Coffee with a Greater Purpose: The Story of Ethan

Published on Mar 13, 2024

Coffee with a Greater Purpose: The Story of Ethan

In the heart of Little Falls, New Jersey, a unique coffee shop has been making waves for more than just its exceptional coffee. Ethan and the Bean stands out as a beacon of hope and opportunity for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Their mission is simple and heartfelt: to increase the employment rate for those with IDD.

“Our mission is to train and employ individuals with disabilities for job readiness,” says Pamela.  


Brewing Hope

Ethan and the Bean’s journey began in 2018, sparked by President and CEO, Pamela Donovan’s deep connection to the cause. Pamela is not just a businesswoman but a dedicated mother on a mission. “People tell you that you never know what it’s like until you have a child with special needs, and it is true,” Pamela shares. “Ethan is a soft, gentle soul who goes through the world and changes people in his presence.”

Her son Ethan’s diagnosis meant that while others his age were off to college, he was struggling to find employment. Ethan’s unique needs inspired Pamela and a group of 10 other women (who currently serve as volunteer board members for the organization) to start Ethan and the Bean. In a nation where 80% of individuals with IDD are unemployed, Ethan and the Bean is a symbol of change.

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Expanding operations

When Pamela was approached by Valley Bank with a proposal to open a new location in their headquarters, she had no idea what to expect. She initially thought the Bank was looking for a coffee kiosk in their Wayne office.

“Partnering with Pamela Donovan and her team is not just about opening a coffee shop; it’s about creating meaningful opportunities for all members of our community,” says Valley’s CEO, Ira Robbins. “Their mission aligns perfectly with our values of community support and inclusivity.”

When the Bank was scouting for a coffee shop in their new Morristown headquarters, Valley Bank’s President, Tom Iadanza brought the small coffee shop with an impactful mission forward to be considered. Now, Ethan and the Bean’s second location has become a favorite cafe in the Morristown community. The Bank absorbs a significant portion of their operating expenses to allow them to deepen their focus on the business’s mission.

“I’m proud Valley supports businesses like Ethan and the Bean that embrace diversity and inclusion by employing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” says Iadanza. “Their dedication and hard work inspire us all, and we are thrilled to have played a part in helping them expand their positive impact on our community.”

Pamela is grateful for Valley’s support, thanking Robbins, Iadanza and Justin Black, Valley’s Chief Experience Officer, for helping to make this dream a reality. “The team at Valley has gone beyond what your average corporation is doing with a small business,” says Pamela. Pamela hopes other corporations can be inspired by this partnership to give back to society in such a meaningful way. “Valley is investing in people, investing in the community, and investing in small business by taking a chance on us.”

Seeing their people thrive

By leaning into the strengths of the individuals who come work for Ethan and the Bean, the organization and its people can flourish. Thomas, for example, is a Barista with dreams of being a chef and opening his own restaurant. He has the opportunity to bake the signatures breads and make cookies. “Pamela Donovan is someone who is willing to give a person like me a chance,” says Thomas.

Rocco also has a passion for baking and his job gives him the opportunity to pursue what he loves to do. “Ethan and the Bean gives me everything I need,” says Rocco.

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Redefining the employment landscape for individuals like Ethan

Beyond just making an impact with Ethan and the Bean, Pamela is determined to shift the culture in the workforce. She advocates for a more inclusive hiring process and working environments that highlight individuals’ strengths instead of weaknesses. Pamela believes that as a society, we can do a better job to train individuals with different abilities for job readiness and ultimately, decrease the unemployment rate for this group. 

Through small and private businesses, Pamela believes the key to addressing this gap is providing gainful employment. She envisions a more inclusive society where everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the workforce. Success stories like Thomas and Rocco showcase the positive impact of the business on individuals who might be overlooked by society. “We all go to work every day and that’s our purpose,” says Pamela. “Everyone deserves to have a purpose like that.”

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Ethan and the Bean’s inspiring journey, fueled by a passion for inclusivity and community support, demonstrates the power of socially responsible businesses. As Pamela aptly puts it, “We’re just getting started. If we can leave this world a better place than we found it, then we’ve done an amazing job of being here.”

Ethan and the Bean coffee is available for purchase online or, you can visit either of their locations at: 

98 Main St, Little Falls, NJ 07424

70 Speedwell Ave. Morristown, NJ 07960. 

See the Ethan and the Bean story:

Valley is proud to support businesses like Ethan and the Bean and 40 Dreams Catering. Contact our team to see how we can support your entrepreneurial aspirations.

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