Emilea Hillman overcomes more odds than most to run own business - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Emilea Hillman overcomes more odds than most to run own business


Em's Coffee Company opened in Independence in December 2009.

The shop is named for its owner, Emilea Hillman. But the funny thing about Em owning a coffee shop is that she doesn't even drink coffee!

"No, I drink hot chocolate," said Emilea Hillman.

Coffee aside, Em is very social and likes to get up early, which is how the idea of owning a coffee shop first came about.

Emilea is 24 years old and suffers from a congenital birth defect where the two sides of her brain aren't connected. But she doesn't let her birth defect keep her from running her own business.

"I like to be the boss," said Hillman.

But besides being the boss, Emilea puts in her fair share of hours as an employee.

"Emilea works about a 40-hour work week. She works 6:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday," said mom Tami Fenner.

Em also has six employees to help her out.

"She employs other people with disabilities. They are paid minimum wage, so no sub minimum wage," said Fenner.

In addition to employees, Emilea also has a job coach who helps her run the business. The coffee shop gives Emilea and her employees a sense of purpose and something to be proud of. She hopes even more people stop in Em's Coffee Company in Independence because...

"It's a pretty cool place," said Emilea Hillman.

Em is proving even if you have a disability, with the right support, you can work and be successful.

Em also participates in Special Olympics and even sponsors her own team. She's also on the Governor's Developmental Disability Council.

Emilea's former job coach, 38-year-old Geraldine Reisner, recently pleaded guilty in Buchanan County court to fraud, theft and dependent adult abuse.

Reisner admitted she billed medicaid for hours not worked, to stealing cash from the coffee company and to misappropriating money. Reisner is on probation for five years and must pay nearly $5,000 in restitution.

Em's Coffee Company is doing well thanks to loyal support from customers. She's even started renting out space in her building to other retailers. The business is located at 324 1st Street East in Independence.

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