Meet Chris and Michael, who run their own coffee company, Barista Royal in Munich. A company that packages coffee made from the highest quality coffee beans, artfully roasted and built around the ideals of enabling real inclusion for people with disabilities.

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Photo by Dobner / Angermann Film

“One of the foundations of Barista Royal was definitely to develop the perfect cup of coffee, but we wanted it to be more than that. We wanted to help create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Michael. For Chris, the motivation was personal, his sister was born with a condition that has her paralyzed over half of her body. She experienced first-hand the difficulty of finding an employer who would give her a chance.

“Our employees with disabilities not only deserve to feel that they’re important, but they should get to experience it for themselves every day,” says Chris.

Tasks and responsibilities are tailored to each employee’s individual abilities in such a way that their work can be challenging, but not overwhelming. These daily tasks include carrying 70 kg coffee sacks from the warehouse, selecting the beans, as well as managing and overseeing the entire roasting process. You can smell and taste the results: warm, chocolaty, and full of aroma.

We didn’t only want to create the perfect coffee with Barista Royal, we also wanted to create an opportunity for people who are too often underestimated by employers due to their disabilities.”
Michael Halbritter, Amazon employee and Co-Founder, Barista Royal
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Photo by Dobner / Angermann Film

Alongside their independent entrepreneurial venture, the two founders continue to work full-time at Amazon in Munich. How does it work, juggling a start-up and a job at the same time?

“Starting your own business is not easy. There are lots of decisions to be made, ambiguity to face, and bureaucracies to manage,” says Michael, Senior Marketing and Advertising Manager at Amazon. “But we were lucky to have Amazon as an employer, a company that encourages our entrepreneurial spirit. Regardless, a bit of courage is still needed especially if you plan to finance everything yourself as we did.”

"Chris and Michael both had similar experiences with each of their superiors at Amazon when they discussed with them about pursuing the start-up idea. Instead of being asked ‘why?’ their entrepreneurial ambitions were even encouraged.

“For us it wasn’t a question of whether it will it work, but rather of what we can do to best support Michael in his project”, says Anna-Sophie Kurth, Michael's team leader. "I actually believe that Michael's entrepreneurial activity has an added positive effect on his job, because he gets to experience from a new perspective what e-commerce means to entrepreneurs and brand owners".

Chris' boss also likes to see someone actively pursuing his dreams and goals: “I thought: coffee, that actually sounds quite good”, says Vassil Gedov, Senior Manager in Product Management at Amazon. "The discussion was always more about ‘how’ and not about ‘if’ they would do it."

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Photo by Jan Sassmannshausen

Chris and Michael have not only fulfilled their dream of running their own business, but are also getting very close to achieving their goal of developing the perfect coffee.

Tips from the professionals?

“My favorite espresso at the moment is our organic Gran Senor because it fits perfectly into the fall season with its spicy aromas of cocoa, Christmas spices paired with the light fruity notes of cherries and raspberries," says Chris.

Michael, on the other hand, prefers the Amore e Basta with layers of aromas from dark chocolate and cocoa, reminiscent of his last holiday in Italy.

There is just one thing missing now: “It would be great if we could one day bring our customers even closer”, says Michael. "For example, with our own café here in the city where we live and work: Munich."