A pizza place with all deaf employees is pretty special. Because their pizza is so good.

PIZZA! Just hearing the word brings joy to masses of hungry humans the world over.

But when it comes to a slice of cheesy, saucy, carby divinity, smell and taste (not hearing) are the only senses that matter.


I made this T-shirt. That's how much I love pizza. Photo by Mital Patel, used with permission.

At one San Francisco pizza restaurant, that's the message: We can't hear you, but our pies are OFF THE CHAIN.

In 2011, deaf pizza enthusiasts Melody and Russ Stein opened Mozzeria, San Francisco's first and only deaf-owned and deaf-staffed restaurant.

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

In an interview with Upworthy, Melody Stein shared why they decided to take a big chance by starting a business:

"Being Deaf, I thought it was a far-fetched dream, but thanks to a change of attitudes and laws, I felt I had the chance. We knew we could deal with businesses and government with more confidence and insist on our rights when needed. When my husband Russell said he would support me, I went for it!"

And so far, business is good.

Photo by Small Business Revolution, used with permission.

Since their start, Mozzeria has been honored with a "Recommended" rating by the prestigious Michelin Guide and a People's Choice Award from Food Truck Wars, a competition of mobile kitchens held each year in Orlando, Florida. And their Peking duck pizza has been recognized as one of San Francisco's best bites by Zagat.

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

Why staff a business with up to 95% hearing customers with workers who are all deaf?

That wasn't always the plan, Melody said, but they came to realize it was their duty:

"When we first opened, we decided to hire some hearing and Deaf employees. ... Over time, I felt that we should be extending opportunities to Deaf people who otherwise experience obstacles in getting opportunities, training, or employment. We thought the time had come to go all-Deaf. We have never regretted this decision."

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

It wasn't easy at first. Take phones, for example — not the most accessible tool for the deaf. Fast Company reported that in its early days, Mozzeria missed half of their phone calls because the technology wasn't quite there for a deaf-run business.

Color-coded LEDs tell Mozzeria staff when calls are incoming or missed. Photo by Mozzeria, used with permission.

But online reservation sites, deaf-friendly technology like LED phone signals, and call routing through a sign language interpretive service (which I tested, and save for a mild delay, it works great) are allowing Mozzeria to bring in more customers than ever.

Calls to Mozzeria are routed through a national call center, where sign language interpreters relay information to deaf staff members in real time. Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

Despite their unique backstory, Mozzeria's goals are basically the same as other small businesses.

They want to grow. The ever-present challenge to that, says Melody, is "figuring out ways to survive in tough competition and rising costs of doing business in the city."

All while deaf, of course.

"In our daily lives, we face double standards. We have to educate hearing people about how to work with Deaf ... and be patient with us. And this on top of running a business and staying competitive." — Melody Stein

San Francisco. Smothered in spendiness. Photo by Mital Patel, used with permission.

They manage by doing exactly what they set out to do: make damn good pizza.

"Our food is being recognized for its innovation," says Melody. "San Francisco is known for its diversity, and we want to offer a diverse and interesting food menu."

Hosui pear pizza. Photos by Mozzeria used with permission.

Peking duck pizza.

Opening Mozzeria made Melody a third-generation restauranteur, following in the footsteps of her parents and grandparents, who ran successful Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. Her heritage is sewn into Mozzeria's menu with tasty cultural mash-ups like Hosui pear pizza and their aforementioned signature Peking duck pizza.

The best thing about Mozzeria isn't even their pizza — it's what they represent.

The Steins' story gained the attention of Small Business Revolution, a documentary film project that "celebrates the vibrancy, variety and community impact of small businesses across the country."

Image via Small Business Revolution/Vimeo.

Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corp., the creator of Small Business Revolution, told me why they selected Mozzeria:

“When we learned more about the work Mozzeria does, both as an acclaimed restaurant and a space for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees to thrive, we knew we had to feature them. Their success ... is a testament to the quality of the food they make, their commitment to the community, and their supportive work environment. They're really redefining what it means to be successful entrepreneurs."

Too often, business success comes at the cost of humanity.

The Steins show not only that it doesn't have to, but also that disability doesn't have to be as limiting as we sometimes think.

Watch the video profile of Mozzeria by Small Business Revolution:

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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