“I joined Go Get Em Tiger in July 2018 thanks to my now manager, Virginia Bauman, seeing a Facebook post I’d made announcing I was looking for steady work. I’d been pursuing a career in freelance commercial photography since 2007 and it was time for me to take my skills into a structured space that would still provide me with some creative freedom. Virginia brought me in as Visual Coordinator at GGET and has done so much more than given me room to take creative risks; she’s actively encouraged, supported, and pushed me to think beyond what I believe is possible. She’s fostered a culture of transparency, vulnerability, accountability and personal growth that has allowed me and my co-workers to flourish. All while operating an LGBTQIA+ coffee shop of her own, Cuties Coffee, in the heart of Los Angeles. Virginia exemplifies the future of coffee.”
Nominated by Jessica Zollman
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
The psychological safety of teams.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
The people drive me. The staff, the patrons, the managers, the owners, and the rest of the industry.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
People management and leadership development.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
I love that coffee businesses create space for communities to thrive.
Did you experience a life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
Early in my career, I had the privilege of drinking what I believe was a Karatina AA grown in Kenya. It was the first coffee we purchased, transported, roasted, and sent to customers. The experience of witnessing that journey for the first time stays with me today every time I drink coffee.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Perhaps coffee happiness is knowing there will always be coffee to help us stop time and connect with another human.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
Goodness, I’ve had the best jobs. Opening a cafe from scratch as an owner and manager will always be appealing and rewarding to me in ways that are immeasurable.
Who are your coffee heroes?
I think anyone that opens a coffee bar for their community and does right by their staff a hero in my book.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My grandmother, Dixie. She taught me much as a child and adolescent but I wish my adult self was able to share space, conversation, and experiences with her.
If you didn’t work in coffee what do you think you’d be doing instead?
An executive coach. ;-)
Do you have any coffee mentors?
I’d have to list Kyle Glanville, Charles Babinski, Ryan Brown, Wolfgang Klinker, and Tony Konecny.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
Many people told me things that were in this category—things they wish they knew—but usually, I had to experience them before I truly understood. So instead I’ll ask a question: how can you ensure you are building a business in coffee that fully reflects your values?
Name three coffee apparatuses you couldn’t do without.
I can’t live without my mugs that I have grown sentimentally attached to: my Cuties mug, my GGET mug, and a Tonx coffee mug.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
Death by White Lies
Where do you see yourself in 2040?
Drinking coffee on my porch with a loved one talking about the flavor, body, and the finish.
What’s your favorite coffee at the moment?
A delightful coffee from Peru: Ronal Carranza Montenegro roasted by Go Get Em Tiger.
What do you see as coffee’s role in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial equality?
Coffee, ultimately, is people. I don’t want the people in coffee to zoom out and think that the industry’s role is separate from every single person’s role. And in that frame, our role is not unique to coffee. We must examine the systems that enable us. We must actively build infrastructure to subvert oppression. We must take on the systems and structures, not just the bad actors that they create. This work starts internally. This work starts by building a culture of accountability. This work starts by putting in the practice to hold the difficult conversations that are going to continually be important. This work is not words as much as it is many many actions that compound over time.
Are there any activists, authors, public speakers, or experts you’d like to encourage our readers to engage with?
I’m going to address my answer to white folks and offer up a teacher and his book that I don’t see enough people talking about: Resmaa Menakem, and his book My Grandmother’s Hands.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
I miss the Cuties team. I am still grieving the loss of the coffee bar and the space it provides. Some days the emotional fog is so thick it’s hard to just keep up with the administrative needs required to keep going. I’ve lost the well being that I derived from knowing there was a space run by queer people during the day where we can be still. Business-wise, we are now just a social media account. We are waiting to see what the future holds before planning. Everything is up in the air. I’ve gained time to reflect on the project and what it means to me. I’ve been able to look at it from a new perspective, one where our values are more accessible than ever but our business is not. I’ve had time to look at who I was when I opened this shop, who I have become, and what might be next
Is there any donation fund or resource in your community we can share with our readers?
The Sprudge Twenty Interviews are presented in partnership by Sprudge & Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2020 Sprudge Twenty honorees and a complete interview archive, please visit sprudge.com/twenty.