Minu Budhia, a psychotherapist and counselor by profession, is the mother of a special needs child who founded Cafe ICanFlyy. She wanted special needs individuals who had finished their schooling to find purpose, acceptance, and training – all under one roof. Her elder daughter, Preeyam Budhia, who dotes on her special needs younger sister, is the co-founder of the café. The USP of ICanFlyy is that it is the first-of-its-kind cafe in India which is run by special-needs young individuals.
In Conversation With Minu Budhia and Preeyam Budhia of ICanFlyy
In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Minu Budhia and Preeyam Budhia talk about their journey in the industry, the story behind ICanFlyy, challenges while running the social enterprise, and a lot more.
The Story Behind Cafe ICanFlyy
ICanFlyy is not an ordinary café. Cozy, quirky, and a labor of love, Cafe ICanFlyy is a 50-seater cafe run by special needs individuals. The inspiration behind Cafe ICanFlyy is Prachi Budhia, Minu’s younger daughter, who is a special needs child. It is a tribute to her journey with Prachi. The cafe is a part of ICanFlyy, their institute for special needs. The cafe started its journey as a vocational program. It started as a part of the ICanFlyy Food Factory, their bakery division, and turned into a potent tool for empowerment. The ICanFlyy Food Factory produces healthy packaged snacks, has been around since the time ICanFlyy started. The institute took part in every prominent exhibition and their products sold out almost every time. This became the starting point. Following that was the excellent response for small catering orders and home-delivered customized cakes. This gave both the team and the students the confidence to do more, to open a café!
Challenges While Running Cafe ICanFlyy
Running a cafe with a cause is a challenge. Budhia was in a dilemma when she first started with the cafe, thinking about the challenges related to starting a cafe run by special needs children.
“The students are trained for six months in café customer service. Armed with a list of FAQs and unshakeable determination, our team of special educators and trainers worked hard to realize a dream into reality. The journey, though challenging, was immensely fulfilling,” says Minu.
ICanFlyy Food Factory would really build the social skills of the special needs children. From the beginning, they have been successfully running a programme for special needs young adults aged 15+. Children between the ages of three and nine join the Twinkling Stars programme, children between the ages of 10 and 14 join the Rising Stars programme, teenagers who are 15+ and adults join the Superstar programme. There is no upper age limit and at present, our older students are in their mid-thirties and early forties.
For a whole month, the special needs children had sessions of in-house tastings. During the first two tastings, they received a lot of critical feedback. For a short while, this made them question whether such a venture would be received with open hearts. After more training and some changes, they realized they were as ready as they ever were going to be, and opened their doors on 19th August 2017. The response was overwhelmingly positive. They received such love, support and positivity from the City of Joy that they expanded the size of the café, bringing up the café total seating capacity from 25 to 50.
Employee Management and Training
“Cafe ICanFlyy is our happy place. The employees who make up our cafe crew are from a diverse background, are supporters of the cause, and are looking to make a positive difference every single day. The special needs individuals who form the special cafe crew are all students at ICanFlyy and immensely enjoy their customer service role,” says Preeyam.
They were quite apprehensive about how a cafe like ICanFlyy would be received, but they have got nothing but good wishes, lots of encouragement, and much love from the City of Joy.
The training process for the children is lengthy labor of love as the special needs crew train for a minimum of six months before they start at the cafe as trainees. They are not only trained in various aspects of customer service – like greeting, serving, taking feedback – but also are trained in grooming, hygiene, confidence-building and more.
Embracing technology in various aspects of running the cafe has become essential as it helps to run the cafe smoothly in a variety of ways.
Goal At The End Of every Business Day
The cafe is open between 11:30 am and 9:00 pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. In addition to having a capable team, Minu visits the cafe every single day and is involved in the day to day running of the place – from training the special needs students to recipe development to special events. Her elder daughter, Preeyam looks into communications, social media, new initiatives and more.
According to Budhia, they call Cafe ICanFlyy their ‘24×7’ awareness tool as every person who steps into their happy place learns a little about the capabilities of special needs individuals. Their goal is to dismiss myths and stereotypes surrounding people with intellectual challenges. They want to not only provide a sheltered workplace where special needs individuals can learn and earn with dignity, but also make the society aware of how much these individuals are or can be contributing members of the social fabric.