Suzanne McIntosh is the founder of The Percolator Fund, a non-profit providing educational opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is also the mother of a child with a developmental disability.
After taking time to raise her family, Suzanne re-entered the workforce in the coffee industry, a stark shift from her previous career. She was drawn to the mission of Furnace Hills Coffee Company and her love of coffee, saying “To me…coffee is all about people.”
When she moved her family to Idaho, she shared her business card with the counselor at Boise High School. Intrigued by the story of Furnace Hills, the two hatched a plan to start a program partnership between the Percolator Fund and the students at Boise High School. Boise Brave Friends was born.
The Newest Non-Profit in Boise
Founded in 2017, the Percolator Fund currently outsources space and resources from local business partnerships. Though just starting out, they remain true to their mission: advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by “working to percolate meaningful, inclusive, and skilled employment opportunities in the coffee industry.”
Suzanne reports that only 31% of adults with disabilities are employed and of those, 17% work for less than minimum wage. Suzanne is pushing to provide training so these students have the skills necessary to excel in the coffee industry workforce.
Boise High School Partnership
Currently, The Percolator Fund has a training program partnership with Boise High School. As a part of the program, students are able to utilize budget coffee roasters to learn about the roasting process. The Percolator Fund helps provide training in the coffee industry as a vehicle to incorporate these students into the workforce and greater community.
Students spend only a few hours a week roasting coffee beans as part of the curriculum. From there, Suzanne and The Percolator Fund team market the coffee as a way to make money back. The goal is to create a zero monetary loss by selling the coffee made from students enrolled in the program.
The Impact on Employee Education
One of the major educational experiences students have is the opportunity to take part in the growth of a new vocabulary – one that is conducive to working in the coffee industry.
Students participate in a “flavor wheel” coffee taste test. They sip roasts of coffee and describe the experience based off the flavor wheel. This exercise is to grow the vocabulary and word usage of the students. The results are monumental. Students who took part in these exercises not only increased their vocabulary tenfold, but they were able to focus and perform better in classroom settings.
Suzanne reports, “[Students in the program] have seen impacts everywhere, from a student’s ability to attend a task increased from 3 to 4 minutes to 15 to 20 minutes…because of roasting coffee.” Students enrolled in the program not only improve their skills at the work site, but also improve their skills in other facets of their lives.
Linking Business Growth with Employees with Disabilities
The Percolator Fund doesn’t just have a positive impact on employees with disabilities, it greatly impacts the businesses hiring these students as well. Employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is a win-win situation for everyone who is involved.
Java Hyde Park serves as the perfect example of McIntosh’s nonprofit plan. Employees add to “moral, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and help[ing] create that genuine coffee house feel.” They are compensated fairly for their efforts while the business is able gain from the employee’s output.
To learn more about The Percolator Fund, you can visit their website at perculatorfund.org.
Listen to the full Idaho Speakeasy episode: idahospeakeasy.com/suzanne-mcintosh