sip on down the net
She thinks about things. She thinks about the things you can’t eat but if one could, her harmless obsession with them would deem them food. She loves loving things, things that are a story – minimal and impactful. Things made from hand, a they as they are the product of someone’s musing and eventually her own. She thinks about goods like pins and enamel mugs, wares and ceramics the way one might think about a lover: getting as close as possible and spending the rest of ones life with them.
She thinks about things the way a thinker influencing the culture of coffee should: as special. Now in conversation with Monica Gutierrez.
c.: You’ve created something out of the culture of coffee. We’re very much a like in that way.
m.: “Selfish curation. Isn’t that how many things start?”
“Selfish curation. Isn’t that how many things start?”
c.: I can’t disagree. But, congratulations on finding a very unique voice in coffee culture. Why goods?
m.: Before third wave [coffee] got so mainstream in L.A. and there was a coffee shop on every corner, there wasn’t any thing like this. There wasn’t that much of an understanding of coffee like there is now. It was like a new hobby – something that I hadn’t experience. Once I started going to shops I had the experience of what it was like to be served. I remember going to Intelligentsia and Handsome [Coffee Roasters] and people loved doing their job. Like Nicely, he literally poured a heart in his cup and was so excited about it.
People really have a passion for this and its not just making coffee or food but an actual connection. That stayed with me. And I really enjoyed going to these places, hanging out, people watching and seeing how people reacted. It enabled me to interact. I’m kind of shy.
c.: Kind of shy? But we first met because you reached out to me. And we met over coffee at Bar Nine Coffee. You hardly seemed shy.
Well, you sort of get pushed into a place where you have to talk to someone, these coffee shops are engaging, you’re kind of forced to in a way. You would never talk to some people if it wasn’t for this environment. It was amazing how something so simple could do that.
c.: It is amazing. Are you still shy?
m.: I’m a pro ear hustler if I hear something fun or interesting I jump in now, its natural and before I was so shy about it. It’s not bad its just different.
c.: How did you see the coffee that you love celebrated and then noticed a gap in that same love that you thought you could fill?
m.: I think what it was for me is that at my day time job, I work in a shop. Things kind of change there and its not just a clothing store, it’s a lifestyle store, its about experiences.
c.: You’re speaking my language.
m.: People look for things that are more sentimental, that brightens someone’s day or an event like stationery and small gifts things where people feel good about themselves.
Now, I help with buying and our boss is so awesome. Learning how people shop, what they look for and how they talk to each other, I’ve found that people love getting gifts and ones that are packaged well and have a story.
People don’t have a lot to spend but when do want it made locally or in the USA so I try to find that in my hobbies and for it in my coffee stuff. As I went to places I’d see coffee gear, or books it was so black and white. I was looking for that little in between, what was fun, you could love it everyday and have it every morning and that didn’t cost 150 dollars.
c.: Can you tell me more about this in-between. How did you find it?
m.: I found stuff on Etsy or from artists. It wasn’t in one particular place. Then I thought, what if I found selected pieces in the U.S, that had a story, that I was really proud of and excited about? I found a lot of things, and I’d asked them how would you feel to be part of this idea. Even before I had a store, it was about having work featured and with the main idea being coffee culture, most were really excited about it and had never seen anything like that.
c.: Rare and necessary.
m.: It was a red flag. And, a good lightbulb. Their were little things here and there but nothing with a voice like this. I said I’m going to try it – if it works, it works. Other people had the same excitement for it too.
c.: Alignment. That’s the best. What was the time frame that you gave yourself to launch it?
m.: I had the idea two years ago. [This interview occurred in February, 2017} For most people, you kind of have an idea and don’t follow through with it. You kind of stall. But, I went to a seminar for small business stuff and they said, write down something you want to do. I was like, how do I figure out how to do this? There’s tons of resource but it doesn’t detail the ins and out. With my full-time job, I’d read; find resources, the basics of running a shop and what people are looking for. Since I didn’t have a physical shop, I wanted something easy and mobile friendly. And it would be on Instagram, that’s the voice.
c.: I love it!
m.: I started working on it officially, January of last year. My friend Lorenzo was super helpful – he gave me tips and pointers and was super helpful with getting those beginning wheels turning and narrow ing the idea down to make it happen. Baby steps.
I was launching in November before Thanksgiving. I kept telling myself ‘what are you waiting for.’
“I had the shop ready to go, but I wasn’t going.”
There was fear and I was nervous. Even if it wasn’t perfect or all the way ready it was about getting it out there and giving it to people. You just do it and figure it out as you go. People saw how fun it was. They didn’t know that I was sweating.
c.: How much of this stemmed from the kind of goods you were drawn to and the kind you thought others would be drawn to as well? And when did you start noticing little items of delight that you felt you wanted to imbibe.? Like what was the one thing that you said yes, that its? Or, did that moment ever happen for you?
m.: Yes both. I think because my day job is always thinking about other people and what they would like that, selfishly I was buying these things, like the pins. It was a rabble hole finding things with Etsy, it’s a gateway of cool stuff. I love it that you can have access to people’s creativity. And, I loved buying stuff for myself. I’d post stuff and people would say ‘where’d you get that?’ Those questions kept coming up, so I said, ‘okay, I’m a vessel of information,’ so maybe if there’s this coffee thing and people are interested in it, I should carry it.
c.: And ladies and gentleman a shop was born.
m.: The first 12 or 15 things in the shop were things I owned, before I bought them for the shop. Obviously things on Instagram are staged a certain way. Like, those are my cups I’m eating out of that I’m drinking out of that and it’s a pin on my jacket. Those little things are important when you shop, to have a voice. I’m going to put my face on this, so these are the things that I have to say that I use. That’s the conscious thing – would I buy this myself, would I give it to a friend, would people in my day job by it? And this goes even down to the story about the piece.
c.: How does it actually work, the curation and then stocking the items?
m.: A few items were mine; I knew their quality and that I could sell them. The great thing about this is, is that most people are small vendors and artists.
Once it sells, out my intention isn’t to bring it back. It keeps it fresh and keeps me on my toes looking for new stuff. Really, my intention is to buy small set quantities, 6 or 12 of things and then let them sell out.
m.: Yes. I want it to be the whole voice or the collection of what a person is trying to do, those are more strategic. Over time, I’d like to create more collaborations with people, the goal being to give them an idea of what they could give as a set. But artists have other things that they are passionate about, and coffee may not be the whole store.
c.: And that’s perfectly okay.
m.: The goal is to give them an idea of what they could give as a set. Also, for the artist to be excited to make it together. I keep a small run of items, which keeps it fun and interesting. Once it’s gone its gone – so its like please go support the artist that makes this.
c.: One way that you help us connect with the artist is through story. And you mentioned it earlier. Can you share more about that and how it helps in the long game a consumer to want to support an artist?
m.: There’s a story behind each piece and what the seller does for a living: teacher, artists, graphic designer. Its important that there are people behind these things and making it with their two hands. Your great at what you do. The way you write about a coffee shop, or a bean. I know how you see things. I know that it’s not going to be black and white its going to be imaginative, its in the way you use words.
c.: Thank you Monica!
m.: Everything [in coffee] is so technical and precise. Part of it should be. But sometimes this is kind of the whole point of finding you on Insta, sometimes its not so perfect. I don’t care if its measured this way; I know its going to taste a little funny, but its stepping out of the box. Some of the people shopping in the shop may not know about brewing coffee but just love coffee. Sometimes you feel intimidated or don’t know what you’re doing, you want coffee to be a fun place.
You want coffee to be a fun place.
c.: And, maybe they are coming to just connect with people. That’s okay too. And, sometimes they are coming just for the coffee. Are you the principal photographer, storyteller and lister?
m.: Yes. And it’s the easiest way to compact an idea. Set, pin, wares like mugs, tote bags. Most of my activity happens at home. For platforms, Instagram is the most valuable one to figure out what’s working, what’s not and what to respond to.
c.: There’s a fine line or not so fine between something being good and kitschy, how do you navigate the sensibility of your good?
m.: That’s a really good question. How do I answer it? Going back to my day job, I see so much stuff! I hear people talk about what they think is stupid or don’t like daily. That feedback and chatter I use to figure out what people don’t want or about things in general.
For me it’s about not having stuff too expensive or inaccessible.
People work hard, this is a ‘ treat yourself, I want to do something nice and I don’t want to spend a lot of money’ thing. I like things that have a playfulness to them and that’s kind of funny. A lot of people want to give the impression of more with less. Not that the item is cheap because it can be small and have a big message, but it has to have a cool aesthetic or a cool story.
Think about Chanel No. 5 perfume. Women know what that is before you’re a teenager. It has a lot of memories and so many things behind it. Even though I’m selling something that’s ten dollars, it’s iconic. At the end of the day its my taste.. I have to be prepared if someone doesn’t like this. Just like you’re not writing for everyone. I’m not expecting everyone to love Sipp Curated Goods. I do hope that when they go there, it has its own little space. Almost 75 percent of people shopping there are women, that’s super important to me – it’s a fun place for women. Coffee is still a heavily male industry – its getting better – but these things have resonated with women more and that’s cool.
c.: What is your dream curation idea?
m.: I really love buying mugs. Hopefully in the future, even though I have a cupboard full, if I go somewhere and its beautifully made, I want to have it. It would be cool to work with some of those companies that do collaborations and pop-ups. But the dream is to keep finding cool stuff with housewares or ceramics, ordinary objects that are interesting or cool and stays in your house for 10-15 years.