Following Your Calling, Empowering Others and Finding Success: the Puzzle Cafe Story

Your purpose isn’t always something you discover overnight. Sometimes it takes effort, openness, and compromise to actually realize your “calling”, or what you were meant to do.

Ysabella Canoy of Puzzle Gourmet Store and Cafe knew ever since childhood that she wanted to be a preschool teacher. She had always had an affinity with kids, and she seemed to gravitate toward teaching. Having been an assistant at a preschool since her first year of college, and absorbed by the school after that, she seemed all set on her career path and didn’t think she’d deviate from it. Today, however, she - and her passion - have come a long way.

The Puzzle Cafe Story: Empowering Others and Finding Success

Among Ysabella’s siblings, her brother Jose was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was younger, and their family has been very supportive over the years. One of their biggest concerns was Jose’s future, knowing that as yet there aren’t many establishments that employ individuals with special needs. Thus, they decided to create their own means for his employment by launching Puzzle, a jigsaw and board game cafe in Quezon City that advocates, promotes and empowers these adults with special needs through employment. Ysabella herself plays a big role in this by working as the cafe’s manager and incorporating their advocacy in the cafe’s daily practices.

While initially she imagined her stint at the cafe would only be for a few months, as the business grew she found herself managing many other operations besides its advocacy. While running these operations, Ysabella realized the cafe was cementing its place as part of her dream, and that she was finding her purpose.

“As I grew up, I was the closest to Jose, since I was [the next one] born after him. I always wanted to go into Special Education, but with kids, not adults,” she recalls. She also shares how, at the beginning, she was struggling with the idea of changing her passion.  “It was very hard to accept that this was where I had to be. But now, I’ve made my peace with it, and now more than ever I understand that it’s my mission, because I saw how it affects not only Jose but many others.”

Puzzle truly has become a life-changer for many individuals in situations similar to Jose’s. Employing differently-abled adults has not only created a safe, productive space for them, it has also made Puzzle’s patrons more aware of their abilities. Ysabella notes how the customers are now more comfortable with the servers, cooks and cashiers in the cafe, and more open and curious about their characteristics. She’s grateful for this because what she and her family really want to push isn’t just awareness, but understanding.

“[Differently-abled individuals] are more documented nowadays, and some characters on TV even have special needs,” she says. “But while you can see that the awareness is there, the understanding is not. People look at them with pity or [as a joke], or underestimate them. So now that we got people aware [that they are around], we have to change the perspective toward them.”

And Puzzle has steadily been doing just that. It’s bridging the gap by encouraging customers to ask questions and get to know these individuals better. At the same time, it’s done wonders for Ysabella’s team - since starting work in Puzzle, they have exceeded expectations and are much more independent and productive. The team has also grown from six members to twenty-two, and she’s proud of how far they’ve come.

As for Ysabella, her passion for the business has made her even more effective as the cafe’s manager. She admits, however, that it wouldn’t have been that way if she hadn’t learned to accept the “calling”.

“[Back then,] my goal was to return to the preschool because that was my passion, and I was happy there. I thought the cafe was just something to get past, like I had to ‘pay my dues,’” she says.  “I thought that passion is something you have to chase. With Puzzle, I realized sometimes passion is something you have to make for yourself.”

From her experience, she’s developed a new perspective on passion and purpose, which she imparts to others who are looking for their purpose: “If you look at your job as something you hate, it’s going to stay that way forever. You need to gain [a] perspective where you find even the little things to keep you going.”

In the world of business, finding your purpose isn’t easy, but from Ysabella’s story we know there are a few telltale signs to identify when you’re on the right track: you find happiness in the simple joys of your daily grind, your creative decisions are paying off (maybe not all of them, but you’re getting somewhere), and most of all, you’re making others happy with what you do.

How do you plan to live out your purpose? Keep yourself connected with Globe myBusiness’ ThePLAN mobile postpaid while discovering ways to drive your business with your purpose.