Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I grew up in a tiny town (I'm talking 7 streets total) in Northern NY. I was homeschooled from kindergarten until graduation, which gave me the free time to enjoy playing bass in a punk rock band for 4 years. I moved to Rochester in 2003, and studied business management at Roberts Wesleyan College. While in college, I got a job at Java's cafe, where I absolutely fell in love with coffee. In 2013, I became a coffee roaster and my husband and I launched Fuego Coffee Roasters. I am totally in love with what I do!
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I was kind of a weirdo (I guess maybe I still am). I wanted to be a rock-star, a race car driver, an author, a tattoo artist, or a truck driver.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
Studying business management at RWC made me absolutely sure I wanted to be a business owner. Being a barista and a store manager at Java's is really what solidified my love for coffee and running a cafe, and my husband's passion for coffee really fed my desire to pursue it as a lifetime gig. After both of us had worked several years at Java's, we finally bought our own coffee roaster and went to town! We read so many books, talked to coffee professionals, visited a myriad of cafes, and just kept researching and learning. I think the hardest part, in a city like Rochester that is saturated with coffee, was to set ourselves apart, differentiate ourselves, and let our love of the craft demonstrate itself in the quality of the coffee.
In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up?
In moments of doubt, I have to remind myself of why I do what I do, and the importance of how I do it. I try to frequently ask my baristas or customers for feedback, which is sometimes positive and sometimes critical. Both are crucial! Positive feedback let's me know to keep on doing what I have been; critical feedback helps me note areas where I need to be growing. While the critical isn't always fun to hear, I really need it to help push me to keep improving, and not become complacent.
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
I have a number or beautiful friends who have started, or are about to start, their own businesses. I tell them all the exact same thing about being a new business owner: "I get paid crap, I never have a day off, and I wouldn't change it for the world." Being my own boss is a hell of a lot of work, it is not glamorous, but it is the most freeing thing I have ever experienced!
What inspires you?
My mom! She is the hardest working, most patient, creative, forgiving human I have ever known. She taught me how to make my own way, fix things when they are broken, make things instead of buy them, and always be generous.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
I love that I get to be creative and productive, but seeing people really enjoy the coffee that I roasted is the greatest freaking thing.
What do you find most challenging?
Being a female business owner who works in the "back of the house" can really be limiting. I do most of the production, and have input in every business decision, but since I am not seen as often, nor am I as good at socializing as my husband, people often don't even realize that I am the co-owner of the business.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
Rochester is absolutely bursting at the seams with incredible creatives! I could write pages and pages of locals that I admire, but I'm going to just pick a few. For example, the local female business owners….
Andrea with the Red Fern, Catt with Happy Gut Sanctuary, Shelby with Little Button, the list goes on and on! The women who help enrich our minds, like Kaija with Open Letter; those who seek out justice and equality, like Becca with City Newspaper. You ladies plowed your way through, did your own thing, your own way and enriched this beautiful city.