We all know that feeling when someone does something kind for us, or maybe when we help a stranger. It often feels good. What if that were the normal? What if everyday we could be kind to each other? It is the goal of one business-minded millennial who is not only serving up coffee, he’s setting an example and saving lives.
When I heard about this cafe, I immediately smiled inside. A kind cafe? Is that even possible? My friend stumbled upon the place recently while strolling the streets of Santa Monica, California. He texted me and said he thought I would love the brand new spot that was garnering lots of attention.
When I read more, I was hooked. As a kindness ambassador of sorts, I couldn’t call fast enough to find out who was behind this crafty concept. A few days later, the CEO Francois Reihani met me at the front door of his La La Land Kind Cafe and greeted me with a hug. The 25 year old wants his customers to feel like they’ve stepped into heaven when they enter the doors.
The concept is intentional. The walls are white. The coffee cups are bright yellow. You will also find messages on your cup of joe and young happy people ready to greet you from behind the counter. It’s hard not to perk up when you hear the happiness and commotion inside. From lattes to matcha teas, La La Land Kind Cafe offers a wide variety of drinks and snacks. The company’s mission is to make kindness the norm. Francois explains, “There isn’t that sense of humanity anymore. You may have a different opinion than me, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care about you and love you as a person.”
After opening up three kind cafes in Texas, he is now caffeinating California, giving us a “high on life” jolt. But Francois, a University of Southern California graduate is also focused on something he says can’t be ignored. After hearing that thousands of teenagers age out of the foster care system, Francois was super disappointed. He explains that aging out happens when the youth are not adopted and hit an age where the system no longer supports them. Many of the youth fall on hard times. Others have no direction or encouragement, but La La Land offers them a place to land and learn.
“Our youth come through an 8 week paid internship… and during that time they get to learn the duties of having a cool job– and not only on the job, but off the job,” says Francois.
He set up the program allowing each young person to be offered the opportunity for therapy, mentoring, and a place to voice their fears. Once they have completed the internship, they are either hired by Francois’ team or La La Land helps them find a place they want to start a career or explore what they are passionate about. Since the inception of the cafe, twelve foster youth have graduated.
I also met Marcy Ramos at the cafe. She is a former foster care youth herself. She was recently hired by La La Land to be the Youth Director and she couldn’t be more thrilled. A naturally soft-spoken person, Marcy spent seven years in foster care and was never adopted aging out eventually finding herself homeless. She shared with me that in the past, as a foster care youth, she would have loved a place like La La Land Kind Cafe to find more opportunity. She also tells me that she often felt alone and not worthy. Marcy believed no one cared. It is a story not so unfamiliar to thousands of youth living in foster care.
The numbers are staggering. Just in California alone, 60 thousand children are living in foster care. Marcy wants to give back by advocating for the youth. While she says, her new job has changed her life, she too hopes to encourage others to believe in themselves like Francois and his team has helped her.
Francois says his dream is that other businesses will copy his “giving back” business model or possibly create one of their own. He smiles and looks around as he says, “Of course there’s a lot of hard work going on here, but also karma and good luck is here. We believe if you are a good person, good things come back to you.”
As I sipped on my oat milk latte that morning, it got me thinking. Maybe Francois is onto something. The lines are long and the smiles are big at this refreshingly cool cafe. Maybe it’s a sign we are all looking to connect in our community. Maybe we all miss a kind gesture or a word of encouragement to start our day. If you do, well, now you know where to go.
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