May 24 • 42M

Valorie Clark Stands Up for Hourly Coffee Workers

When COVID-19 laid off a substantial number of coffee workers, Clark helped start a nonprofit to provide essential services and financial support.

4
 
1.0×
0:00
-42:13
Open in playerListen on);
Episode details
Comments

In April 2020, I had Adam JacksonBey on the show. He came on to talk about tipping, and about his new organization called GoFundBean—a play on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe. At the time, early in the pandemic, GoFundBean served as a central hub that pooled virtual tip jars that coffee shop and restaurant workers started to offset some of their losses. It was a simple and straightforward idea.

Fast-forward two years—which barely feels like a fast-forward at all—and GoFundBean is doing so much more. As an official 501c3 nonprofit, it advocates for hourly coffee workers through grant programs, mentorship matching, and professional development courses.

Subscribe to the newsletter and support the show!

Today, I’m speaking with Valorie Clark, a historian, member of GoFundBean’s leadership team, and a catalyst for many of the programs GoFundBean now offers. Over the last two years, Valorie has personally witnessed how necessary it is to advocate for hourly workers: Back when COVID-19 was supposed to be controlled by a “two-week quarantine,” many employers still laid off their workers without notice. Today, many still don’t pay a living wage. And all too many see their employees as disposable.

Going back to the tip jars, one of the key observations that Valorie and the team at GoFundBean noticed is that people didn’t make their own, individual tip funds, but worked together with their colleagues and co-workers to pool resources. I think that follows the themes we’ve witnessed over the last two years: folks recognizing the power of collective action yet again, and working together to secure better outcomes for all. It’s in this spirit that GoFundBean continues its advocacy work. Here’s Valorie:


Ashley: Valorie, I was hoping you could start by introducing yourself.

Valorie: Hey guys, I’m Valorie Clark. I'm the director of marketing for GoFundBean.

Ashley: Valorie, did you grow up with coffee in your life?

Valorie: A little bit. My parents drink coffee. I was given my first cup of coffee when I was like five, but of course, it was more like a cup of milk with like a splash of coffee in it.

Ashley: Were you ever intrigued by it? Like, did you see adults in your life drinking coffee and think, “I want that.”

Valorie: No, I loved the smell of it though.

Ashley: So then when did you start getting into coffee?

Valorie: I think when I was in college and was having to stay up really late to write essays because I'm a terrible procrastinator. I wouldn't start writing a paper until like 11 p.m. or something. And that was when I started drinking coffee.

Ashley: At what point for you did it become something more than just a thing you were drinking?

Valorie: I think probably when I was a junior in college. Somehow most of my friends had become the baristas at the coffee shop where I was a regular at. And I think that was when the first inkling that coffee is more than a drink, coffee is a community. That's kind of when those first inklings started for me.

Ashley: And then when did you start working in coffee?

Valorie: About six months after I graduated from college. I had been working in politics in DC and hated it and was like, “I have to—I just quit.” Like one day I was like, I just have to get out of this. A coffee shop in DC, for some reason, hired me to be their morning barista.

Ashley: I like that, for some reason—

Valorie: Truly, like looking back, I'm like, “Who made this choice? Who decided this was a good idea?”

Ashley: Why do you think that?

Valorie: I think because I just had absolutely zero experience and it was a busy shop in Chinatown. There were tons of politicians that came into that shop and I was like, “Whose idea was it to put this like, completely green person here at 6 a.m. giving politicians coffee? Like whose idea was that?”

Ashley: I hope that you can trace back some really important political decisions to specifically your service of these politicians in that coffee shop.

Valorie: I can't off the top of my head. But Dennis Kucinich came in a lot and he always got a dark chocolate sorbet to go with his coffee. And I will never forget that as long as I live.

Ashley: I love that. So at what point did it go from, “Okay, this is a job I have. I'm serving people—important politicians—coffee at six in the morning,” to, “Oh, this is a job I like. What does it look like to maybe take this more seriously?”

Valorie: Pretty quickly actually, because—so I started working there in like, early summer of 2012, and by winter I was training to become a trainer at that location.

It was by fall that I was already like, “Oh, this could be a future for me.” And I think a lot of that—like a large part of that realization—was that that shop was a Counter Culture Coffee account, and so we had access to all the Counter Culture classes.

The owners were huge perfectionists. They really wanted us to be serving the best possible coffee. And so we got paid to go to every single Counter Culture class if we wanted to go.

Just as I learned more and more about coffee from the guys at Counter Culture, I was like, “Oh, this—this isn't just a thing that I'm doing for now. Like this could be a career.”

Ashley: I love that. I love the investment in your education and being like, “Oh, we're going to pay you to go to these classes,” almost turns that light switch on for you—that this can be something more, and it seems to be as simple as the people above you saying, “Hey, we take this seriously. This is the avenue in which you can take this seriously as well.”

Valorie: Adam and I, who founded GoFundBean—Adam and I met at that coffee shop. And we always talk about how it wasn't the healthiest work environment. It was super toxic in a lot of ways, but they were really, really invested in us knowing everything we could, which was cool, looking back.

Ashley: Yeah, I love looking back on those moments and I think you can rectify—not necessarily rectify, but both can exist. It can be toxic, but at the same time, you could recognize where this contributed to the future of your career.

Valorie: Absolutely.

Ashley: So you've mentioned GoFundBean a couple of times, but for people who maybe don't know what that is, can you explain a little bit about that organization?

Valorie: We are a nonprofit that supports, uplifts, and defends hourly coffee workers in the U.S.

So what that means is that—we were founded during the pandemic to give grants to hourly coffee workers who had been laid off from their jobs because of COVID and ever since then have grown into doing other things.

Like we gave grants after Hurricane Ida to kind of help people in New Orleans who had been put out of work by having to evacuate. But the core of our mission has always been making sure that hourly coffee workers are taken care of and have a way to like, move forward in their careers if that's what they want to do.

Ashley: Tell me about how GoFundBean was founded, because you mentioned that it was born out of the pandemic, which I don’t think is a big stretch for people to realize that when the pandemic hit, coffee shops were severely affected. So what was that first conversation like between—I imagine between you and Adam JacksonBey, who's the co-founder of this organization.

Valorie: Everything started shutting down in mid-March 2020, right. And I think by about May, it was something like 80% of coffee employees in the U.S. had been laid off—like it was some crazy, huge percentage.

In mid-March, whenever places started to shut down and then eventually quickly lay off their employees, Adam and I were talking—and also Jenn Chen was a part of the conversation, and she's now on the board, and then Bailey Arnold was also helping us out back then—but we started talking, being like, “We should have a central location for all of these tip jars that are going up.”

Because what was really fascinating that was happening was that the entire cafe staff was making tip jars together. Sometimes it was the boss making it and putting it up on the website and sometimes it was [the employees] coming together and using their social media to say, “Hey, we're raising money for all of us,” which was cool because I think it could have so easily gone a different way of people being very individualistic about it, but it was a very collective moment of, “We're all in trouble. We're all hurting, we're all raising money.”

So Adam had this idea to have a centralized location for all of those tip jars, instead of everyone trying to fight the algorithm and get their tip jars out there, we wanted to kind of centralize it. So we created an Instagram and Twitter first, and we were just posting and reposting people's tip jars so that they could get a little bit more attention, and kind of have become a centralized place.

We [then] started the website GoFundBean.org, and same thing. We were posting the tip jars there with links and information and it just grew from there.

Ashley: I never thought of the tip jars that way!

So taking a step backward: The pandemic happens, an uncountable amount of baristas lost their jobs because places shut down, and people had nowhere to go. And as you mentioned, instead of approaching things in an individualistic way, like one person saying, “Hey, I lost my job. Here's my Venmo, or my GoFund—GoFundMe.”

I'm realizing now that GoFundMe and GoFundBean are very similar, which I know, but in my brain, I'm like, “I have to choose one.”

But individuals [could have] started GoFundMes for themselves—but instead what you folks were observing, and it seems like you were very conscious of, is that people were coming together as collectives, as like, “We are the staff of X, Y, Z coffee shop. Let's all pull our resources together.”

And it seems like that idea of collectivity inspired you to even go a step further and say, “Hey, maybe somebody who lives in, let's say New Orleans—” I'll pick a city. “Maybe someone in New Orleans wants to support their local coffee community, but they don't know where the tip jars are.”

GoFundBean’s Instagram account almost served as a platform for them to just go to one place and say, “What's in my community?” Or, “What's the tip jar I'd like to support? Oh, here it is.”

Valorie: Absolutely. And you know, when we had all the tip jars on the website, you could sort by city, actually. So we actually had a lot of people go onto our website and use the sort button to say, “I want to give money to baristas in Philadelphia or New Orleans and donate money that way,” and like, just click through to every tip jar in Philly.

Ashley: Were you surprised by how people responded to GoFundBean when you first started? Did you see a lot of people going to the website and, like you said, using those sorting resources, or saying, “Oh, this is a resource that I can use to support my community. I didn't know about this. This is great.”

What was the response initially when you started the website and the Instagram account?

Valorie: Yeah. I mean, it was so funny because—I think you probably have dealt with this—is that a lot of people don't give feedback.

Ashley: Yep, yep.

Valorie: So it was like, we only knew that people were doing it because we could see spikes in website traffic. No one was messaging us being like, “This is so cool. I just donated to every barista in New Orleans.” Like no one was saying that.

We did get specific coffee people coming to us and being like, “Oh, this is really cool. Thank you for doing this. It's really amazing that you're doing this.” But we only knew because people would post on their own individual Instagram and be like, “Oh my god, someone donated like a hundred dollars to our tip jar today. Thank you guys so much.” And then we would be able to look on our website and be like, “Oh, I think that traffic came from us because of this spike in our website traffic the same day.”

Ashley: That's funny. I 100% know what you mean by not getting feedback on things, but then seeing somebody talk about someone you're like, oh, okay. I guess, I guess that was impactful for you.

Valorie: I guess this worked.

Ashley: I guess this worked?

So then how would you measure things? You said that you looked at spikes in website traffic, but like, how did you know that your impact was, I guess, making an impact?

Valorie: We would get messages from the people whose tip jars we posted. And they would sometimes thank us and be like, “Thank you, thank you for posting this. We saw a lot more tips come in this week,” or something. But also it was a lot of like—I was locked inside my house, as was everybody else—and I was just going through baristas’ Instagram [accounts] and watching their stories and seeing them either reposting our tip jar. Or people who I knew worked in coffee, but weren't baristas, who were posting about GoFundBean and telling their followers to check us out.

That was kind of how we were measuring impact back then.

Ashley: At what point did you folks decide that you wanted to do more? Because initially, it seems like this was a temporary measure, right? Like, okay: The pandemic is happening. We had no idea at that time how long it was going to last. I think there was still talk at that time of, oh we’ll shut down for two weeks and we'll be back up and running, which obviously hasn't happened.

We're two years in. We're still here. At what point did you realize that this could be something more permanent, or that you wanted to do more?

Valorie: It was when actually Melitta came to us and was like, “Hey, we want to partner with you guys to sell—” because like, Melitta, Chemex, all these companies that sell home coffee brewing equipment at retail, they were making money hand over fist early in the pandemic because people were learning to make coffee at home.

They were like, “We want to use some of these extra profits that we're making, that we're making directly because baristas are not making money because coffee shops are closed.” They came to us and they were like, “We want to partner with you guys to sell like a certain brewer,” or something, “and the profits from that will go toward tip jars. We'll give you guys the money and you guys can decide which tip jars to put them in,” or something. And that was the beginning of the grant program.

What ended up happening was, for three months, we were promoting this with Melitta and working with them and then kind of in the middle of the process, they were like, “Oh, we really need you guys to be a 501c3 nonprofit for us to give you a bunch of money,” which was like, “Yeah, that totally makes sense.”

I think that was probably in May of that year. So we got a board together—Adam mostly got a board together. I started applying for 501c3 status, which we got later on in 2020, and just kind of like through that process, we're realizing that there was so much more we could do with the brain trust that Adam had assembled.

The people on our board are all people who care very deeply about hourly coffee workers. They've all been baristas and worked in the industry for like, I think we together combined, we have like 80 years of experience in coffee or something. It's a lot of time that we've all been in this industry.

We all love it so much. As we were talking and assembling this and like becoming a 501c3, and realizing we could do this whole grant program with this money that Melitta was giving us—and then JNP got on board too. And then just donations started kind of pouring in, as we started saying like, “Hey, this is kind of our next step.”

I think that’s when we realized, “Oh, we have something cool on our hands here that we could do a lot with.”

Ashley: So you've talked about hourly coffee workers a fair amount, and you've talked—like, you say it as a phrase: “hourly coffee workers.” I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of the struggles that hourly coffee workers face, which we saw very clearly illustrated in the pandemic, right?

They were the first people laid off. They're the people who can't do their jobs at home. What other issues were you seeing hourly coffee workers facing that you thought, “Oh, okay. We at GoFundBean can tackle this,” or, “We at GoFundBean can at least offer support in a way that's meaningful and impactful.”

Valorie: When I say hourly coffee workers, we're referring mostly to baristas, but there are plenty of people who work in coffee who are paid by the hour who are not baristas, or who were baristas but aren't anymore. That's kind of the inception of that phrase.

And it's been really cool to start seeing people start using it, because I remember when we came up with it—and not to say that no one had ever put those three words together—but when we consciously decided that we weren't going to say that we were an organization for baristas, we were an organization for hourly coffee workers, since then, I've seen a spike of people using that phrase, which has been really fun.

I think it's also important because it's much more inclusive and I think addresses more of the industry as a whole.

Ashley: What I love about the phrase “hourly coffee workers” is, like you said, it includes people who aren't just baristas—who are delivery drivers, a lot of roasters are hourly coffee workers, anybody who works in production, so the people who maybe aren't roasting your coffee, but are putting it in bags and making sure that it gets to you—almost all of those people are hourly coffee workers.

It seems like as GoFundBean evolved, you were able to start identifying specific struggles that hourly coffee workers face. So I was wondering if you could talk about some of those struggles. Because I also imagine that maybe people in the restaurant industry are listening to this, or people in the service industry at large, they probably face a lot of the same issues as well.

How did GoFundBean bring light to some of the issues that hourly coffee workers face?

Valorie: Hourly coffee workers are some of the most vulnerable employees, and that's true of hourly wage earners sort of across the United States. They are some of the most vulnerable people in the U.S. economy or in U.S. society writ large.

A lot of states have at-will employment. It can be very precarious to try to speak up, especially when you are working a minimum-wage job or just above minimum wage and you don't have the ability to save money. You don't have a safety net. And our government doesn't have a safety net for U.S.-based workers really.

I think we saw a lot of that in the pandemic. There was the extra $600, but there was no safety net for the people who lost their health insurance because they lost their jobs. Just the vulnerability of workers has been kind of made more and more clear to us every day.

I think, just in conversation with hourly coffee workers, just the things that they—and I say they, but really, I mean we, because I was a barista up until like last March—the issues that they face, it's like they compound on one another. It's one thing after the next.

Like, they don't have money, they don't earn enough money to save, so then when things like they get a flat tire or something like that has to go on a credit card, which then incurs a bunch of fees and interest. That's stressful, and they don't have a safety net for dealing with that stress because probably they don't get good healthcare insurance or good health insurance through their job, and so they don't get mental health care probably.

It's just like every problem that coffee workers face, it seems like compounds on one another. That has been something that, as we address one issue, we find ourselves being like, “Okay, but there are five other issues tying into this and how do we address that?”

Ashley: I think what really caught me during the pandemic, during the early days of the pandemic, was how quickly so many employers let go of baristas. I was wondering if you were at all struck by this? Because I know that some baristas, they were considered essential workers. So some people had to go to work regardless of how safe they felt or not.

But I also know baristas who—I think I was in Chicago when the pandemic started. I think Chicago went into lockdown on March 13th. I know people lost their jobs March 14th.

Valorie: Yup. The speed at which people were happy to lay off their employees, it was like—I mean, you have that shirt that says, “We're not a family.” I was like, “Oh, that has never been more clear to me than in this moment when you were so quick to abandon your staff.”

And like, I understand. I tried to open a coffee shop, I understand that margins are really tight, you probably don't have a month’s worth of pay in the bank that you can just give to your workers. That is a very big reality and coffee. And that's something that we, as an industry, need to start dealing with and addressing, because if nothing else, if coffee shop owners get nothing else out of this whole pandemic, or at least the early part of the pandemic, the idea that businesses should also have three months of savings in the bank should have been occurring to people at some point during this, and I don't think it was.

I definitely knew people who got laid off, truly, the next day, which was crazy to me because it was like, we don't even know how long this is gonna last. Like, can't you just furlough people? Can’t you just keep people on staff for like a week or two, just to see what happens next?

I was very fortunate at the beginning of the pandemic because I was actually working in a museum. And so that museum kept us on staff until almost May. Um, and then when it finally became clear that this was not going away and that they weren't reopening the museum anytime soon, that's when they laid us off.

I was personally offended, I think, to see how quickly some hourly coffee workers were laid off.

Ashley: I mean, so was I. I'd see people posting left and right about being let go from their jobs. And there's a certain cadence to the way that people talked about these layoffs, where I'm like, “Your employer did not have a nice conversation with you. Your employer did not say to you, ‘I am so sorry. This is just where we're at.’”

Because you're right: A lot of coffee shops just don't make money. That's like also a fact of life too. Don't open a coffee shop if you think you're going to make money because it's not going to work.

Valorie: It's not a get-rich-quick scheme. We're here, the hot, hot take here.

Ashley: It's not a get-rich-quick scheme. Hot take here.

But hearing people talk about how they were let go from their jobs so quickly into the pandemic, without any sort of promise of, “We're going to do everything we can to keep you, we're going to do our best to give you what you need to bring you back. Please don't go anywhere, what can we do to support you? Can we start a tip jar for you?”

I was surprised. I don't know if you've noticed this too, a lot of the tip jars were started by baristas. Not necessarily by employers—some were, with respect to the people who did start them for their employees—but it seems like the pandemic gave people a lot of excuses to just say, we don't have to care about you anymore.

Valorie: Yeah, which was really astounding and infuriating, because it was like, “Oh, you guys are the same people who've been saying we're a family and that's why we don't pay as well, but we take care of each other.” Where's that attitude now?

Ashley: Right. We're seeing that now play out in the Starbucks union as well. Starbucks wants to retain control and not have people unionize because they want this freedom to say, “Look at us, we can solve our problems all together.”

But on the flip side, we've seen people say, “Oh cool, we don't have any money to pay you, see you later. Never mind, goodbye.” I think this speaks to the bigger issue of what GoFundBean represents, is that nobody is speaking for low-wage workers, not our government, not the people that are supposed to be taking care of these low-wage baristas or low-wage coffee workers—excuse me, we've learned this term, we're going to use it—but nobody is speaking up or advocating for them. And it seems like GoFundBean has really found its voice as it has recognized that nobody is speaking up for low-wage workers. Nobody is speaking up for hourly coffee workers who don't have a lot of recourse when their boss does something crappy or they get laid off from a job.

When do you think that that moment really crystallized for you that this is so necessary? I have to imagine that, as you've been doing this work—like maybe some of this has always been intuitive for you—but I have to imagine the last two years have also like fundamentally changed you.

Valorie: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I always was sort of aware of kind of the inherent crappiness in the way that a lot of service workers, in general, are treated, and like the way that we're treated as disposable specifically—a lot of people walk into a coffee shop and treat the baristas as just as disposable as the cups in there.

It's really upsetting, but it was seeing that come from bosses as well. Like, I knew it because I'd had bad bosses who treated me that way. But seeing that it was industry-wide, and not that I had just had bad luck with bosses, I was like, “Oh, no one cares about us actually.”

Ashley: I think what you're saying, and what I really want people to understand, is that I think before the pandemic—and I think you're speaking to this a little bit—it would have been easy to say, “That's a bad employer,” or, “That's a shitty boss,” or. “That person is so-and-so,” and just kind of leave it at that, and just say, “This is a bad employer. We're not going to work for them,” or, “We're going to let other people know that this person's a shady boss.”

It's the one-bad-apple argument. But I think what GoFundBean is doing on the positive end is acknowledging that there are systems in place that actively hurt hourly coffee workers, and we are here to say that these things are not okay. We are going to give [hourly coffee workers] as many resources as we can.

Valorie: Yeah, absolutely. A big part of our whole thing has been uncovering just how almost systemic it is in the industry to assume—I think that a large part of it comes from assuming that it's a low-skill job. A lot of it is coffee shops are often owned by people who were never baristas.

Not always, there are some shining examples. And those were also the shops that were doing kind of the most for their workers during the early days of the pandemic. I'm thinking of places like Mammoth Espresso in New Orleans, where Jonathan Riethmaier, he was a barista for a long time, and then opened his own shop.

He treated his employees really well during the pandemic. I was seeing that being, “This is like an example of what this industry could be if people just tried and cared.” There was definitely this moment, though, of realizing that, “Oh, but that's not the standard.”

That's the exception. What he's doing is not the rule, and there needs to be someone—someone needs to be in place to advocate for baristas and for other hourly coffee workers in a way that has not existed before.

Ashley: I want to pivot a little bit and talk about GoFundBean as an organization itself. This—I love getting meta in these conversations, so this is the part where we get really meta.

But thinking about how much you folks have accomplished in the last two years, you went from essentially starting an Instagram account and being like, let's collect all of these tip jars, to a 501c3 that has multiple programming options, gives out grants to coffee workers, has mentor pairing programs, works with multiple coffee organizations to distribute funds…

I mean, the big question I want to ask is like, how'd you get it all done in two years, but can you even answer that question? Because I think it's a really hopeful story for baristas or for hourly coffee workers in general, who are like, “How do I start something?” And it's like, look to GoFundBean, even if you don't want to start a nonprofit exactly—look how much they've built in two years.

Valorie: Yeah. We have done so much in two years and it's actually crazy because a lot of us had never met in real life before this. Adam knew everybody personally, but to think that we've done so much in two years, coming together as strangers, is so insane to me.

I kind of want to point out that that was also part of this: We were all getting to know each other and just trusting each person on the board wanted the best for each other, for GoFundBean, for hourly coffee workers. It's kind of amazing to consider that.

In terms of how we got so much done in two years, I think it was a lot of trusting each other, trusting the process, but also like, we are a working board. Adam and I work the most, but Morgan, who was our accountant, and they did a ton of work to make sure that people were getting their grants on time … every single person on the board has stepped up and given a lot of time and a lot of hours to GoFundBean over the years.

I mean, in a literal sense, that's how we got so much done. But I also think when Adam picked the people he picked for the board, I think the best thing he did was pick people that both inspired him, but also that he trusted. A) It's really hard to do stuff alone, and B) When you do something with other people, you’ve got to do it with people who you both are inspired by and also trust, because otherwise, it is so hard to start something new, which sounds like the biggest “no shit” kind of statement in the world, but it's hard to start a new thing and doing it with people that you trust and respect and are inspired by is going to be a huge help for you along the way.

Ashley: I think that people listening to this—I hope people listening to this—feel like it's possible for them. Do you know what I mean? That people feel like, “I don't know if I want to start that coffee shop,” or “I don't know if I want to start that roasting business. I don't know if it's possible,” but I hope that they look to GoFundBean and think, “Oh, it is possible. I can do this and maybe it doesn't look exactly the way that I thought it would.”

I imagine that you guys didn't think that GoFundBean would ever look the way it does now.

Valorie: Nope.

Ashley: But it can happen. What would you say to people who maybe are struggling with that first step of making something real and actualized?

Valorie: I would say don't be afraid to pivot. The phrase GoFundBean occurred to Adam in like 2018 or 2019. And when he first started the idea—if I remember correctly, and maybe Adam is somewhere tearing his hair out hearing this—I believe the idea was actually originally to do fundraising specifically for competitors to compete individually, like independently, so that they didn't have to rely on sponsorship because that can be a very stressful kind of added pressure to what is already difficult about USBC, right?

Ashley: Right. So we're talking about barista competitions, right? Just for people who don’t know.

Valorie: Sorry, yeah, for barista competition. So I believe the phrase came from that, but then Adam didn't do anything with it. And then a year later this pandemic hit and he was like, “Oh, what if—like I already owned the Instagram [handle], what if I pivot that idea into doing this?”

So he was like texting me and Jenn Chen about it. And we were both like, “Yeah, that's a great idea. That's a great use of that phrase. We should all do this. We'll help you.” Then when we were at Expo, we were talking to the people at Oatly and they asked a similar question.

They were like, just at every turn, you have found ways to meet needs that you didn't even know were there. I kind of jokingly told them, “Yeah, we're just pivoting our way to the top.” And I said it as a joke and I was like, oh, but that's really true.

You can't be afraid to pivot to what is working and pivot away from what is not working.

A big pivot we made was we really wanted to offer free mental healthcare. We did it through Talkspace. At first, it didn't work, it just didn't work. And so we took six months off of that program so that we could figure out a better way to retool it.

And then we pivoted and now, it's much more stressful for us, but it works so much better for the hourly coffee workers that are benefiting from it that it's completely worth it. So I would say pivoting is key probably in any business, but don't be afraid—it probably won't look the way that you think it will today five years from now, whatever it is that you want to do won't look the same, but I think you'll find what works for you and your business or you and your idea by following your intuition and pivoting to where you’re needed.

Ashley: I had Adam on the show maybe a couple of months after the pandemic. We talked a little bit about tipping culture and a little bit about GoFundBean. And one of the things that was kind of a somber topic was creating an organization whose ultimate end goal, in a perfect world where all problems are solved, is that the organization no longer exists or is no longer needed.

As a person who is now kind of shifting to GoFundBean being your main job, how do you kind of think about your role in pushing an organization forward with that ultimate goal in mind?

Valorie: We look a lot at other organizations, other nonprofits that have been around for decades, and actively hope that that isn't us. I really hope GoFundBean doesn't exist five years from now. And I say that knowing that I love this organization. I love the work that we do, but I hope that five years from now, or 10 years from now, or whatever it is, I hope that there's a living wage in place in America where people don't need to rely on emergency relief grants so that they can get through something like a car problem, or I don't know, being robbed or something—we actively don't want to exist anymore, which is crazy to say.

I think the way we keep working forward is knowing that, until the moment that everything is perfect, we still have a role. And we still have almost a responsibility to take care of people in any way that we can. So, yeah, I dunno. It's hard to want to push it forward and create new programs and also at the same time, be like, it's insane that we—and it's something that we talk about—it's insane that we have to do this.

It's insane that certain things don't already exist, that we feel like we're inventing the wheel sometimes. It can be frustrating, but it can be really rewarding to watch people around us see what GoFundBean is doing and be like, “Oh yeah, that should have already existed,” or like, “Oh yeah, you're right. That is a thing that we need to change.”

That's very rewarding, but yeah, it is weird trying to push an organization forward when you also kind of hope that you work it out. Like, we hope that we work toward a world where we're not needed.

Ashley: For folks who are listening, who think, “Oh, I want to support my hourly coffee workers,” what steps can they take right now, listening to this, they closed their podcast app or whatever, or they're reading the transcript of this episode and they put down their phone or their computer, what can they do?

Valorie: If you have disposable income, you can donate to GoFundBean on our website. All of our donations go toward our programs like disaster relief or emergency relief grants or our mentorship program. Early in, we established an 80/20 rule. So 80% of your donation automatically is applied to programming and 20% goes to overhead. That's one thing you can do if you have disposable income.

If you are employing coffee workers, you could maybe look into getting better health insurance for them. If you employ hourly coffee workers, you could look at what a living wage is in your city and determine what it would take for you to actually pay your employees a living wage.

Every person that makes a living wage is one less person that has to rely on outside help. And if you are neither of those people, if you're not a shop owner, and if you don't have a disposable income, you can just follow us on Instagram and share our message. That helps too.

Ashley: Valorie, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

Valorie: Oh my gosh. Yeah, this was so fun. Thank you.

Hey, you like Valorie, right? Tell her so by sharing this episode with a friend!

Share