Naked Coffee: A Small Biz Manifesto
August 2, 2017 ||
I started working for Naked Coffee in Feb 2011. I was hired on as a cashier at the Midtown location, but not before completing a 3-day crash course on coffee & tea academics with pass-fail quizzes and a written final proctored by the owner himself. Give or take a few minor details, this is the same origin-story for every employee in the Naked Coffee company including the management.
I was 20 when I was hired. I’m nearly 27 now. To say that I “grew up” in the company is no aggrandizement of my experiences. In those 7 years, I’ve been on the verge of termination, worked at nearly every location, managed, and made lifelong friends both behind and across the counter. Naked Coffee is woven prominently into my personal narrative, and I can hardly imagine who I would be today without these experiences and the progression they fostered in me. Unquestionably, the keystone of my tenure with this radical small-business is the community of truly exceptional people that I have had the privilege of rubbing elbows with and the indelible imprint it has left on my character.
As I reflect on the history of the company, from its roots as a failed custom furniture boutique in Chico, remodeled into a successful coffeehouse, then sold to expand in Sacramento…
As I contemplate its future within Sacramento’s impending metropolitan paradigm that stretches the already thin margins of small-businesses…
As I sit down to write something more substantive than a fluff piece on how-to-brew-the-perfect-cup, I’m reminded of what genuinely inspires me as member of this professional community.
Coffee is the fuel, people are the engine.
People are the source of the ingenuity and resilience that have sustained Naked Coffee through the challenges of increased lateral competition, wage hikes, economic recessions, and green coffee shortages. It is this commitment to ourselves and our affiliates that sets us apart. Diligent, conscientious people are the impetus for lasting success and that core belief is how we have been able to adapt and grow organically for the last 16 years.
We believe in hiring only the best and brightest. We believe in providing our employees with support and resources to find success in the industry and their own lives. We believe that making good coffee isn’t a spiritual calling, artistic expression, or science experiment – it’s a beverage. And we take pride in creating an excellent product because it allows us to be who we are.
This pioneering, self-made drive is the salt that we look for in each new recruit. We are the proof that you don’t need venture capitalist funding to run a successful start-up. We are the stalwart alternative to a corporate model. We have publicly-reviewed specialty-grade coffees and eyebrow piercings. We have an exclusively vertical growth path for our upper-level positions (we only promote from within). We have an employee-financed emergency relief fund, because shit happens and sometimes you need a little help. We’ve collaborated on employee-volunteer programs with the Sacramento Library and The Chateau Senior Living Facility. We sponsored a free Summer Concert Series in McClatchy Park, “just for fun,” because no one had ever done it.
I don’t care about coffee. I care about people. I care about myself. I believe that working hard builds character, and I believe that people of character build good communities. Let this blog be a reflection of that spirit and vision.
This week is our annual company camping trip which we fondly refer to as Naked Camping. We’ll be up in the Northern Tahoe mountains getting sauced on cheap beer and hand-rolled cigarettes. We’ll brew black coffee in the morning for the hangovers. Someone usually brings an acoustic guitar and starts a round of Werewolves of London. And when we return to our cafes sunburnt and pockmarked with mosquito bites, we’ll wish we were still there as we prepare your morning cup.