This is the second in a new series I’m starting – interviews with bold and mindful women, posted every other week. I've decided to call it #seamlygal (although this week, #seamlygals!) Sign up for our weekly newsletter for future interviews with artists, makers, founders, movers and shakers.
In October 2014, Elle Taylor signed a lease on an empty, white space underneath the newly-renovated Metlo near downtown Denver. Four months later, she and fellow coffee-connoisseur Annie Leak launched Amethyst Coffee Co.
When I went to interview and photograph Elle and Annie, the obvious things struck me: their age (younger than most brick-and-mortar owners I know), their style (this place is BEAUTIFUL) and their passionate know-how. Frankly, I can’t imagine opening up a physical shop. So the first thing I wanted to know was, how did you get here?
By 2014, Elle (Berklee College of Music, ‘13) had already been in the coffee industry for six years. She'd competed in several national competitions, including the U.S. Coffee Championships and Big Western. When she found out about a new cafe space for lease, and laid eyes on it, she said it was a “now or never situation.” She knew it was time to stay in the coffee industry for the long haul, or get out entirely. In her words, having a passion in one category wasn’t enough -- but starting something new filled all of the “buckets” of things she’s interested in. "When owning a business you have to wear a lot of hats, and I really enjoy that part. Some days I'm business woman Elle, some days barista Elle, some days accountant Elle. Its fun. Its exhausting, but its fun." And then, there was the “being-your-own-boss” appeal. In a new shop - her own shop - Elle could design the experience she thought was missing in Denver’s coffee scene: a gentle, feminine, delicate vibe, visually, and a strong, values-aligned team at the core of it all. So, she signed the lease, phased out of her barista job at Little Owl in Denver, and picked up a restaurant gig to pay the bills while building out Amethyst. Her first hire was Annie - a former co-worker and friend.
Our conversation quickly turned to the most important thing about Amethyst Coffee Co: people. The core of Amethyst is the baristas, and Elle is excited about building a team of good people who share values. On a bigger scale, Elle makes a direct connection between how well she does her job and how coffee growers across the world are affected. “It affects people in other places... it eventually supports someone in the developing world.” Coffee is one of the most-traded commodities on the market, and the roasters Elle supports are making social and environmental strides. “It’s more incentive to be better at what you do.” When I asked Elle and Annie about the most suprising thing about the venture thus far, they looked at each other and immediately, said “Oh, the people!” Annie -- surprised by the incredible community support -- says they always have people from other shops coming in. And then there are the new faces. “There’s no other relationship that’s like that.”
My biggest, most burning question (for all entrepreneurs, really) is how do you get through the hard parts? The inevitable days when things fall apart? I e-mailed Elle later, to get her thoughts on this: "The hard parts. I think I get through them because there's really no other option. Failing is not an option. Giving up is not an option. Once you eliminate those two ideas, you only have full steam ahead. That being said, we're less than two months in, I'm bone tired, my feet hurt, I have shin splints, and march taxes are due, so maybe ask me the same question in a year ;) As my landlord likes to say, "There's always a solution, you just have to find it." Not overly prolific, but absolutely, 100% true."
I left feeling like I’d made new friends. And I think that’s how a lot of people feel when they leave this place. It gives me hope that this is the future of “business” as we know it - it’s intimate. It’s personal. It embodies femininity -- a complex, beautiful mixture of nurture and strength. And it’s mission goes beyond money and personal autonomy. I love that Amethyst is, above all, about community and connection. Kudos to Elle and Annie for spreading a little beauty and goodness into life, and coffee, and their community.If you’re in Denver, visit Amethyst Coffee Co. at 1111 Broadway St #101, and on Facebook, Instagram.
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