Blind Entrepreneur’s Advice: Deal With Whatever Life Gives You

In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at café Kristina Rae’s and founder Roxanna Mann. Mann, who became fully blind in 2008, launched the business in 2011 in Michigan with the help of the Business Enterprise Program, which was provided by the Randolph-Sheppard Act -- a piece of federal legislation signed into law in 1936. Mann named the business in honor of her niece, who passed away in September of the company’s inaugural year.

“She is our mascot, passion and mantra,” Mann said.

Despite not having any experience in the food service industry, Mann found the Business Enterprise Program (which is not just for the food service industry) and wanted to put her passion for studying different items of food to work.

“You don’t have to sit on [the] couch if you’re blind,” she said. “You can make a viable living. You get to be part of society that gives people jobs… it’s a huge blessing to be able to employ people in this economy.”

In order to become more involved with the business, Mann decided to start looking for a point-of-sale system that would be easier for her to operate.

“I wanted to be more hands on,” Mann said. “Having others handle bookkeeping and papers… wasn’t satisfying. I want to know what’s going on with the business. I needed to have a system that could talk to me.”

After completing her research, Mann decided to use a point-of-sale device called Clover, which is voice-activated and uses cloud technology.

“[Clover] operates as cash register and inventory control,” said Mann. “Employees clock in and clock out, it has a running dashboard of everything I need to do. It allows access to sales reports and remote access via mobile devices. It has revolutionized the business.”

Kristina Rae’s, which is not a franchise company, recently opened three new locations. Mann is expecting to see her café business grow 250% over the next 12 months.

She said work ethic and determination are keys to being successful, and entrepreneurs who have a disability should not limit themselves.

“You need to get up out of bed and not hang your head,” Mann said. “You have to deal with whatever life gives you… where you’re at today doesn’t mean that’s where you have to stay. You have to surround yourself with people who won’t pity you and hold you back… It’s vital to have that type of support.”