Having a boss sucks. Any entrepreneur who has pursed business on their own will quickly attest to that. Why else go out on your own? Of course, there is more earning potential and the personal satisfaction from building a company of your own. But let’s be real, nobody wants a nosy manager breathing down their neck every day. And in my experience, a business owner who recognizes that universal truth already has a leg up in finding success. So what does it look like when a cafe owner who prioritizes the well-being of his employees?
In today’s newsletter, I want to highlight one of our longtime wholesale partners, Grounded Coffee from Madison, AL. Bear in mind, this will be only a brief insight into the ethos of their owner, Chris Moore. It would be logistically impossible to articulate the finest minutia of their 10 years in business in a short email newsletter.
When I asked Chris what his original mission with Grounded was, he was very quick to tell me about the importance of serving the community, a process that starts and ends with the people he employs to work at the cafe. He said, “ We want to make a place where people like to work and feel empowered to do a great job each day. In turn, they can invest in the community. How much people need to be served is amazing; just ask someone how they are and take a minute to listen; that little act of service means the world to most people”.
Baristas in a cafe, or other members of the service industry like servers or bartenders, are often seen as replaceable by less thoughtful business owners. When the perception of your business is based solely on the bottom line of your spread sheet, it is easy to forgot that your employees are not just selling a cup of coffee or a sandwich or a cocktail, but an experience. Or that “good service” doesn’t just mean the speed at which you can fulfill someone’s order and turn a table. The reasons why a customer chooses to patronize one business versus another likely has a lot more to do with the way they’re made to feel when they walk in the door than the efficacy of dollar per milligram of caffeine. The employees of the business are the ones who are truly guiding the ship in a lot of ways. I think Chris hit the nail on the head when he said that in order to truly serve your community, you must serve your employees first. It is a cycle of service and gratitude that begins and ends with the employee.
The origins of the partnership between Populace and Grounded and hazy. “It was the distant, hazy past” to quote Chris. But regardless of how the relationship began, we agreed that there has always been a kinship in the way we approach business, relationships, and of course, coffee. The same cycle between employees and customers that determines the energy of a retail space exists on a macro level as well. And by investing in the success of Populace wholesale partners, we are able to see success on our end.
When I asked Chris what were some of the biggest successes he’s seen since Grounded has been in business, he didn’t once mention quarterly sales figures. He again, brought the conversation back to his staff. “The biggest success for me is when we have an employee who leaves because of either a move or school, but ultimately then comes back to work for us later. Were I nefarious, I could trick someone the first time, but the second time is with eyes wide open. That's the biggest compliment I can receive, and it lets me know that we are achieving our mission.”
We finished our conversation by talking about what keeps Chris excited about the coffee industry. He said that if we have learned anything post-pandemic, it is that the importance of community and personal connection cannot be understated. The coffee industry has been, and will continue to be, a great platform to create connections with people on countless levels.
Thanks so much to Chris Moore from Grounded Coffee in Madison, AL for is willingness to share his experience and allowing me to tell a small snippet of Grounded’s story.