Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Didn't get a chance to finish your story? Purchase a day pass digital subscription and you'll receive unlimited online access for one day (24 hours). You will have immediate access upon completion of your purchase.

INDEPENDENCE – Started as a way keep their mentally challenged daughter Emilea active after her position was eliminated at Goodwill Industries, Tami and Gordy Fenner started a coffee shop in December 2009.

Several local, state, and federal resources all pitched in with help, funding, and advice to get things going. Agencies involved included: Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Iowa Self Employment, Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA), Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Inc., State Employment Leadership Network, Consumer Choice Options, the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Independence Area Chamber of Commerce.

The business also served as somewhat of a pilot case, nationally, for collaboration of supported employment services and self-employment services with the help of Department of Human Services.

Over the years, Em has become a “rock star” at national events where her story is presented as a beacon for others to follow to create entrepreneurship and employment for the differently abled.

On the last Saturday of October, Em’s Coffee Company celebrated their 10-year anniversary a little early with specials and sharing remembrances of events and customers.