NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A young Dallas entrepreneur has found a way to help kids who are aging out of the state’s foster care system. It’s a Texas Treasure, and it’s happening one latte at a time at La La Land Kind Cafe.
Ciara Moton, 20, is the epitome of a confident, efficient, hard-working barista. But just one year ago, she was unable to hold down a job, had lost her car, and found herself homeless. A runaway from the foster care system — and whose parents were sent to prison when she was just a baby — Moton has faced struggles many couldn’t imagine.
Then last spring she learned about the La La Land Kind Cafe, just off Lower Greenville, and it changed her life.
“I ended up having an interview,” Moton recalled, “and right after the interview they said, ‘Wow, you’re the perfect fit! We would love for you to work here’, and honestly it was mind-blowing to me, because I didn’t think they would want me, you know. I guess that it’s just the feeling of being in the foster care system… always feeling like I’m just going to be a burden to someone you know, like I’m not really meant to be anywhere, but they actually made me feel like I was meant to be here, and like a family, and they took me in.”
It may not have been obvious to her at the time, but the cafe was started precisely to help young people like Moton.
Francois Reihani — a 24-year-old entrepreneur and founder of such enterprises as Pok the Raw Bar and Bar Stellar — says it was at an informational meeting for a local non-profit that he became aware of the problem.
“One of the meetings specifically was about the kids who age out of the system,” he said. “I had no idea about it at that point. And they had three kids come in and share their stories– and by the end of the three kids’ stories, I was in complete shock.”
And he knew he needed to do something to help.
“Imagine being 18 and literally having no one, and going out and being alone. What are you going to do?” Reihani asked. “The facts are the people you grew up with in the system, when they come out, they do what they need to do to survive. And a lot of times that’s either selling drugs — or unfortunately for the girls, that’s selling their bodies.”
He threw all of his energy into creating the non-profit We Are One Project, which months later led to the founding of the cafe.
“That was the moment where I knew I could combine both my passions and make a big impact by kind of blending both,” says Reihani. “Where we can create a place where we not only hire and mentor these kids, but — on a much larger scale — we show other businesses [that] hey, you can do this, too. Right?”
He hopes other businesses recognize that success can be found in social entrepreneurship.
For young people like Moton that kind of support means everything. “I have people to believe in me and support me. I’ve never had that kind of support in my life,” she said. “So I’ve been able to believe in myself, and realize what I want in life and chase after it.”
Moton has now decided that what she wants in life is to get her GED and then a higher education, all with the ultimate goal of helping other kids in the foster care system.
As for Reihani, he says the cafe is doing so well. They’re building a second location in Oak Lawn and hope to have it open before the end of April.