15 & Under the Full Story: Moji Coffee & More

What is the background of Moji, and how long have you been operating?  

We opened on June 22nd 2019, but we had been working on the idea for 2-3 years. The genesis of the idea came from a place called Bitty & Bows in Wilmington, a place very similar to Moji. They are a for profit establishment, and we are non-profit. I visited there when it was just a little coffee shop about the size of Moji. Since they have moved into a larger building and have expanded to Charleston, Savannah, and Maryland. That gave me the inspiration, and seeing their success I knew that this idea could work from a business prospective. When I came back to Winston I held off for a few months and then began to put everything together. Almost everything that has been done for us has been done for free including our marketing and the build out. The name came about after a lot of discussion. I wanted to choose a name that could express what we are about. We tested out a bunch of different names, but decided that we should come up with our own word and give it a definition. We do not want to be electronic, that is why we have the paper rolls on the walls. We landed on the word emoji, but took off the e because we are not electronic. Younger people seemed to really resonate with that name. Moji means the jolt of joy you get when you make somebody happy. Coffee & more is really important to us. Coffee is our main product, but the more is really the community’s reaction to what we do. It is very obvious when people come in interact with the Mojista’s because they are benefitting from this experience. Obviously they are benefiting from having a job, but the thing that is not as obvious is the satisfaction people get when they come in here and you see them walk around with a big smile on their face. It is the community interaction that is most important, both for our Mojistas and for our customers. There is about a 78% unemployment rate with people with disabilities, and now with the employment rate going so low, people are going to be looking for more employees. We hope that people will come in here and see how productive our employees really are. They can definitely do a job that they are trained to do. We put our employees through a very comprehensive 6-8 week training program. We start with what you do the night before work, you set your alarm, and we have people on all types of levels. We have people that have needed that type of coaching and others who were much more ahead of the curve. Some people had worked before and some people had not. We currently employ 28 people. This may seem like a lot, but there are hundreds/thousands of other people with disabilities that need employment! After we got up and running we asked ourselves how can we grow this? We have started to form allegiances with some of our suppliers. Updog is one example of those allegiances! They have hired two of our people. We have at least four other people that have been employed because of Moji. We will continue to grow that because if you have a company with 30-40 people there is a job there for people with disabilities. We are trying to also provide the training here so that our employees can go out and work/do whatever they want to do. We offer financial literature classes in conjugation with a bank. We encourage them to spread their wings if that is what they want to do, and we will also nurture them here if this is where they want to stay.

What is Moji best known for? 

For the people that come in here because we are a coffee shop we are probably best known for the quality of our product. Especially our baked goods and coffee.The people that are part of the community and are not as sophisticated when it comes to coffee, they love our mission. They come to visit people that they know and the mojistas.

If Moji was a superhero what powers would it have?

The power to create joyful memories! 

What has being a part of the Winston-Salem community been like for Moji?

It has been wonderful, we have been very well embraced by Wake Forest, both from the Reynolda campus and downtown. We have a lot of people coming over from the Innovation Quarter. The community has really embraced us. The issue currently is still that not enough of the community knows about us. Getting the word out is still a challenge for us, but the people who come and talk to us tell us that they love the atmosphere. We didn’t want to be a place where people come to get coffee because they like the mission, we want to people to come here because they love our coffee, and they love our mission. We work very hard to get the best products and to make our drinks perfectly so that people come back and also still enjoy our atmosphere. We have people starting to come in with their church groups. We have adults that just come for conversation and coffee as well as youth groups that come in. This is especially great because it allows for there to be dialogue between our mojistas and the youth groups. The youth groups get to ask them questions about people with different abilities and increase their knowledge. We just find that so many people have not really experienced people with different abilities, and they are kind of stand offish. We try and promote people to initiate a conversation with a person of different abilities and to get to know them. It helps people recognize that they just have to approach things a bit differently than they do, and it helps them start to understand others.     

Do you have a mission if so what is it? 

To train, and to employee people with special abilities. We also aim to train and employ them in a very nurturing continuous training environment. None of our supervisors had barista experience before working at Moji, and all of them had 1:1 training experience with working with people with different abilities. We were able to learn how to make coffee and then pass it on to our employees in a nurturing way. The way we are achieving that mission is by creating an atmosphere where people want to come and spend time because we serve and excellent product.   

What is your favorite thing about Moji? 

The reactions of our mojistas. Especially seeing the way that they have all grown in the past six months. I can tell you so many wonderful stories about how they all have changed since day one. I love them, and everybody loves them. I also love the people that you meet. Most people are really happy to be here. It is really rare that you get grumpy customers. Everyday I have a half hour conversation with somebody about something just because they love being here.

What is the most fun thing to do in Winston-Salem? 

Come to Moji! I do really think people are starting to understand that this is such a fun place to be. We cater to so many types of people. We have game nights on Thursdays. People know that they are welcome here, and that they can come here to have a good time.             

Anything else you would like Wake Community/Community at Large to know? 

I would like them to know that when they come and enjoy themselves, which they will, that we would like them to share their joy, and to share the fact that they are here. If they want to encourage people to come here that is much appreciated. We definitely need more people to know about us. We are pretty convinced that if you are here that you will come back. Just bringing a friend or two. We are encouraging the Wake medical community to have small meetings here. We are getting to a point where we will be able to cater events. We are still just working on some of the logistics. We want to be part of the community, and we want people to know that we are here!