There are cafes for all kinds of personalities around downtown and Deep Ellum: for the meeting goer, Ascension is a popular choice amongst working professionals; for the book worm, the quieter library vibe of MudSmith provides the ambiance; for the perfectionist, the clean lines of Brewed + Pressed are appealing. But what about a happy person? Or the person who just wants to go somewhere with good vibes (don’t we all?). La La Land Kind Cafe appeals to just that type of person.
The newly opened house-turned-cafe in Lower Greenville boasts a lot of things: good vibes, fresh baked cookies, an outdoor patio, and the kindest staff you may ever encounter.
The concept was built on the idea of providing jobs for foster kids who have aged or are aging out of the foster system.
Concepteur and Owner Francois Reihani acknowledged the problem and sought a way to be part of a solution.
“If you look around, there is almost nothing that helps [the outgrowing foster kids],” Reihani said. “It’s crazy because these are literally children who have gone through their whole lives alone and once they turn 18, they get thrown to the streets.”
The proof is in the numbers. According to a report published in 2017 by the National Foster Youth Institute:
There is less than a 3 percent chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
After reaching the age of 18, 20 percent of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
Only one out of every two foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
The employed kids learn so much more than how to make a cup of coffee or bake cookies. Every part of their working experience contributes to a greater effort to impact their whole life.
“A lot of nonprofits will try to teach the youth a certain skill or just try to fix their housing situation,” Reihani explained. “But if you fix one thing, there are so many other things that just come back later. I wanted to fix not only their housing, but also their job placement, mentoring, help with schooling, and therapy. I’d like to stabilize their life.”
The kids will go through sessions about résumé building and managing personal finances while also learning valuable social skills along the way through customer interaction.
“Above basic skills that the kids learn, I think it is most important that they know that people love them and care about them,” Reihani said. “I want them to feel comfortable and confident when they go back into the working world.”
Nick Edwards, an employee at La La Land, is not from the foster care system but has a family that has adopted many children after fostering them. He has insight on what his co-workers might need to succeed.
“I like being able to see them react and respond to things while they work but be able to relate and understand what they are thinking and how they are feeling,” Edwards said. “It’s amazing to be able to speak love and life into their story here at La La Land.”
La La Land stands for more than hiring foster kids. Their mission is defined and the potential impact has no bounds. La La Land hopes to show consumers that they should expect more social impact from the businesses they support.
“Our main goal is for the guests to see that we are a business that is not only serving 100 percent organic products and not charging them more money, but we are also hiring foster youth, giving back to the community, being green and recycling, and still not charging them more,” Reihani said. “When they gonna go across the street, I want them to ask that shop why they aren’t doing any of those things? As a consumer, you control the business and hopefully all of us will begin to support businesses that support us. Hopefully we are showing that it is possible and every business should be helping something or someone.”
But to achieve the larger goal, they start with a smaller daily goal: impacting every customer’s life with a smile and great products.
“We are creating a place where you can walk in and feel happy,” Reihani said. “If we can bring you in, and you leave happier than you were, that’s an amazing accomplishment for us.”