There’s nothing quite like the high of getting your very first paycheck. Just ask Joe Sullivan.
The 18-year-old had been on the job at Bitty and Beau’s Coffee Shop in Melrose, Massachusetts for two weeks when his manager handed him his first paycheck.
And his reaction? Absolutely priceless.
What makes the moment even more special is that Joe has Down Syndrome.
Not only is he celebrating the money he earned, but he’s also celebrating finding purpose and inclusion in a society that so often fails those with disabilities.
The Viral TikTok of an Employee Receiving His First-Ever Paycheck
The first time Joe walked into Bitty and Beau’s he was “smitten.” For nearly a year, Joe and his mother, Tonya, would visit the coffee shop every Sunday in the hopes of eventually landing Joe a job.
Finally, his dream came true.
On July 31st, 2022, Joe became the newest member of the coffee shop’s team.
Two weeks later, he received his first paycheck and it had him jumping for joy, literally.
The company captured the heartwarming moment in a 23-second video and posted it on its TikTok page where it has gone viral with a staggering four million views. For good reason — people can’t help but be touched by Joe’s infectious joy and enthusiasm.
And if this doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will.
The clip is captioned, “Joe’s on cloud 9—he got his first paycheck!” — and it ain’t lying.
Joe IS on cloud 9 and he’s not afraid to show it. Jumping up and down, waving his arms, and pumping his fists, he’s positively beaming as his fellow employees & customers applaud and cheer. It is pure unadulterated joy in action.
Tonya said of her son’s reaction, “He was so ecstatic about the whole thing. He wasn’t concerned with how much it was for. He loves going there to work.”
Bitty and Beau’s Serves Up More Than Just Coffee
Bitty and Beau’s isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill coffee shop. According to its website, it’s really a “human rights movement disguised as a coffee shop.”
Since its inception in 2016, founders Amy and Ben Wright have been all about employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For them, it’s a mission grounded in their own lives.
They are the proud parents of four children, including two with Down Syndrome (Bitty and Beau) and one with Autism.
And they’re hoping to create a better world for them.
“Our mission is to change the way people see people with disabilities, and we do that within the setting of a coffee shop, where everybody feels pretty comfortable,” Amy said. When a guest realizes their order is being taken by a person with a disability, “you are having some psychological reconditioning going on, while enjoying a really great cup of coffee.”
However, it’s not just about changing people’s perceptions. It’s about changing lives too.
The national unemployment rate is over 80% for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Wrights are working to change that.
“For people with disabilities who have been marginalized, segregated, or in the shadows, to be front and center [in] the spotlight is life-changing.”
– Amy Wright
Obviously, their inclusion policy is paying off. Business is booming. Since its humble beginnings with its first store in North Carolina, Bitty and Beau’s has grown into 23 locations in 12 states in just a few years. They currently employ more than 400 people.
And they have no plans of stopping. They’re hoping to expand worldwide and offer franchise opportunities for those interested in “brewing up more than just coffee.”
They’re also hoping that other businesses will follow suit, making the choice to hire their own disabled employees. A decision they know they won’t regret.
Changing Lives — One Cup of Coffee At a Time
For many people, receiving a paycheck is just a routine part of life. But for others, it can be a life-changing event.
For Joe, his first paycheck represented a sense of pride and accomplishment. It was validation of his place in his community. A community that he is a part of changing for the better.
“A lot of times I say you might not be able to change the whole world, but we can change our world right?” Tonya said. “That’s what he’s doing. One coffee at a time.”