Shanita Nicholas and Amanda-Jane Thomas Dream Big (Episode + Transcription)

Shanita Nicholas and Amanda-Jane Thomas Dream Big (Episode + Transcription)

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This interview was originally published on October 25, 2020.

“Sonder” isn’t a word that you hear often, probably because it was only coined in 2012, as part of John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. It’s one of hundreds of melancholy neologisms, and Koenig defines it as: “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness.”

Of these many bittersweet feelings, “sonder” might align best with the experience of going to a coffee shop. After all, coffee shops are universal meeting places—places where you can sit and contemplate, where you can see friends, where you can watch others come and go during breaks from your laptop screen. They’re places where you’re likely to bump up against many new people, and where you have more time and space than usual to reflect on those encounters.

Shanita Nicholas and Amanda-Jane Thomas are the co-owners of Sip & Sonder in Inglewood, Los Angeles. They chose to incorporate “sonder” into the name of their business because their space is much more than just somewhere to get coffee. It’s also a neighborhood meet-up spot, a local hub, a shop that residents can claim as their own. It’s meant to reflect the needs of the community it’s in.  

I first chatted with Shanita and Amanda in 2018, when they shared their initial mission for Sip & Sonder. The two first met in New York, when they worked as lawyers in Manhattan. Quickly, they discovered that their dreams, although seemingly dissimilar, actually aligned perfectly. Ultimately, they decided to combine their visions, take the leap, and open up their own place in California.  

Well before they ever served their first coffee, Shanita and Amanda focused on community and place-making. They started the LA Black Investors Club, bridging the gap between Black creators and access to capital. They partnered with local businesses, including with folks who later become their neighbors. And they continue to operate their space with an ever-evolving lens today, focusing on what their community needs, right now, in real time.  

“Sonder” really is the ideal word to attribute to them. They’re both always looking outward, always discovering something new—even in this conversation. This is an interview that should leave you feeling rejuvenated and motivated. Hopefully, it’ll encourage you to look outward, too, and spend more time wondering about the complex lives of others.

Ashley: To kick us off, can you both introduce yourselves?

Shanita: My name is Shanita Nicholas. I'm one of the co-founders of Sip & Sonder.

Amanda: I'm Amanda-Jane Thomas, also one of the co-founders. So happy to be talking with you, Ashley.

Ashley: I'm so excited to talk to the two of you. And I've been thinking about this word a lot. What does “sonder” mean to both of you?

Shanita: Yeah, it's such a special word—so special that we named our entire shop after it. The full definition—how it’s colloquially defined—is the realization that everyone around you is living their own unique lives, have their own ambitions. Really the sense of being both an individual in this moving world but also being connected to each person that we encounter, whether it's an actual physical connection or just an awareness of one another.

You know, that was an energy and a feel that we really wanted the shop to develop and to be part of the experience of walking into Sip & Sonder. You can be here and you can be by yourself, or you can meet up with friends, or you can really just engage in the community at large in such an open way.

Amanda-Jane: And it's really cool because, you know, we're all so different, right?

We all are living different lives. We live across different places, different routines, different … just everything! And even in me saying that the focus is often on just how different everyone is and we all are.

But you know, it's really about, “What does it mean to have empathy and what is that point of connection?” And I think that it's like, even if someone living across the country appears to have a different life on paper—I may not know the specifics of their story and their ins and outs, but I can relate to the fact that their life may be busy. They have different obligations, they have different passions, and whatever that is, I might not know it intricately, but the point of connection where it's like, I can empathize with someone that has a life that's full of their own worries and routines and craziness and ups and downs.

It's that realization itself—that's sonder—that is that starting point of connection. It's such an awesome concept because it really is that entryway to like, OK, how can you connect to folks? Even folks that maybe, on paper, might seem so different to you—it's that entryway. And that's kind of what we, with Sip & Sonder as a space, a physical space, this is that entryway to connect. And how are people doing it? They're doing it over amazing coffee. Just the word was something that resonated with [Shanita] and I so much, um, so much so that we named a coffeehouse after it!

Ashley: It’s such an evocative term. Like you can imagine somebody in your coffee shop sitting and looking around and being like, “What is everybody else experiencing in their life?” It's so easy to visualize what that feeling is.

Shanita: Yeah, absolutely. We've done that ourselves when we were fully open.

I think of that first day that someone walked in to come to this coffee house that we didn't know. They were not connected to us in any way. And then it became like, “What's their story? what are they doing here today?” And that just continued to grow as we were in the community for longer and longer. I kept looking around and seeing people who were drawing amazing artwork or on their computers and doing music with their headphones on, or reading … one of the things that I know I miss a lot about being open is having those moments of just seeing how other people are being.

Amanda-Jane: And coffee shops are so amazing for that.

A coffee shop is somewhere that you can go by yourself if you so desire. Just grab a seat and completely be lost in your own world, observing, taking in everything, or you can meet with people or connect or what have you. But the opportunity to just sort of have a moment where you are by yourself and you’re gazing around and really, you know, you're seeing people … it’s such an awesome experience.

And then with the thought of, you know, “sonder” specifically, if someone's in our space, it's like, you're just scanning the room and you're like, “Wow, everyone is just completely up to amazing things on their own.” It's this kind of awesome moment where you're just like, “Wow, there's so much happening,” but it's also this almost weird feeling where you feel connected in a way because you're part of it as well. Someone might be gazing at you and being like, “You know, I wonder what they're up to. I wonder what they're up to, I wonder what’s going on in their life.”

As much as you're doing that yourself, you're part of that collectively for other people as well.

Ashley: I was just thinking about moments in my own life where I've sat at a coffee shop or worked at one because I've worked in a couple of coffee shops in my time. And I'm thinking about those moments where you give a little bit to somebody else—just a little bit of a thread and it almost unspools as an entire story. That's how friendships are created. That's how partnerships are made. That's how these big things that feel small [start].

I was wondering if there are moments in your own lives, that “sonder” moment that really affected you or something that you can think back on and say, “Oh yeah, that actually did transform my life or did make a big change for me.”

Shanita: I'm thinking in my head—one thing that I know led me to even talking with Amanda about my dreams and my goals even before Sip & Sonder was even a Sip & Sonder, was the idea of talking about our passions and what we were interested in. We were both working as attorneys—we still work as attorneys—but at our respective law firms, taking that moment to connect with another person [was important].

And that in that conversation, there was no way we would have imagined that that would have ended up where we are now and the partnership that we've been able to build and the space that we built together. But having that moment of connection and vulnerability to one another, to talk about what those passions are. That alone has changed my trajectory in so many ways.

To have created a space where others can continue to have that option, that connecting points … I’ve seen through scrolling on Instagram—more time to do that then I had before—but there are individuals that are posting up their new businesses or their networks and [I’m] seeing Sip & Sonder in the background. It's like, wow. Not even knowing that was something that was happening behind the scenes and hearing about other people connecting in that way—it's certainly impactful for them, but it's impactful for us too.

I think [it tells us to] keep going and that we're doing something right here. There are so many times when I talk to people who are in this space and they shape how I approach the rest of the day, and the same goes for them. There’s some momentum here. I'm encouraged, I'm inspired. I want to continue to inspire other people as well. Those little things can alter the shape of your day, your weeks, your months.

Ashley: I wrote down this phrase: “We know that we're doing something right,” which made me think back to when I first started talking to you folks when you were first opening. So I wanted to go back a little bit and talk about how you decided to open up a coffee shop and what were some of the initial thoughts and concerns. What did you do when you've both decided like, “Oh, let's, let's do something together. Let's form this partnership. But what are we going to do? What's the next step?”

Shanita: I kind of go back to that conversation I was talking about, musing about my coffee enthusiasm, talking about my favorite coffee shops and how cool it would be to own one or to be able to be in that space. And hearing Amanda [talk about] at the time initially, what felt like a completely disparate passion kind of—[I’ll let Amanda] speak on that and, but our passions kind of came together.

Amanda-Jane: It's funny because, you know, full disclosure, I probably never would have imagined—I always envisioned doing the kind of work that we're doing now but didn't see that and envision that it would be in the eyes of a coffee shop. When Shanita and I would talk about what we were passionate about she shared her passion for coffee and my history with coffee was a little different.

I didn't really frequent as many coffee houses growing up. And part of that was those not being present in the communities that I grew up in, in the ones that I did visit, I really appreciated having a space where I could kind of be lost in my own thoughts and gaze out the window.

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and went to high school in Manhattan. That kind of bustle, really having the experience. I'd hear about other folks, even in talking to Shanita, having that experience to be in those spaces and wanting almost that experience for myself. As an undergraduate, part of what I studied was sociology, and I really spent a lot of time thinking about how societies develop and how communities develop and spent time thinking through the development of communities and urban development.

The thoughts that go into when communities are created and planned out and the idea of place-making is one of the things that's on the table. What is our approach to the design of these communities with public open accessible spaces and why are they important? The reason ultimately is the way that they contribute to people's happiness and well-being.

The well-being and the health and joy of a community. You know, when someone's like, okay, “This is the design. We're going to have a park here, we're gonna have an open recreation area here,” coffee shops are part of those designs. They occupy this third space. There's home, there's school or work, but there's this other space outside of those two that's open, that's public access.

We’re bought into this design because of all of the great things that can come from those spaces, right? Creation, connection, you know, it's just all of the above. So in use talking about our respective passions and my background within the creative space—art and culture being something that I wanted to be able to explore more—it was like this moment where even though they seem, at first mention, disparate—coffee over here, community space with art and culture on the other side—they really were, in us discussing more, completely aligned.

Coffee is such an amazing conduit to have that connection. That’s just the starting point for all the good stuff that comes out of having a space like Sip & Sonder. No matter where you're from—what town, what city—at some point in your life, you either said yourself or had someone say to you, “Let's grab a cup of coffee.” Whether they were a coffee drinker or not, whether they were into specialty coffee or just your run-of-the-mill coffee, that's a phrase. It's something, like that idea of “sonder,” we can all kind of relate to.

In us talking and having that discourse and having that realization, I think between the two of us we realized that they're perfectly aligned and that it makes sense. Now it's so hard to see them divorced—coffee from the space we have. It's hard to see a world where we didn't see that.

Shanita: I think it's so interesting hearing you talk about all the good things that compromise a space. I think with coffee as a conduit in particular—and going back to what you were talking about a little earlier in the conversation on what does it mean to open a coffee shop in a predominantly Black and brown community—those initial discussions around gentrification, what does it mean for someone who's not from the community to open this type of space, that really starts to get people thinking, “Hey, there's someone coming in to take over or a displacement.”

That was something that was important [to think about for] both of us, because we not only understood that intellectually, but we experienced that. That was our lives growing up—Amanda in New York and between Brooklyn and Harlem, and seeing that over the place in D.C. and then when I moved to New York as well—that feeling of eventual and then actual displacement. It was balancing, and in those early-on conversations between the two of us, that balance of understanding all of the good things that come from the type of space that we wanted to create, and also the potential impact, even just that verbiage, that kind of space within the community that reflected our identities could have.

That alignment, I think, one: Both of us being aware of that and taking it very seriously, and then and all the other things that we individually are excited about that we kind of mutually become excited about really aligned for us in that way of thinking about how we were going to approach opening Sip & Sonder, especially in such a vibrant community that we weren't initially from. You know, we're not originally from here.

Ashley: It's a pretty big deal that the two of you were colleagues at work and had these conversations—Shanita, you’re passionate about coffee, and Amanda-Jane, you're passionate about art and community. And you start having these conversations, realizing that you're in alignment—and then you decide to move cross-country together and open up a coffee shop. I mean, you must realize how big that is.


Amanda-Jane: We're laughing because hearing it like that…

Shanita: No one has ever said it quite like that.

Amanda-Jane: I'm laughing. Like if someone told me that I'd be like, “That’s crazy!”

I think one of the things that Shanita and I also connected on was discussions of our passions and how those are actually one in the same. I think also a point of connection was—I think even to allow ourselves the time in this space to really discuss openly dreams and passions, I think that that came from a place of there being a similar sort of, “Think big and think boldly,” and kind of not really be confined by what is maybe thought of that we should be doing. Especially being attorneys by trade, where it's like, okay, being honest about having passions outside of the law and not being afraid to explore those.

Part and parcel of that was like, well, while we're thinking big and while we're thinking completely outside the box, it goes even farther—imagining where this could be. It just so happened that in addition to having aligned passions, we both loved and wanted to be in Los Angeles. Shanita moved out to Los Angeles after we left the law firm that we met at. Actually, Sip & Sonder was born in one of her visits back. We’d keep in contact anytime she was in town, meet up, and just talk.

So when we were like, “Okay, Sip & Sonder—so where do we, where are we going to do this?” I had been trying to move to California since I was in … well, before college, I thought that going to school out here was an easy transition into a new life in a new state. Didn't work out, long story short. I wasn't able to make it out for college. Then I moved back to New York after college, came, went back, didn't make it out here again for law school. So at that point, I was like, “Man, how am I going to get out there?”

It was complete happenstance that we both had this desire to even be out here. So when we were talking about where do we open Sip & Sonder, we were like, “Well …should we do it?” And I was just like, “Let’s just do it in Los Angeles.” And then we were like, “That's crazy … but okay!”

Shanita: I don’t think we knew exactly when Amanda was going to move here. But yeah, it was a crazy idea.

Ashley: I think what you identified, Amanda, is this idea that it's not just about the two of you having this alignment of ideas. It seems a lot more … ethereal is not quite the right word. But it's like when you vibe with somebody immediately and it's beyond just interest—it's like an ability to think in a certain way. And it seems, like you said, you both allowed yourselves to dream big, and that's huge.

I think that that's not something to be glossed over, especially when you talk about relationships between people. There's something really beautiful about having complete openness and trust with someone where you’re like, “I can share my dreams with you and you won't think that's stupid,” or whatever. You're instead like, “That's cool. Let’s talk more about this.” I think that that's why I wanted to talk about this idea kind of being born between you two and then moving across the country to do this thing because it speaks to your partnership really beautifully.

Amanda-Jane: I'm so grateful for Shanita. Something we can all relate to is that in whatever job we're in and we're working but maybe we have other passions, so how does that even start to crystallize and take form? I'm really just so grateful to have met Shanita and then be able to have that space to really just share.

There was a long period of time where it was just, some of those conversations were like, “I'm so miserable” or “What's the next step?” and really not having that direction yet and not knowing. I can say for myself, having someone else with a bold idea to keep ourselves accountable and on a timeline [was pivotal]. If I didn't have a business partner, even that first time thinking, “OK, LA it is,” there are so many opportunities to start to second guess yourself, be like, “Ah, well actually, maybe not,” and talk yourself out of it.

Having each other every step of the way where I'd be like, “Oh my gosh, what's happening?” or “Oh my God, I'm nervous about this,” or “Oh, this is wild,” I think having each other to keep us honest and pushing forward … I think, sitting here and talking to you, I think it really is dawning on me just how important that was. Left to our own devices, there's all this opportunity to get in your head, and we can all relate to all the doubt that comes in. Who knows what that timeline would have been—or if at all.

Shanita: I feel like every time we have conversations, something new comes up for us. But [I feel the] same as Amanda on having this energy that you connect with to create an even bigger energy. And that feels like what happened here.

I think with Amanda and me—and I think about even the other women at the law firm that we were at together—that was very special. I think it was really special to have that network that we were able to delve within, within the firm. It was that a group of Black women, and we would get together every Friday morning and it was our self-care moment. I kind of think about like, “Why do we feel so compelled to provide that to other people?

Amanda-Jane: It was having that space! In corporate America, a big Wall Street law firm where you’re literally working around the clock, your life is tough. And I think that it was us having to intentionally carve out and fight for and maintain a space where we could just … be.

It's so funny because I don't think I really realized that actually, until now, it was that the effort of trying to find space and hold space and inhabit is something that I think we all have so many ways do and have done starting years and years ago, and I don't think that we necessarily see it as such. And I think that that effort has continued all the way through, to what we want it to do or continue to try to do at Sip & Sonder. We can definitely say the creation of that space was on the sixth floor of this 30 something, 40 something skyscraper in the middle of Midtown in New York City.

That carving out of that space literally was what enabled us to eventually be where we are now. So we know for a fact what can happen when you have a space where you can connect with folks, whether they're similar to you or maybe different, but even being able to meet, connect and have that space to share and to think big—or to sit still and be quiet. I think part of being able to achieve something—we were working around the clock—so actually being able to come together and it'd be like, “All right, we're just going to do some meditation or yoga and like have some quiet time.” That's also super important. So kind of that balance while everything else happening.

Ashley: It's so wonderful to hear moments of … almost connecting the dots a little bit. I think Amanda, you mentioned that you were a sociology major—every time I interview somebody about connections and big themes, I find out they're a sociology major.

I was also a sociology major … but I think that’s such a powerful moment to realize that something that happened, like holding space with this group of women and at your law firm almost helped propel this physical manifestation of actual space to connect, to be quiet, or to be creative and connect with other people, to see what your neighbor is doing or to just sit and read a book and just observe others and imagine the hundreds of lives that kind of come in and out.

So let's talk about the actual space a little bit because you folks moved to Inglewood and you opened Sip & Sonder, but not entirely as a coffee shop at first. So could you talk a little bit about what it was like to open up the space?

Shanita: Our first endeavor together was through a nonprofit that we still operate called the LA Black Investors Club. And that nonprofit was and continues to focus on connecting entrepreneurs within the Black and brown communities, specifically in South LA and Inglewood, with access to business resources, legal resources, and capital resources. So identifying the privileges that we had and in our own professional lives and how we could act ourselves as a conduit through the nonprofit.

And we honed in on [asking] what community feels true to us. What's home for us, where can we really connect to and build on with other people and South LA and Inglewood just … I don't even remember making a decision about it. It just was.

We were hosting events on Market Street, with our now-neighbors on the street, utilizing their space and connecting with them on what they were building out and how we could be an addition to that within the community. Our initial connection to Inglewood, specifically Market Street, where we sit now, was through those events on at those spaces. They included pitch competitions, fireside chats, some larger panel events around business development and entrepreneurship and investment within the community specifically.

Before we ever even looked at the space to sign a lease, we had that, that connection-building.

Amanda-Jane: We were talking just a bit ago about energy and I think that there's something about … we chose to be in Inglewood, but I think also it was almost like we were pulled into Inglewood.

There's something about when there's an energy, it's contagious energy, there's so much creativity and there's so much happening in Inglewood in terms of ideas and desire for connection and desire for creation—it's contagious. It's one of those things that makes you realize how important it is to be around certain environments where there's that kind of momentum. And that really was what we felt was happening in Inglewood.

Through our nonprofit, we just were here and doing our events. And then once Sip & Sonder kind of came to crystallization, it was literally natural, like, “Well, we have to be here.” This is a no-brainer. And it's so beautiful because now we're on Market Street, in downtown Inglewood.

We're now neighbors with places that our nonprofit had programming with before we had a space. We'd have programming with a theater that's one block down and another with a gallery in the other direction. And now we're neighbors, where we were their clients, our nonprofit was their client. And now we're their neighbors.

Now, sitting here, we’re at Sip & Sonder now, it really is that full circle that sort of happened exactly in the kind of the way that it's hard to see it happening any other way. It wasn't our intention—when we were doing the programming with our nonprofit, Sip & Sonder hadn’t yet crystallized. So the minute that that did happen, it was like an automatic shoo-in. And it was like, “Well, we're here, we've been here and building connections.” So now having a physical space to actually tangibly house a community that we've worked on building was just that no-brainer.

Shanita: I think when we initially signed our lease in June 2017, and we thought we were going to be open in September of 2017.

We came into a blank space, you know, not only a blank space, but we came into a space that was something else that was completely different than what we were building. And so that build-out project took a lot more time and effort behind it.

What that did, though, was allow us to kind of go back to something Amanda said, to think big because we had this open slate of platform—that certainly created more work and more effort. But I do think that it's one of the reasons that Sip & Sonder and the way that it is now is so special, because it was born from those early events and the opening up the space well before we had coffee.

One of our very first events within this space was September 27, with Arlan Hamilton, who's one of—not as many as there should be, but there will be more—a few Black woman fund managers and directors.

We were able to have her within this space and this community that had all this vibrancy, but didn't necessarily have as many of the connections that it now has to add to capital and those resources. So to be able to open our doors, to look around and say, “Okay, we may not have walls, but we know where to rent chairs from for tonight and how to open our doors right now,” and people can come in and we can provide something right now.

This was almost two years before we actually officially opened. All of that history and the people that came in during those early-on events from the community, they’re part of that journey with us. And there's a sense of ownership. And I love the sense of ownership that the community both has and feels when they come into this space. And I think a lot of that was because of that journey to where we are now.

Ashley: That’s a really critical point—the idea of sense of ownership. I think one of the reasons that coffee shops are often seen as the first strike in a gentrifying neighborhood or in a neighborhood that's changing is that a coffee shop opens and it is clearly not for the people who live there. And there's no sense of community-building done in a lot of coffee shops, but it seems like, just by the foundations of what Sip & Sonder is, that was never a possibility—it was always going to be about community-building. And I imagine that that's proven itself to be both important and valuable, especially during COVID.

Amanda-Jane: Oh, for sure. Everything that we do here is really in response to what the community wants and needs. In retrospect, we wouldn't want to ever undertake another several-year opening trajectory, just for business reasons, that’s not a goal anyone would have in opening a business, understandably. But that having happened, we look back at that and we think that was really the trajectory that we were destined to have for better or worse, because it really enabled us to create and be very sure about, foundationally, who are we, what’s our ethos, and what are we about, you know? And I think that having the opportunity to have the time to develop really set us up.

Our tagline is “for the community, for the culture.” It's something that we had to take the time actually interacting with the community itself to be like, if that's what we're claiming to be about, what does that mean? Like how? How? Question mark, right? Figuring out that answer—and this is not past-tense, it's an ongoing effort.

It's something you alluded to earlier: What it means to enter into a community in your most authentic way, mindfully and authentically? Part of the experience that we want folks to have is that authentic experience. What does it mean to really just be your true, authentic self and have a space for that? And we can't say that’s what we want for people if we were to have entered into the very community we're in in any other way.

Ashley: I imagine a lot of that authenticity comes from the safety the two of you have created between each other, as you were talking about earlier, having the safety to dream big and share your passions. And I kind of hate using this word just because it's one of those words that gets used in coffee all the time, but it seems like there's so much intentionality in the way that you have built Sip & Sonder—even from the name, like coming back all the way back to the idea of “sonder” like … this is almost a meta experiment on community-building. It feels like there is no possible way that you could enter Sip & Sonder or be, you know, the two of you without really thinking critically about walking into a space and saying like, “What's happening here? What is actually happening besides someone's coming to get a cup of coffee?” There's a lot more happening than that.

Amanda-Jane: It's funny because we're talking and I'm thinking, Shanita and I, we would do yoga and meditation. It’s like, so fitting. I think that we’re thinkers … it’s ongoing effort to be ill about how we're feeling our emotions and being aware of just a larger energy around us. And I think that that's one of the initial reasons why just, pre Sip & Sonder when it's literally just like, two young women at this law firm, “Hey, Amanda,” “Hi, I'm Shanita.” And literally just meeting—I think that that was my connection. I guess that has continued, you know? I think that in terms of just how we approach Sip & Sonder, we try to be really mindful. It's something that is important to each of us in our personal lives, right? So that spilling over into Sip & Sonder [makes sense]—if Sip & Sonder didn't exist, it's still how I would work. And obviously, no one's perfect. We falter, but how we at least set out to try to live just more generally.

Shanita: I think about that phrase: The best way to be happy is to be happy. Easy to implement, but execute?

But it's that idea, like the best way to see what you want is to be it. And I think that's what we were able to be for one another. I know I've grown tremendously by watching Amanda and taking on as much of all the goodness she has and implementing that into my own experiences. I continue to watch her grow and I continue to want to be a better person as a result of that.

I think that's what we also put into the space, to Amanda's point here. And I do like the word “intentionality.” I think that's what it is. I kind of am probably thinking more of it in a spiritual way of like, “What are we putting out? What is that energy that we're exuding?” Because that’s the world we’re going to step into. And so to be able to envision with a partner that has that alignment, that forces me to think big—I don't know if I would have thought as big without our conversations—that our connection and past that right now and talk about what's the world that we want to step into and then create it.

Ashley: What are you folks working on now? What does the future look like for you?

Shanita: We are so excited. We have our newest addition to the Sip Squad, our roaster! Which we have aptly named Sage. So we started roasting in-house during quarantine. This was always part of our plan, to bring roasting in-house. It was a passion I spoke about a little earlier on, and we've really grown together to plan this out and get excited.

Being within this COVID environment has sped things up a bit and thinking innovatively. We weren't planning to do it until probably closer to now or entering into the new year. But we were able to get things together. I have been doing some sourcing. We have shipped across the country, I think almost every state. It's been such an amazing experience, from sourcing and cupping to come up with the profiles that we both are really proud of to provide to our community. To engage our team within that process and expand not only ourselves within the coffee industry, but also our team.

A lot of the individuals, part of the Sip Squad came to us, wanting to further explore within the coffee industry in ways that they hadn't been able to before. And it's just darn good coffee. Like, it's just really good coffee! And we're able to have that experience of designing, packaging, all of the above … it's just been one of those dreams come true, you know?

Ashley: Cool. Is there anything else that we left on the table that you want to talk about before we close out?

Shanita: You know, one thing I'd like to mention on and we kind of spoke about it a lot more in the summer, is the idea … I think a couple of things—intersectionality within industries that have historically not had representation. I think coming into the coffee industry from an ownership perspective, both as a storefront and now as a roaster, there's a lot that we bring to the table. I just want to express that out loud.

Ashley: Thank you both so much for taking time to talk to me. I think it's hard to put this quite into words because I interview a lot of people and there are so many amazing and fantastic people, but there's something about talking to the both of you where it feels like we're almost making like a map together. We're making a connect-the-dots sort of thing. There are a bunch of dots everywhere. When I talk to you both, it's interesting to see you both connect these dots in real time. And that's really special. So thank you for taking time to talk with me.

Amanda-Jane: Thank you for having space for us. It's been great connecting a couple of years ago and still being able to connect and it's just lovely.

Ashley: I agree. It's so nice to see your story evolve.

We’re now selling Boss Barista T-shirts!

If this message landed with you, why not wear it out into the world? My friend, Cooper Foszcz, designed these amazing T-shirts following our “We Are Not a Family” Instagram post—and inspired by all the stories that folks told us about their own working lives.

You can buy a shirt as part of our pre-sale right now! We anticipate T-shirts will be ready in 3-4 weeks. You can buy a shirt at cost, or throw in a few extra bucks—a portion of the proceeds will go to hurricane aid in Honduras.

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A newsletter and podcast about a thing you drink everyday. Interviews and articles about big ideas in coffee, the service industry, and collective action.