A Capetonian entrepreneur is looking to merge the love of good Java with deaf awareness through the launch of South Africa’s first deaf-run coffee shop, and has turned to crowdfunding for help.

Gary Hopkins is preparing to open iLoveCoffee, a place that sets itself apart from the hoards of coffee shops in the Mother City in that it claims to be the first in the country operated by deaf people. While that may or may not be true, iLoveCoffee’s explicit mission to break down the communication barriers between the hearing the deaf using the power of hot beverages certainly sounds unique.

Gary Hopkins
iLoveCoffee founder, Gary Hopkins

“iLoveCoffee right now is an idea and I need some help to make it a reality,” Hopkins said.

Although South African Sign Language (SASL) is recognised, it’s not an official language and poor SASL education and provisions mean 40 000 deaf people are negatively affected.

“Customers will be encouraged to engage verbally as well as visually with deaf staff, and will be taught rudimentary SASL to order. We believe this will open dialogue and bring about the social change we need,” said Hopkins, who has personally been learning SASL for a few weeks.

The larger deaf community will benefit by being incorporated into iLoveCoffee’s supply and services chain.

To get baristas, Hopkins has called on the help of the National Institute for the Deaf to source and train them.

iLoveCoffee already has space in X-Body Fitness Gym in Claremont earmarked, but needs additional equipment and services to really get going.

The plan is to start in Cape Town and later expand to the rest of the country. iLoveCoffee has already attracted international interest from a retail chain willing to have it outsource all their in-house coffee shops.

“We need to make iLoveCoffee a reality. Turn it from a dream into a place where people are employed and are happy interacting with the hearing community,” Hopkins said.

iLoveCoffee’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo will end in about two months; at the time of writing $645 had been raised of the $7 500 goal.

[Source – Indiegogo, images – YouTube]