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Deaf small business owners thrive after overcoming obstacles and prejudice of hearing people


By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG, AP Business Writer
Nov. 11, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Soon after customers arrive at Mozzeria for the first time, they notice something's different about the restaurant: Virtually every staffer is deaf.

Owners Russ and Melody Stein are also deaf, and have run their San Francisco restaurant since 2011. The business is thriving because customers love the food and the Steins have overcome obstacles deaf people can face when they become small business owners — particularly lingering stereotypes and prejudice, and fewer resources than hearing entrepreneurs have.

"We have the same skills as a hearing individual," Russ Stein says.

Running Mozzeria comes naturally to Melody Stein, whose family is in the restaurant business.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," she says.

Deaf people have the same ambition and ability to be entrepreneurs and business owners as those who hear, says Tom Baldridge, director of the business administration program at Gallaudet University, the largest educational institution serving the deaf and hard of hearing. There's a growing interest among Gallaudet students in entrepreneurship, matching the increase in business schools across the country. The university is expanding its entrepreneurship offerings beyond courses, and giving students experience in running businesses like campus coffee shops.

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