Barista Magazine

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 73 of 107

bravo! Was it scary a fi rst? SM: Yeah, I basically had to decide to either take a job with a company and stop doing The Barista League, or take the leap and go 100 per- cent with it and see what happened. In a more general sense though, I don't think any independent event will ever have longevity until someone is being paid to create it. Like everything else in this industry, there is so much sweat equity that is expected for free, often from the people working for the least amount of money. But while someone else is paying your rent, your hobby business/throwdown/project is never going to be priority num- ber one when you are burnt out and hitting a wall. I had a conversation one time with a guy who runs big events in the coffee industry who said, "We need more events like yours or Sonja's [Zweidick, creator of Barista Connect]." I don't think he meant anything negative by it, but I was so provoked because at that stage both Sonja and I were working two full-time jobs, doing all the work for free, and still hustling like hell to get any fi nancial contribution from anyone. That is perhaps a rite of passage, but it is very easy to run a great event when someone is paying you a salary to create it. But it feels like grassroots and independent events are expected to be arranged for free. To balance this out, I think there are a bunch of really great compa- nies that invest in young people creating crazy things (Urnex, Pacifi c Barista Series, Oatly, Ally Coffee, BWT, Barista Magazine just to name a few), but I could imagine a project of arranging scholarships for event organizers to give them, say, four weeks' paid time to create something. Think of the crazy things you could do for your communi- ty with four weeks' full-time paid work… SA: With so many competitions and community events in specialty coffee these days, how is TBL different? What purpose does it serve? SM: From a competition standpoint, I believe that the industry in general can do so much better than just the options that we have going right now. I understand why some of the big competitions are sometimes slow-moving machines, but that doesn't mean that other people shouldn't push the ideas of competition and come up with more dynamic, crazy competitions. I also think that the days of winning the WBC being the only way to fame and glory is outdated. I would love to create space for professionals who are doing amazing things in their jobs or communities but have no interest in getting on a big stage and talking about themselves for 15 minutes. While we are small and fl exible, it means we can massage the competition and rules to level the playing fi eld a bit so a quiet, introverted (or non-English-speaking) but kick-ass barista has as much or more chance of winning than the bold, loud, experienced competitor. From an event standpoint, I want to encourage a more fl at and egalitarian approach to creating events. I think that you get these events in local communities, throwdowns where everyone can meet and chat to each other, but once the event gets big enough, there becomes a kind of separation between the participants or exhibitors and the attendees. There are of course exceptions—I love the World AeroPress Championship, for example. I think the way they approach competition and events is so underrated, and they have been doing it for years. My ideal event is one where a brand-new employee of Starbucks can join a conversation with a national champion who is chatting to a machine manufacturer or whatever. My experience is that all my jobs and connections come from meeting people in a relaxed environment 74 barista magazine

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