Los Gatos Caterer Sees Business Boom With Hiring Of Developmentally Disabled - NBC Bay Area
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Los Gatos Caterer Sees Business Boom With Hiring Of Developmentally Disabled

Terri Piazza Shong says she wasn't looking to do a good deed. She just knew good workers when she saw them. (Published Thursday, March 9, 2017)

Terri Piazza Shong had a big day recently.

Her 13-year-old catering company, Culinary Courier, opened its first-ever retail space in downtown Los Gatos.

Shong spent the days leading up to the opening pouring over schedules, fine-tuning recipes, and placing food orders. All the paperwork covered an entire table in her commercial kitchen.

"Doesn't it seem in Silicon Valley we should have something more fancy to plan out our new market than this big piece of taped-together paper," Shong said.

It is not, she says, something other entrepreneurs should copy from her.

What they should hope to emulate, however, is her success. From the time she started a catering business out of her San Jose kitchen, to the opening of her first storefront last month, Culinary Courier has been growing.

Other businesses, Shong believes, would also do well to take not of who has helped her get to this point: the developmentally disabled.

"This population, it just isn't given the chance often," Shong said. "They were exactly what I needed and they were incredible."

Shong says she hired her first non-traditional worker when her catering workload exceeded what she, her family, and friends could handle. It's not that Shong was trying to do a good deed, she says, it's just that she knew good workers when she saw them. Shong had previously worked with adults with disabilities years ago in San Luis Obispo.

"Compared to the staff I was trying to hire before, people who didn't have disabilities, this is the most reliable, worth it, you train 'em, they stay, they're long term," Shong said.

Shong continued to hire people with disabilities and they now make up 40 percent of her workforce.

As happy as Shong is that her staff stick with her for a long time, she's even happier when they leave and go on to bigger things.

One of her first hires, Ben Butcher, gained enough work experience and skills that he has started his very own business: a dog walking service.

"She was always encouraging me which is really nice because people often get on your case and aren't encouraging," Butcher said.

Shong, it seems, never lets herself dwell upon the good thing she is doing, the valuable service she is providing her employees. "I honestly never think about it, truly," Shong said.

When someone makes her think about it, though, all she can think about is what a valuable service they are providing her.

"I am the grateful one."