Each January we do an internal look back at our previous year in business, assessing our accomplishments and how to make our operation work better, how we can improve our workplace and better express our vision and mission.This year we had the additional need to untangle and consider our operation during the last 11 months of the pandemic, making sense of all of the adaptations, plans, scrambles, and expectations, and use that information to update our plans on how to get through another 10 or more months in safe mode.
Pathways to New Foundations
A few of the immediate lessons we learned and pivots we have been making and building towards since March 2020:
- How to pivot quickly to a to-go only safe ordering process.
- Our insurance had limits in ways that we were not ready for. If and as we survived the immediate crisis, we'd work develop more financial prudence for things insurance wouldn't cover.
- How to plan for sustainability and build for the long haul even while surviving an immediate crisis.
We created benchmarks for Pathways to build new sustainable foundations and have worked towards them tirelessly over the last 11 months.
Pathways ensure that we can keep all of our team employed at livable wages and enables us to continue supporting and regularly purchasing from our network of independent vendors and coffee producers sustainably through the ups and downs of the pandemic.
To achieve our foundational pathways, we need to accomplish the following:
- Add 1,244 more Little Waves Coffee subscriptions.
- Add 23 more regular wholesale accounts the size of a Building at Duke, Bakery, fairly busy Diner or Coffee Shop (now or when things open).
- Bring back the business that is being lost in the shops because of safe setups and people staying home.
- Add more professional and group online coffee training and group reward sessions.
- Continue building online orders and folks starting little waves by sending coffee to someone they love or would like to feel acknowledged.
- Guests, Allies and Customers tell at least one other person about our coffee, subscriptions and wholesale program, our approach to sustainable sourcing, our Latina led, women forward company, sharing the link to our website and asking them to learn more.
As we all know, there are too many for any of us to list. Things that were especially challenging:
- 4 break-ins at our shops and a break-in to our delivery vehicle. We are keeping our heads up and we know that deeper challenges are part of the equation right now. We don't have cash in the shops and none of the attempts were worth their time. We're grateful that nobody got hurt.
- 2 instances of Covid-19.
- In both instances, with our team wearing properly fitted masks, even with several people being in close proximity to the person who turned out to be positive for hours, nobody else got sick. Because of your support, especially through subscriptions and new wholesale account recommendations, we were able to keep all people who were quarantined paid. It was a hefty sum, but y'all contributed greatly to making it possible.
- Enduring all of the health and social challenges and working together cohesively within a high degree of change.
Our Look Back
As we keep running this marathon, playing what feels like an endless note on a trumpet, we continue to share our sense of wonder, telling stories, and feeling awe for and honoring people. As such, we will continue with our two-prong set of communications:
- Highlighting and sharing wonder through craft, story, and service. This week's Cocoa love stories has been a highlight! Thanks, Alyssa and all who are participating.
- Being upfront about what it takes for us to keep developing new foundations that will keep our team, independent vendors, and coffee producers paid through the ups and downs. See below for details.
Good ThingsIn October, the roastery side of our business, Little Waves Coffee Roasters, was named one of the top three Micro Roasters in the US for Roast Magazine's Roaster of the Year.
In 2020, we used our business as a conduit where our community directed their purchases to help us continue supporting community organizations. While we did a small amount of giving ourselves - a bit towards health, community coffee, and a few others, mostly in the form of in-kind and participation contributions - y'all directed your purchases in a way that together, we contributed towards $19,607 (plus in-kind contributions) toward community efforts that align with our mission.
This money went to organizations & efforts (selection not in any order):
- Feed Durham
- El Centro Hispano
- Kalei Mar Kkhael - Beirut
- Good Neighbor Fund - McDougall Terrace
- Emancipate NC
- Spirit House
- Durham Literacy Center
- OND & Duke Park Rent Relief
- North Star
- Black Space
- Slow Money NC
- Grounds for Health
- International Women's Coffee Alliance
- Rofhiwa Book Café
- Local Schools
- Community Coffee at our shops.
- & More
Our Company & Team
- We are a Latina majority-owned company.
- 76% of our team are women or non-binary folks.
- 59% are people of color.
- 44% percent of our team is bilingual English/Spanish with at least eight more languages represented.
- In 2020, we took a deep look, with participation from across our team, into how we can support Black lives. We updated a few policies, made some contributions, joined a couple of action oriented organizations, have and are seeking resources, have and will use our voice and clout as a business to influence our leaders and policy to contribute toward health and equity in our community and beyond. As with us all and our society in general, challenges remain and we remain committed to participating in health and solutions.
- During 2020, your targeted purchases enabled our little 3 shops and a coffee roastery business to pay over 47,477 hours at a $15 minimum. That money was paid to local minded people who support local and independent small businesses! Looking back at that number feels astounding.
- We need to keep it up to keep all of the team on, but wow, and that's not including owner's hours or contractors.
Our co-owner Areli joined and participates in mission-driven Boards that align with our mission
Areli, LW & CC participated in professional collaboration efforts
- We share our Covid Strategies, Protocols & Checklists with other businesses
Awards & Recognition (selection)
- 2021 Micro Roaster of the Year Finalist
- Four Women of Color Powerhouses in Roasting
- Indy Week Best of 2020 - Durham Coffee Shop
- N&O Best in Class for the Triangle: Coffee House by critic Greg Cox
- Durham Magazine Best of 2020 - Durham Coffee Shop
- Roast Ratings
Little Waves Coffee Shipping Map
Since March 15th, 2020 y'all have shipped Little Waves Coffee to nearly 1,800 zip codes in all 50 states and 20 countries. The orders, map, and your notes are a key part of what has kept us going!
Relationship & Impact Driven Coffee Sourcing
Women Coffee Producers
- Ana Milena Claros, Colombia - purchased 2 years
- Anny Ruth, Loma la Gloria, El Salvador - purchased 3 years
- Mayan Harvest Women, Mexico, 2 years
- Mujeres del Grupo Terruño, Mexico, 2 years
- Boza Family, El Salvador - First Year
- Burundi Kinyovu Women
- Fugi Ikizere Women
- JNP, Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian - Kinyobu 1st year and getting another Burundi from her this year
- Planned 2021 purchases from BD Imports an African American woman-led company. Also founder Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity
- At least 20,000 lbs of compost diverted to local gardens, farms, and organizations.
- All Little Waves Coffees purchased at prices substantially higher than fair trade.
- Our coffee roaster saves 80% energy compared to other roasters.
- Continuously working at making sure our approach to sourcing, roasting, and serving further supports everyone in the value chain, letting all boats rise together.
- Wholesale growth is up 257% with substantial focus on this pathway in 2021 (Please keep referring us and telling your employers to switch! It's really helping).
Plans and Strategies
We are in awe. We are tired. We are excited, grateful, in love with what we do and the community we get to participate with. We are ready to keep on. We know we still have so much to go to safely and solvently get through all of this, but we are committed to keep hustling while doing our best to diversify, make deft and prudent decisions. We also revel in the ways we can be a comfort and connection with our communities.
We will keep making decisions with the following goals in mind:
- Keep our team safely employed at livable wages.
- Support our independent vendors.
- Develop deeper relationships with and support our coffee producers
- Stay in safe mode as long as we need to in order to protect our team and community and be a responsible example in our community.
- Contribute to our industry.
- Achieve our new pathways as a minimum.
- Focus on learning and serving.
- Feel grateful for every day we get to do what we love.
- Continue to innovate on how to achieve our goals, while continuing to express our mission more truly.
Thank you for all of your support!
With great love and appreciation,
Leon, Areli, and all at Little Waves Coffee and Cocoa Cinnamon
Photos besides break in - David Solow art + design