Calgary's newest coffee shop hopes to bring awareness one cup at a time


Lil E Coffee Cafe is the newest addition to downtown Calgary’s coffee scene, and it’s sure to put a smile on your face.

The cafe employs individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help them cultivate meaningful life skills, and to create a culture of learning and acceptance in the local community.

Paul Constance was inspired to open Lil E Coffee Cafe not only by his three-year-old daughter Ella, who was born with Down Syndrome (“It’ll be another 14 years or so before she’s working,” he says) but also because of the 4,000,000+ disabled working-age Canadians who are currently unemployed, despite their willingness and ability to work.

“You realize how much potential there is, how cool these people are, and the impact they have on society,” says Constance. “Some have never had a job and are just looking for a chance.”

The non-profit coffee shop had a soft launch on Thursday, February 4, which is Constance’s son’s birthday, so it felt like a good luck charm.

This gave the team two days of operating prior to the weekend so that they could work out any kinks before officially opening this past Monday.

“It’s not just a coffee shop,” Constance explains. “But a career platform. I hope to share the model with others who want to start more of these in different cities. That would be awesome.”

The mission of Lil E is to build 10,000 careers, with a set of employees “graduating” from the cafe each year and being given assistance in finding roles that fit their skill set.

From there, a new team will be hired and trained, with the goal of empowering each of these individuals by bringing out the confidence and abilities they already have.

“Many of those individuals are looking for a chance to get out of the house,” says Constance, “Open the door a little and they just kick it open.”