Last September, I finally took the leap after 4.5 years and registered The Chocolate Barista as an LLC. I had so many emotions at the time: What took so long? I can’t believe I’m an actual business owner now. Wait, now what? For those first few weeks in September, I sat on my freshly minted business and… did nothing. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities for what to do next. So, I went on about my business while I let those feelings settle and felt inspired enough to start making a plan (we were six months into the pandemic and coming off the heels of a nationwide racial reckoning, so functioning was still near existent for me).
About a week later, I received a call from Chris McAuley from Getchu Some Gear. In partnership with Seattle Coffee Gear, they were offering me a $5,000 grant to help get my business off the ground. Chris’s call was confirmation from the universe that I was moving The Chocolate Barista in the right direction. But they also reminded me that I was appreciated, loved, and supported by the community I forged a space for, and they wanted me to win just as much as I wanted them to win.
Chris has this ability to see people where they’re at through the bullshit and noise. They ask the tough questions, keep their foot on the necks of people leading our industry, and inspire our community to take good care of each other. Through coffee gear boxes, Chris is able to share their passion for meaningful connection and support in a tangible way by giving the people what they need to pursue their goals professionally, or simply provide a little luxury for someone to have at home. Both are important to the coffee ecosystem.
I caught up with Chris briefly to just check in with the homie and ask them about the new Getchu A (Gear) Grant program they’re wrapping up. Applications are open until tomorrow, 10/15 for historically excluded coffee business owners who’ve been in business five years or less! So, y’all better go head and get you some gear!
TCB: Hey Chris! How are things? What are you up to these days?
CM: hey, i’m alright! lately i’ve been up to a lot, but still desperately trying to make rest/recharging a priority. after one more secret project reveal we’re going on hiatus again to chill for a while. i’ve also been working to build my own thing, consulting/equity-building type stuff. oh, and making soap!
TCB: Can you tell me more about the Getchu A (Gear) Grant program?
CM: ‘getchu a (gear) grant” is a remix of the original initiative we put on with the help of several partners last year. this time around, we’re working with brewista to distribute giant gear packages to coffee business owners that hold marginalized identities. there’s a LOT of gear, so we’ve upped our original goal of 25 recipients and are encouraging more folks to apply. we also made the criteria for number of years in business a bit more broad. Puerto Rico is also included, ps!
we are stoked about this particular round, because we’ve seen a few gear box recipients start up their own coffee businesses this year. some of those people have already applied! we had no idea this would happen again, but it’s still hard out here, there’s still a pandemic. we’re going to gladly accept any chance to boost our community in this way. the new deadline to apply is 10/15!
TCB: Is there a person in your life or a specific experience that catalyzed your passion for giving back?
CM: i think part of it comes from my family, specifically my late grandfather. but a lot of it comes from working in the service industry and the relationships you end up building with your co-workers. back when i was taking a break from coffee, i was a butcher/fishmonger at a popular grocery store chain. i worked with an assortment of cis men, one of them an older guy from my very small, super southern hometown. i was worried because i was a little brown trans dude working in what seemed like a not so great environment for someone like me.
those dudes turned out to be my best work friends, haha. we’d coordinate breakfast for opening shifts, they’d share berries from their gardens and i’d make jam for them, stuff like that. on my last day there after the store meeting they surprised me with a really fancy clip on tuner for my guitar. i went into that job thinking i was going to be miserable, but so many people there were nice to me (and stood up for me) for no reason and without expecting anything in return. there’s no ideal work situation (work is not ideal, imo), but those country dudes taught me that it was easy to be generous in my own way. they are probably one of the main reasons i have this big “we got to take care of each other” energy.
TCB: You’ve helped a lot of people over the years to get coffee equipment and money they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, myself included. How can we give back and support YOU?
CM: hm, this one is always tough for me. maybe buy my soap? check my LinkedIn and hire me? do people still use that platform? thank you for asking <3 <3
TCB: What legacy are you hoping to leave behind, if anything?
CM: i don’t know if this counts: you can be serious about coffee and working in this industry while also not acting so or formal serious all the time. a lot of behind the scenes getchu work happens via text, with emojis and gifs. cydni and me did re:co with our shoes off in the garden a couple of years ago.. and here we are, still getting things done (albeit by accident sometimes). if that’s not a legacy, it’s evidence that professionalism is a sham and just another way for people in power to be gatekeepers.
TCB: Thank you so much Chris!