Meeting a very special need

CARL COLLISON

A little over two months since opening Brownies and Downies, Wade Schultz, the restaurant’s business partner, is more than pleased with its success.

“A lot of people have come to know us,” he says, pointing out the patrons at the bustling Long Street eatery, adding: “And many have become regulars.”

Originally founded in Holland, the business aims to train special needs adults to be employable in the hospitality, service and retail sectors.

And while the Dutch business is run as a franchise, the South African version functions as an NPO, and was opened as an adjunct to the NPO, Our Second Home.

Says Mr Schultz: “Our Second Home is the registered non-profit organisation. As Brownies and Downie is a franchise overseas, we couldn’t register it here. But we have access to the entire South African market when we open Brownies and Downies as a non-profit organisation under Our Second Home.”

As to how he came to be involved in the business, Mr Schultz says: “I was approached by the founder of Brownies and Downies South Africa, Wendy Vermeulen, to come on board and I jumped at the opportunity.”

Originally from the Eastern Cape, the Edgemead resident relocated to Cape Town 15 years ago. “So,” he laughs, “I’m basically a Capetonian now.”

And while he is pleased with the hitherto success of the business, it is, as with any fledgling enterprise, not without its challenges.

“Well,” he says, “funding is an issue. So, we are now starting to approach corporates to come on board and assist us as part of their corporate social investment programmes.”

The business currently employs 25 special needs adults as trainees, nine trainers and three interns.

In addition to training special needs adults, part of the business’ mandate includes training corporates on working with special needs adults.

Despite the changing of perceptions people might have of people with special needs being an essential element of the business’ existence, Mr Schultz concedes that these perceptions manifest – even at the restaurant.

“Some people will come, sit down and say things like, ‘Why do I need to repeat myself when I order?’

“But,” he adds, “that is only, I’d say, 10 percent of people. The rest have really embraced the concept. So much so that people would contact us from all parts of the country wanting to open branches there. it is rewarding to see how many people are supporting this cause. The number of people who have that kind of heart is really very encouraging to see.”