I Love Coffee is an award-winning social enterprise staffed by the deaf. “We help members of the Deaf community shine as baristas and chefs in our cafes,” says co-founder and managing director, Gary Hopkins. The non-profit company recently won an award at the Western Cape Entrepreneurship Awards.I Love Coffee won in the Social Enterprise category. Other categories were: Women-owned, emerging, most innovative, and township business. Top businesses in the Western Cape within the key industries of agri-processing, digital technology, tourism and creative were also named.Hopkins says: “Winning the prize was a great boost for us as it raises our profile and validates the work our staff do. We were particularly proud to share the stage with another disabled entrepreneur as equals alongside the other winners.”He explains that I Love Coffee is a non-profit company that has chosen deaf black youth as beneficiaries. “Our NPC is a 100% shareholder in two subsidiary companies, Ma’Wami, which operates our cafes, and the I Love Coffee roastery, which is our manufacturing division,” he says. They operate two in-office cafes in Zonnebloem and Claremont, and are planning to open their first public store in Cape Town later this month. A roastery will be opened in Claremont next year. The organisation was started in 2015 to provide training and employment for the Deaf community who face around 80% unemployment and are locked out of the economy. Through a barista and life skills programme the organisation prepares the Deaf youth to enter the workforce. “The majority of candidates remain in our organisation, although some have gained the confidence and skills to study further and advance their careers with other organisations,” Hopkins says. Minister of economic opportunities, Beverley Schäfer, says in a statement: “We wanted to create a platform that recognises and supports our most inspiring, high-potential entrepreneurs, and at the same time raise awareness around entrepreneurship and contribute to a culture where entrepreneurship is understood and valued for the role it plays in our economy and our society.“Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the tools that are going to help us tackle unemployment in this country. But in order to contribute meaningfully towards job creation, businesses need to be able to grow and, between government and the private sector, we need to create the kind of environment that encourages entrepreneurial activity and supports its growth.”Schäfer says there is a need to start thinking of and promoting entrepreneurship as a career choice rather than something people accidentally fall into, or are forced to do.The awards sought to highlight the important role of entrepreneurs and small businesses in the economy, and to inspire entrepreneurial attitudes in the province, the provincial government says in a statement.