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Business as a Platform for Change

How a Growing Coffee Chain Boosted Its Online Business During COVID-19

Bitty & Beau's worker serves up a coffee

There are companies that do good. And then there’s Bitty & Beau’s Coffee. 

What started as a single coffee shop in Wilmington, N.C. to employ people with disabilities has sprouted into a franchised small business that has gained national attention for its purpose-driven model.  

In 2016, knowing 80% of people with disabilities do not have gainful employment in their own communities, Amy and Ben Wright set out to change that. The couple, who have four children — two of whom have Down syndrome and another recently diagnosed with autism — sought to start an inclusive business for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a place to earn a living. Enter Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, inspired by the Wright’s two youngest children named — what else? — Bitty (who is 11) and Beau (who is 16). The Wrights realized once people with disabilities exit the public school system, nothing was set up for them to take the next step in life. 

“We just didn’t want that for our children,” Ben said. “So selfishly we thought, ‘Let’s start a coffee shop. At least our kids will have jobs.’” We quickly realized while the jobs we were creating for people with disabilities were incredibly important, it was equally, if not even more important for people without disabilities to come in and witness them working and seeing them in a totally different light.”

The business thrived. The Wrights opened three additional locations in Charleston, S.C., Annapolis, Md., and Savannah, Ga. Their original staff comprising 19 people with disabilities grew to 120. Businesses inquired about adding Bitty & Beau’s cafes inside corporate buildings. CNN named Amy in 2017 its hero of the year and gave the business a $100,000 award to grow. And at Dreamforce 2019, Salesforce gave the Wrights its first-ever Service Equality Award. They started offering franchises to expand the business further.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  

Making the most of a crisis to forge ahead

This pandemic forced the Wrights, like so many other small businesses, to temporarily shut their doors, lay off their 120 employees and change course. The couple already used Salesforce’s Service Cloud and Experience Cloud to support the business, mostly by powering the help center on its website and easily fielding customer support engagements. This allowed them to quickly pivot to an e-commerce model while adding more features to create a better overall customer service experience. Their thinking? The Wrights wanted the Bitty & Beau’s Coffee experience to be seamless, where the warmth of their staff could still be felt — regardless if people could visit a store for a cup of joe or purchase coffee and merchandise online. Now, every order would include a handwritten note from an employee.  

“When COVID hit, it hit us hard because we felt like the most conservative thing to do was to close our doors,” Amy said. “We did that for 60 days. During that time we had to find a way to continue to connect to our customers because everything in our life is riding on this business and the success of it. The same goes for our employees who count on their jobs.”

Since Bitty & Beau’s Coffee already used the Salesforce platform, the Wrights were better set up for ecommerce success. Through Service Cloud and Experience Cloud, they already gave customers access to FAQs and tracking orders through an easy-to-use help center. They added Pardot to engage customers through email newsletters and social campaigns and to gain new followers. And Bitty Bot, the company’s AI chatbot built through Einstein before the pandemic, added another layer of personalization to their website and helped them scale tremendously during the time the cafes were shut down, Amy said. 

“It was all about continuing to connect with our customers and have this wonderful experience as if they had come into the shop,” Amy added. “We were getting a lot of online orders during that time. Because of the great tools we already had established with Salesforce we were able to get shipments out next-day with a personalized note, so that people still felt connected to Bitty & Beau’s Coffee.”

In September, Bitty & Beau’s Coffee shops reopened and the Wrights safely welcomed back their staff and customers to have that in-person experience. During the closure, the company’s online sales grew, experiencing higher year-over-year sales from September 2019. In 2020, they announced three franchise locations, showing continued growth. The Wrights say much of this happened because they worked with Salesforce.

“Having Salesforce as a strategic partner during this pandemic has been indescribably important,” Ben said. “We don’t really have anyone to look to for help. So having Salesforce and the platform and all of the people that were stepping up and taking their own time to really dig into what it is that we do and how we do it, and to really try to understand it was massively important. It was and it continues to be a very important strategic partnership for us.”

Having Salesforce as a strategic partner during this pandemic has been indescribably important.

Amy Wright, co-owner, Bitty & Beau’s coffee

Further, having Customer 360 in their stable has allowed the Bitty & Beau’s Coffee team to amp up what they set out to do: support people with disabilities while giving their customers a friendly, warm and welcoming experience when they come in for coffee.

“When a customer walks in, we don’t just simply take their order and pass them down the line,” Amy said. “Every one of our employees will take time to get to know them. They want to have that human connection and get to know people. So why would that be any different when we’re doing business online? The 360 approach is just like we do things in the shop. We want to get to know you. We want to know what makes you tick, what you like, what you don’t like, so that we can do our job better.”

This is all important because the Wrights hope to continue expanding Bitty & Beau’s around the country. Having these tools, including a mobile app, in place will only help make that all easier. 

“As business owners of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, we’re always trying to reinvent ways to do things better and improve the experience,” Amy added. “I sense that from Salesforce, too. Another wonderful quality about our partnership is we’re both trying to find ways to do things better. And I think we’re making it happen.”

It certainly sounds like it — for their customers and, almost more important, for their staff.

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