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Blossoming Inclusivity: LORANS Co., Ltd. Launches “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” Project with Disabled Child Models

Blossoming Inclusivity: LORANS Co., Ltd. Launches “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” Project with Disabled Child Models
LORANS Co., Ltd.
Public relations
Risa Hiraga

LORANS Co., Ltd., known for its flower shops and cafes in Harajuku and Tennozu Isle, extends its activities beyond just retail. The company is engaged in spatial flower arrangement, greening, catering, and more. Moreover, the company actively participates in corporate collaborations and welfare programs aimed at employing individuals with disabilities. Impressively, 45 out of our 60 employees come from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities, chronic illnesses, LGBTQ individuals, and single-parent families.

Recently, we featured three of our “disabled kid models” in promotional photos for their “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” offering. To gain insights into this initiative, I interviewed Risa Hiraga, a public relations officer at LORANS.

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LORANS Co., Ltd. operates based on five core business pillars: flower, greening, food, corporate cooperation, and welfare. Its foundation is rooted in the philosophy of creating a society where everyone can flourish without exclusion, striving for a community where individuals can blossom authentically. The company’s representative, Ms. Fukuju, was inspired to establish LORANS after experiencing the limitations faced by individuals unable to work due to societal barriers during his university years. Founded in 2013 at the young age of 23, LORANS aims to address social issues through its projects in flowers and greenery.

In 2019, LORANS collaborated with the Tokyo Metropolitan National Strategic Special Zone to establish an organization focused on facilitating joint employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This initiative aims to innovate job creation methods by partnering with small and medium-sized enterprises that encounter challenges in hiring individuals with disabilities.

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──What was your initial impression when you participated in the photo shoot featuring a “disabled kid model” for the first time?

Given our natural engagement with individuals with disabilities, it’s genuinely felt that there’s “no difference” when working with a “disabled kid model.”

Our store attracts a diverse range of children, each with their own characteristics; some are confident while others are shy. Regardless of disability, children can experience fluctuations in mood, with some days being more energetic and others more subdued. In such situations, the presence or absence of a disability doesn’t alter my perception or interaction.

──This time, Sumire-chan, who has Down syndrome, Shuntaro-kun, and Ko-kun, who has autism/mild intellectual disability, were chosen as models. Ms. Hiraga participated in the shoot remotely to maintain distance, but how did the children fare?

Right from the start, the shoot unfolded in a warm and enjoyable atmosphere. All three of them displayed a range of expressions and relished their meal, which was heartwarming to witness. It was a delightful experience overall, leaving a positive impression on both our staff and participants.

──What do you expect this photo to achieve in terms of opportunities?

The “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” is a popular spot for elementary and junior high school students from the area, drawing in a lively crowd of youngsters with diverse personalities and backgrounds on weekdays. With such a vibrant atmosphere filled with laughter and energy, it’s clear that the venue holds a special place in the hearts of many children.

After seeing the photos from this session, I believe parents will develop a sense of confidence in the establishment, viewing it as a reliable and welcoming space for their children.

──As a company actively employing individuals with disabilities, what precautions do you take when collaborating?

Initially, when we began hiring individuals with disabilities, I believe we were overly attentive, which disrupted the balance in our workplace. It hindered productivity, prompting me to reassess our approach. I realized that while it’s important to provide support, excessive attention can impede the company’s functioning. Work remains work, irrespective of one’s circumstances.

For instance, our non-disabled staff members also juggle personal responsibilities like caregiving and childcare. Everyone faces their own challenges, and it’s crucial to foster an inclusive work environment where everyone feels supported.

Our primary goal is to provide meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Therefore, maintaining a pragmatic perspective, understanding the importance of productivity, and fostering a cohesive work environment are paramount.

──How does LORANS manage its “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” program within the store premises, with everyone tasked with cooking, attending to children, and overseeing operations, especially considering the presence of many staff members with disabilities?

For example, staff with visual impairments inform customers of their condition and politely request assistance with reading if needed. Similarly, those with hearing impairments wear badges on their chests, ensuring smooth communication. The team collaborates, utilizing appropriate tools and applications to assist customers effectively.

Exposure to diverse individuals from a young age fosters understanding and empathy towards disabilities. Hence, we aim to provide such learning opportunities through our flower shop and the “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” program.

Additionally, the bond formed between children visiting our establishment and our staff fosters a sense of family. The presence of children not only boosts the morale of our staff with disabilities but also nurtures a supportive and inclusive ambiance.

──Ms. Hiraga, how do you find working alongside staff members with disabilities?

With a younger sister who has an intellectual disability, I’ve long been familiar with the challenges and rewards of interacting with individuals with disabilities. Yet, I’ve come to understand that each person’s experience with disability is unique. While they’re my colleagues, not family, navigating this dynamic brings both surprises and lessons. Every day presents new trials, but I’ve learned to embrace the natural confusion that arises.

Recognizing that everyone possesses distinct strengths and weaknesses, I’ve found it effective to focus on highlighting strengths rather than feeling compelled to provide support in every aspect.

──I’ve heard that the staff’s well-being is supported by experts.

I rely on welfare experts for guidance in various aspects of work, life, and mental health. While it may seem feasible to manage everything independently, neglecting to seek professional support can impede productivity. Therefore, it’s crucial to integrate such support effectively.

──Observing this photo, I believe it will open up more opportunities for children with disabilities to engage with flower shops and “Flower Shop Children’s Meals”. If you have any messages to share, please do.

Moreover, the “Flower Shop Children’s Meal” offers a platform for children, including those with disabilities, to gain work experience once or twice a month. Flowers have a remarkable ability to uplift spirits, don’t they? Children also notice an improvement in their expressions as they learn about handling and customer service surrounded by the beauty of flowers.

I firmly believe that everyone, regardless of their background, can seamlessly integrate, so all are warmly welcomed.

Lastly, I eagerly anticipate the return of the three models who participated in the shoot to our store!

 

=== A word from Miki Uchiki, CEO of Hanahiraku ===

My journey with LORANS began when I encountered Ms. Fukuju, the company’s representative, who spoke as a guest at a business contest I attended last year. Since then, whenever I wanted to gift someone, I turned to LORANS for flowers and gradually became a supporter myself.

Over time, I became more fascinated by the idea of collaborating with LORANS on a business level involving our models. Despite some initial uncertainty, I gathered the courage to discuss my thoughts with Ms. Fukuju. To my delight, she embraced the concept wholeheartedly, paving the way for our model’s involvement in this venture.

The initiative to feature models with disabilities is just taking off, and I hope it gains recognition in the future. LORANS has a history of employing individuals with disabilities and creating inclusive environments for children. It’s a genuine honor to have our disabled child models chosen by Ms. Fukuju, and I believe it marks a significant step forward.

Interview and text by Kaori Kidoue

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