Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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76 barista magazine WHILE THE SPECIALTY-COFFEE INDUSTRY can always look to trade organizations like the Specialty Coffee Association to provide us with certain types of large-scale events, individual coffee communi- ties face unique challenges and have individual needs that bigger or- ganizations can't always meet. To fi ll that gap, many inspiring leaders in the coffee world have stepped up over the last few years to develop community locally, nationally, and even globally, creating alternative space and bringing growth to their peers. In this piece, they share their most hard-won advice on assessing your community's needs, the ins and outs of launching a community organization, and how to stay true to the mission for the long haul. Who's your community? Coffee communities can be geographically based (like a local barista guild), demographically based (like a community forum specifi cally for queer people in coffee), or psychographically based (like a national club for book-loving baristas). When you think about the coffee com- munity you'd like to connect with, who is that? Is it your local barista or roaster scene? Is it a demographic group like mothers working in coffee? Or do you want to connect with other coffee folks based on interests, like a wine-tasting club for coffee professionals? The answer to that will inform your approach, forum, and mission. For example, the Barista Guild of Baton Rouge started in 2017 with a very specifi c focus on Baton Rouge's specialty-coffee scene. "We no- ticed a need in our community, a lack of cross-shop interaction," says Emily McCollister, the group's moderator. "Baton Rouge has been slower to jump into specialty coffee than other places in the [United States], but at this point, we have fi ve specialty coffee shops in our city and couldn't be more pleased." What does your community need? Looking at the needs of your chosen group will help defi ne the substance of your forum. Why do you need to exist? What gaps does your organization need to fi ll? What do you want to accomplish? These questions will help you defi ne your mission. You don't necessarily need a formal mission statement, but it can defi nitely bring the benefi t of helping you, or future leaders, hold yourselves accountable to your original goal. You can also defi ne it and then tweak it over time, as your community grows and its needs shift. Then, looking at format, who does your group need to bring togeth- er, and how? If your goal is to network and have fun, that will yield a different project than if your goal is to unpack systemic issues your demographic faces. If your goal is to break down barriers between coffee companies, your format will look different than if your aim is to showcase artistic talent within a national coffee community. When you know who your community is and what unites you, the format of your project or organization should start to suggest itself. With their target community in mind and a mission to create a true coffee community in Baton Rouge, the Barista Guild of Baton Rouge chose the format of latte art throwdowns. "Even though the word 'competition' can sound divisive, these throwdowns really are community-building opportunities where we see our entire community come together," says Emily. "Rarely in other spaces do you see barista crossover from so many stores." Denver roaster and artist Kat Melheim's Coffee People Zine launched in January 2018 with a mission to provide a platform for cre- atives in the coffee community; in order to engage a diverse and far- fl ung psychographic, she chose a few different formats and tweaked things as she went. First, there's the zine itself, which features submissions from coffee-driven creatives across the country. On top of that, Kat promoted the zine and brought folks together in person by organizing launch parties for each issue, leading coffee tours in under-visited regions like Colorado Springs with fellow coffee creative Sam Neely, and holding cuppings with fellow grassroots community organization #shestheroaster. After defi ning her community and mis- sion, she was able to choose several formats to engage them and hone her approach over time. Who should lead, and how? Once you know what you want to do and how you want to do it, you can start to think about structure. Do you want to found the group alone, or would you prefer to be part of a team? While you retain full control over your mission by starting out alone, running a community organization is a lot of work, and it might be helpful to start out as a team in order to spread out the work and round out skills and interests. For instance, the Bismarck Barista Guild was founded by a collec- tive of the few local specialty-coffee shops in Bismarck, N.D. "We exist to elevate the coffee culture and awareness in Bismarck through com- munity education classes and friendly barista throwdowns," says DJ Kramer of Mighty Missouri Coffee Co. Since their goal is to elevate the scene and break second-wave customer habits, it makes sense to run the group collectively with balance between each of the high-level specialty shops. Washington, D.C.–based community group DMV Coffee has been around since 2008, rotating leaders over time. Their current leader- ship structure involves a board that votes on everything while mostly working off full consensus. "There isn't technically a 'leader' or 'face,'" organizer Adam JacksonBey says. "We have a diverse group and a fl at structure so everyone feels equal." It's important to make sure you have enough help to prevent long-term burnout, either through working too hard solo or through diffi cult group dynamics. Black Coffee panel discussion series creator Michelle Johnson strongly believes that visionaries often need people to help them bring their plans to life, and therefore recommends al- lowing yourself to take breathers if you can't fi nd the help you need at any given time. "If you do fi nd others aren't willing to step up, it's OK to take more time or pause a project," she says. "The most important Geography: Where folks are located Examples: Barista Guild of Baton Rouge, Bay Area Coffee Community, Charlotte Coffee Collective Demographics: Characteristics like race, age, sexual orientation, and income that link groups by identity Examples: Black Coffee, The Coffeewoman, Womxn in Coffee Awards Psychographics: Psychological characteristics that link groups by values and interests, like attitudes, aspirations, opinions, and lifestyles Examples: Coffee People Zine, Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp, Women in Coffee Drinking Wine What Unites a Coffee Community?

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