RALEIGH – A fateful conversation in 2017 among Park Scholars Lindsay Wrege ‘21, Michael Evans ‘20 ‘21 and their peers changed their college trajectories — and spurred a business with substantial community impact.

“I mentioned at lunch one day that I’d love to start a coffee shop that employed people with disabilities,” said Wrege, who grew up alongside friends with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and saw them struggle to find meaningful employment later on. “That’s how everything kicked off.”

Determined to change the fact that around 80% of adults with IDD are unemployed, Wrege and Evans co-founded 321 Coffee. With the help of their fellow Park Scholars, they got to work getting their idea off the ground.

Friends volunteered to design the logo, build the brand’s social media presence and sell coffee at events on campus. Later on, Wrege and Evans also leaned on friends to help build and paint 321 Coffee’s first space, a booth at the North Carolina State Farmers Market. Six years later, the company has four locations and employs more than 50 people with IDD.

Now, Wrege and Evans are bringing their coffee business back to where it all began. As part of a new partnership, NC State and 321 Coffee have released a licensed co-branded coffee called Greater Good. 

“We wanted to highlight NC State’s involvement in 321 Coffee’s story and the impact it’s created — it’s truly a byproduct of both parties,” said Wrege. “We thought, ‘Let’s make a coffee to celebrate that.’”