twice-weekly Zoom calls, which have promoted socialization and fellowship.
"We shifted our platform to an online community," Steen said. "Our community really grew over the period of a few months with our Zoom calls."
B3 operates under three core values: being, belonging and becoming.
"We appreciate diverse ways of being," Googins said. "We aim to create a space where everyone belongs, and we strive to become better together."
Max Van Name, a B3 team member and the director of marketing, said he feels as though he is a part of a collaborative team.
"I like being there," he said. "I can be myself."
Van Name said his favorite part of being involved with B3 is hanging out with his friends and fellow team members.
Before Googins began B3, she worked as a Starbucks barista. During that time, she said she recognized the power that coffee has to bring people together and build strong relationships.
"We learn to know each other and appreciate differences through forming connections with each other," she said. "That's why coffee is our medium of promoting interaction across different populations."
B3's team has more than doubled since the outbreak, growing from an original 15 to a now standing 35 team members, Googins said. The pandemic has also allowed B3 to further engage with social media platforms.
"We have a team member who has embodied an ambassador for our program, and he spreads the word on our social (media) and his own," Steen said.
YouTube has become another way for B3 to spread its message, hosting "Coffee Conversations" for the public to become more familiar with the team.
It was also during the pandemic that B3 received word it was a recipient of the Kenan-Biddle Partnership grant, in collaboration with Duke Disability Alliance, awarding them $5,000 toward their initiative. Googins and Steen said they intend to utilize the grant funding to sustain B3’s online programming and create a universally designed permanent location.
"We're not designing the space in a way that's special for people with disabilities," Googins said. "It's about creating a design that is mutually beneficial for everyone."
The team is currently exploring the option of establishing its permanent location at the Chapel Hill Public Library. However, it has not yet formed any formal agreement.
Although the team's primary focus is inclusion, Steen said B3 also believes in serving quality products. According to Steen, they hold community partnerships with organizations that align with their mission, including Haerfest Coffee, Harvest's Table and Blawesome.
"We want people to see neurodiversity as a driver of innovation and growth, because it is," Googins said. "We want our practices to reflect that."
B3 is getting ready for its next drive-thru pop-up event that will take place on March 6 at the Chapel Hill Public Library, located at 100 Library Drive. More details can be found on its website and social media profiles.
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