Many a latte artisan, coffee geek, and scene-hanger on has had the thought before: how can I capitalize on this specialty coffee community? Surely it can lead me to greatness! For Philadelphia’s Lisa Miccolis, the thought went one step further: maybe the magic within the coffee community can actually help out those truly in need. Maybe a pop-up shop, or a crowdfunding campaign, can transcend trend and ego and help some former foster kids get into the workforce, as well as into the loving arms of coffee.

Miccolis’ The Monkey and the Elephant hatched in earnest last fall, in the form of a pop-up cafe at Taffets bakery in Philly’s Italian Market. But it first took shape in Miccolis’ mind as a way to connect former foster children—a branch of formerly at-risk youth that, once no longer youth, are too-quickly scuttled out of the system and into a work force for which they’ve had little preparation.

“A lot of youth don’t have the opportunity to have a job prior to leaving the foster care system, and don’t have the soft skills needed to get a job,” said Miccolis, whose Philly coffee track record includes Town Hall Coffee and the restaurant/cafe/music venue triumverate MilkBoy. Miccolis felt that coffee—a world in which she herself had quickly become subsumed despite not even liking coffee when she started working in it—could easily provide that entree.

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Photo by Bill Strouse.
Photo by Bill Strouse.

Working with local roasters like nearby One Village and Philly’s Reanimator and Elixr (the latter now roasting their own), The Monkey and the Elephant’s agenda started to gain visibility in the Philly community in the last year, through pop-ups and events in other cafes. But to offer these former foster folks more stability, Miccolis herself wants to create a cafe with stability. To that end, she’s launched a crowdfunding campaign via Rally.org to secure everything needed for opening her bricks and mortar cafe, including a Synesso (currently on layaway from Coffee Lab International).

Miccolis and Co. need to secure the machine by October 22. Baristas from around the city have already chimed in with their desire to contribute shifts and training, but what Miccolis needs now is financial backing. You can donate here, and also discover a carefully enumerated list of exactly what you’re helping pay for. Never had a 400 12 oz cups, or a hot water boiler for that matter, purchased directly in your honor? Now’s your chance.

And while Miccolis definitely sees the future cafe as a shot at…well…a great shot, she also sees it as a shot at success for her staff.

“We will work on communication, customer service skills, leadership skills all while working at the shop. There will be a mentorship program in which they will be matched with customers who can be more involved in than just buying a cup of coffee,” says Miccolis.

“But what will really make it a successful program will be the community that is in the shop and the community that is around the shop supporting it.”


Again, donation information is available here, and follow The Monkey and The Elephant on Facebook for updates & photos.

Liz Clayton is the author of “Nice Coffee Time“, a regular columnist for Serious Eats: Drinks, and a contributor to Sprudge.com.

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