Sometimes, all you need is a chance.
And that is the inspiration behind Sharon Lee starting Tender Hearts, a catering business run by adults with special needs, in 2016.
Last April, she went a step further and opened Tender Hearts Cafe at Summit USJ in Subang Jaya, to teach those with special needs how to run a business.
“It was a leap of faith. None of us had any experience running a cafe but it was something we thought was important,” says Lee who has a daughter with special needs.
“I am glad it has been a success. This year, the plan is to start cooking lessons – for a nominal fee – but I have yet to finalise how to go about it.
“I may even open the classes to people without special needs if there is a demand but the priority is for those with special needs.”
Lee says she started Tender Hearts as there was a lack of good jobs for people with special needs.
“Some of them work at fast food outlets but only as dishwashers or the ones who clean up.
“They are not given the opportunity to learn or be given the responsibility to do more,” lamented Lee during a break from a Chinese New Year cookies baking class at Summit USJ on Sunday.
“Many people do not realise those with special needs are just as capable as you and me.”
“All you need to do is give them a chance and you will be surprised.”
Lee says Tender Hearts Cafe started with three people but now has nine – aged 16 to 30 – running the place.
Besides running the cafe, Lee also takes her “family” for road shows or events where they can showcase their talent.
“Last Saturday, some of them took part in a fashion show (Glamour Includes, an event to promote inclusivity for the differently abled community and raise awareness that beauty comes in all forms). That was a lot of fun!
“We also do catering and our cookies are a big hit,” she says with a big smile.
“I created the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies and we have had some corporations placing large orders for them.
“We are still growing and I hope to give those with special needs a place they can call home.”
To learn more about Tender Hearts Cafe or if you want to support them, contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.