Hive of the Ozarks, a charity coffeehouse in Willard, Missouri, is altering the lives of inhabitants in this town of just over 6,000 people with the motto “Different abilities, same possibilities.”
The cafe, which Melissa Skaggs, a former teacher, started, is staffed by children of all abilities who work alongside peers without impairments. The objective is straightforward: to assist students network in the community by developing practical life and employment skills.
Before starting The Hive in March 2021, Skaggs spent 30 years working in the educational field. The talents that other students were able to build through the typical after-school jobs and internships were not available for kids with different capacities to hone, she observed throughout her career. She continued to teach and discuss the idea with others in the hopes that someone else would come up with a similar notion.
Skaggs was inspired by cafes with comparable concepts and made the bold decision to launch The Hive in Willard, her hometown, where she believed the nonprofit would be welcomed. Given the dismal survival rate of small businesses in the region, Skaggs admits, “I had some trepidation about beginning a firm in Willard.” But this is a community that cares for its citizens.
The Hive is modeled after its ancestor. Skaggs’s Cafe is a true hive for the town surrounding it, hosting art courses and community gatherings in addition to conversations over coffee and sandwiches, just like a beehive, which is a naturally resilient, cooperative organism. In the near future, she plans to start teaching wellness classes.
The charity cafe has so far earned $5,000 from local donations, although fundraising proved difficult because of the pandemic. Hive of the Ozarks is fortunate in that there are other organizations that protect small businesses. Small Company Hero Day is a new day of honor for all small businesses that will debut on May 31, 2022, thanks to Intuit QuickBooks and Mailchimp, two small business platforms dedicated to fostering small business success. In recognition of their courageous efforts that have either benefited a person or a community, QuickBooks and Mailchimp gave $20,000 each to three small businesses in different parts of the United States. Hive of the Ozarks can safely state that opportunities are expanding as one of three QuickBooks and Mailchimp Small Business Hero Day winners. It is quite important to me, says Skaggs. “I nearly didn’t believe it when I learned. I didn’t see this coming.”
Depending on input from her board and the neighborhood, she plans to increase the cafe’s hours and add outside seating and menu options with the award money.
The methodology used by The Hive focuses on teaching employees customer service and job skills. The 16 staff members of the organization put in a maximum of 500 hours per week, giving them the knowledge and assurance to go on to new employment prospects. There are clipboards all over the kitchen that include useful instructions for honing professional abilities, including assignments to complete while there are no clients. The most fulfilling aspect of Skaggs’ company has been observing the effects on her workers’ lives outside of work. The Hive’s employees have been inspired to take greater initiative in other areas of their lives as a result of working there, and some have even gone as far as to obtain their driver’s licenses.
Skaggs believes that being a successful small company owner requires her to be flexible, patient, and a role model for her staff. Her experience as a teacher enables her to serve as a “coach, counselor, and cheerleader all in one.”
Skaggs sees Willard as more than just her workplace’s location. Additionally, it is the community where she was born, raised, established a job, and made friends. Many of the neighbors she spoke with about her dream now support The Hive or sit on its board. Giving back to her community has also been accomplished by establishing a nonprofit with a physical location. The Hive is a 100% green company that donates food leftovers to a local farmer so that they may feed their animals, as well as giving back to the community outside of its town center.
On top of everything else, there is always a ton of paperwork and back-office work to be done, according to Skaggs. “However, it is so rewarding to see the Hive’s beneficial effects on my staff and our entire community.”