I met Yann Bucaille Lanrezac at a dinner in Paris just over a year ago. He told me about Café Joyeux, a social enterprise that is dedicated to the employment of people with Down syndrome and autism. He had opened fifteen cafes across France and five between Belgium and Portugal. He invited me to the shop on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. It was all that he promised, with enthusiastic and efficient workers preparing coffee and tea, offering customers top-class service with a smile.

He then came to visit me last fall in New York City. He said that he had secured a retail space rent-free at Lexington Avenue and East 52nd Street in Midtown and was determined to succeed in the Big Apple. I told him that we were ready to offer our help on a pro-bono basis when the time was right. Last week, the first Café Joyeux in New York and the U.S. opened on World Down Syndrome Day (March 21). Thanks to the hard work of my sister, Renée, and ace media advisor Kevin Goldman, we were able to generate publicity in The New York Times, Fortune, the New York Post, WPIX-TV, CBS-TV, and local all-news radio outlets. We agreed with our client that four of the longtime crew members from Europe would be more authentic to media, investors, and partners at the March 21 opening event than a French celebrity.

Café Joyeux café-restaurants are designed by Sarah Poniatowski, founder of the interior design company Maison Sarah Lavoine, in collaboration with Gensler.

Back to the theme of this blog post, the triumph of hope. An estimated seven million people in the U.S. have intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and autism. Seventy-five to 80 percent of these people are unemployed. Yann found his New York crew members by consulting NGOs that serve this community, such as AHRC, Autism Speaks, Best Buddies, GiGi's Playhouse, and JCC Manhattan.

Yann’s words are so inspiring. “We trained our fourteen employees for three months before the opening. We trust them. They are capable, their talents are revealed. They can have a job for life if they want. They take ownership of their lives. They become like you and me. They are very proud to be useful in this world.” In short, he is changing the perception of people with a disability by showing their talents. “This is more than a symbol; it is a victory for inclusion.”

One of his workers, Victoria Bradley, told the CBS reporter, “We are happy and glad to be here. For me it is more special because we are all special. Everyone has all abilities.” A colleague Nicolas Stanford, added, “This shows you can be independent. You can live on your own.”

My brother John is correct in saying that Edelman is a better place because of our community service efforts. I hope that all of you reading this blog post will find a way to help Café Joyeux, perhaps by hosting a company breakfast or corporate event at the cafés.