takin’ it to the roaster
There’s the sense that Ike Bubna doesn’t just want to work in coffee, he needs to. With the launch of a recent Kickstarter that’s a voice for empowerment through passion, Bubna with Street Bean Coffee will reclaim the lives of America’s youth, one roasted bag at a time. Now, in conversation with Ike Bubna on the new roaster he wants to buy, and a one-for-one program combatting youth homelessness.
c.: It seems like your work in coffee is not just a want, but a need – a higher purpose is involved. Am I right. If so, can you share the moment when you knew that working in coffee was something you more than wanted to do but needed to do.
Ike Bubna.: Wow, great question! I don’t think I’ve had to think about this before. I think the moment I knew that working in coffee was something I needed to do was almost 10 years ago when I first started working in coffee at a Starbucks in Spokane, WA. The shop I was working at had a regular named Bob who was handicapped. He came in everyday at the same time and ordered a cup of coffee for here.
In general serving Bob required lots of patience; more so if things were busy. My manager at the time was an amazing woman, who always demonstrated patience and hospitality with every guest who came through our door. It was through watching her serve someone like Bob everyday, that I realized that working in coffee was about serving people. And I became hooked. Serving people, through serving coffee is something I love to do.
c.: Street Bean’s motto is ‘brew together.’ Can you speak to the power of creating together, building community with the scope of the craft of coffee binding it all together?
i.b.: For me, serving people coffee is something I do together with others. From the seed to the cup, our industry involves working together with others. Even if it’s just one barista, serving one guest, it is still an event made possible through people having worked together to make that moment possible.
At Street Bean, we have the motto “brew together” so that we can constantly remind ourselves and our guests that what we do is something we do together with others. And brewing together is particularly important for Street Bean because it takes a community of people to help create the positive environment where a young person has the opportunity to reclaim their lives from whatever past circumstances that led them to be on the streets.
So we brew coffee together to our guests and use that simple act to create the right environment for someone to reclaim their lives. It’s pretty incredible to brew together with an intern over several months and see the change that occurs in their lives as a result of simply serving people coffee.
c.: How did your involvement with young people start. And, when did the link to coffee become something that you realize could stick, i.e. work to create real opportunities of something positive – reclaiming life?!
i.b.: Growing up I had various opportunities to be a youth leader or camp counselor. The connection between working with youth and serving coffee was not one I came up with actually. Street Bean was founded in 2009 by a wonderful woman named Linda Ruthruff.
When I first moved to Seattle to attend graduate school I heard about Street Bean from a fellow student who encouraged me to volunteer. So I volunteered 1 day a week for almost a year and it was through that experience that I realized how a coffee shop could be the right environment to provide a real opportunity for someone to reclaim their life.
c.: So, there’s a non-profit coffee shop and soon to be roaster. The challenges of having a successful independent coffee shop is itself a challenge. You’re compacting that with a non-profit coffee shop. How does all this work, and to that end how valuable is this Kickstarter?
i.b.: It all works because of two things. First, we serve people really well and we serve them really good coffee. No independent shop, let alone a nonprofit one, can be a successful coffee shop without serving people well. So those who intern with us learn to serve people well and they learn to make really good coffee. We want to set them up for success, so they learn how to serve people well and how to make excellent coffee.
Secondly, we are successful because of those who believe in what we do as a nonprofit. For over 5 years, Street Bean has been sustainable because of the regular support of our guests and from the generous support of donors. We are largely self-sustaining, but some of the difficult financial seasons have been weathered through the support of generous people who are passionate about our mission. And whenever Street Bean pursues a new project, such as our new one with coffee roasting, it is only made possible through the generous support of those who believe in us.
So the Kickstarter is valuable because it provides a unique and new way for individuals to support our mission and hopefully it will reach those who may not have heard about us before. And reaching new supporters can be challenging for a small nonprofit, so our Kickstarter will hopefully help new supporters find out about us.
c.: Well said! The math is one bag of coffee, one hour of employment equals paid internships. How did you come up with this concept and how can a youth apply in the future?
i.b.: So Street Bean’s internships have always been paid, because part of providing an opportunity for someone to reclaim their life is providing a way for them to earn an income. So the one bag of coffee = on hour of employment is our attempt to explain how when you buy a bag of coffee from us you aren’t just buying a bag of coffee that results in profit for an owner, rather that purchase results in someone having employment that they desperately need.
Currently, Street Bean just has the one location and the internships for that location are applied for by those accessing services through our partner organization New Horizons Ministries.
c.: This Kickstarter with Street Bean aims to tackle homelessness, a very admirable cause considering recent events in the United States around the homeless. How do you hope this empowers, forwards the cause?
i.b.: Hopefully, we can show people that tackling homelessness can be achieved through something as normal as training people to serve coffee.
View Street Bean’s Kickstarter below, it runs through June 18, 2015.