Every day we see more and more students ditching the iconic Starbucks cup for the bright yellow La La Land Café cup. Little do they know they are supporting a business with a true mission to make the world a better place.
Francois Reihani founded La La Land at the age of 24 after dropping out of Southern Methodist University. He dedicated his business to the success of foster children after visiting Dallas CASA, which is a program in which volunteers are the voices for abused and neglected children, especially in the courtroom. The volunteers help the courtroom judges make the best decision for the child.
Reihani started a nonprofit called We Are One Project, which helps former foster children find employment. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide foster youth older than 18 with therapy, mentorship, higher education, jobs and housing.
However, there was one major hindrance with Reihani’s nonprofit: the foster youth in the We Are One Project were not getting hired due to a lack of working experience and their unique struggles.
So, Reihani got to work and hired employees from foster care backgrounds, showing the businesses that turned these people away that they are valuable individuals worthy of success and a supportive community. “Kindness will change our society,” Reihani told “DMagazine.” “Imagine what would happen if every business set out to solve a little problem or give back.”
Today, in every city that has a La La Land café, there is a flagship store, which runs an 8-week internship program for foster youth. It is a place for youth to learn life skills, on the job training, customer service training and mentorship.
“At the end of 8 weeks, youth can decide what they are passionate about what career fields they want to go in,” La La Land’s mission statement said.
But after the 8-week internship, the foster youth are part of the We Are One program (WAO) and La La Land family forever. As lifelong members of the WAO program, they will always have access to the WAO resources and will always get help with job placement, housing, schooling and therapy.
The Foster Care system is far from perfect. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, thousands of young adults age out of the foster system each year, and about 20 percent become instantly homeless. Unfortunately, only about half of these young adults successfully gain employment.
In 2019, there were 29,927 children in foster care in Texas, and 2019, there were almost 424,000 children in foster care in the United States. For many, the day they turn 18, they leave the foster care system and are immediately faced with the task of finding a place to live, food, clothing, education and a source of income.
For any 18-year-old, this is a giant shock to the system, and for someone who has had little-to-no stability and a truly loving community and family, the challenge to stay afloat becomes even greater.
Reihani’s coffee shop provides more than a job. His café provides communication and interview skills, skills people can use for life. Reihani also hopes that his business helps his employees learn how to navigate aspects of our world, like filing taxes and managing finances.
As La La Land expands, so does its outreach. With a relatively new location in Santa Monica, California, the café spreads awareness about the struggles foster youth face.
However, the café is just a starting point. “Even if we open 1,000 cafes, we’re not going to solve the entire problem,” Reihani said to “Good Morning America.” “Not every youth wants to work in a cafe for the rest of their life, so it was very important for us to be able to create a model to where we could share that with other companies so they can also be a part of the solution.”
The next time you see a La La Land coffee cup, remember the mission behind the company. “We’re not in the business of coffee—we’re definitely in the business of kindness,” Reihani said to “CBS News.”