When did you first get the idea for Social Brew?
When I was in college, my school hosted a program to draw awareness to the prevalence of human trafficking. It was the first time I became aware of this on a global scale.
Even though I had no idea what I wanted to do professionally, I was touched by the issue and I knew I wanted to try to do my part to put an end to human trafficking one day.
During my senior year, I was visiting my family in Hawaii. With graduation looming, I was thinking about my next steps. That’s when I first thought about opening a coffee shop that would employ survivors of human trafficking. I was actually sitting at a café just off Kalakaua Avenue with my dad when the idea popped into my head.
I loved the idea of creating a space that people would want to visit — who doesn’t love a cute coffee shop? — with a strong social mission.
How did you turn your daydream into a reality?
During a mission trip to India I co-led in 2017, I realized how much it means to have even one person believe in you and all of your potential.
I was lucky enough to meet a number of amazing humans who care about others with no strings attached. It inspired me to consider how I could do the same: by creating opportunities for survivors of trafficking on their journey from rescue to reintegration back into society. I want to give them tools to be independent so they can pursue their dreams. We all deserve a chance to be our very best selves.
Fast forward four years to 2020. A month into the pandemic, I was laid off from my job. In a way, I was relieved because I wasn't challenged or empowered at work. I felt small. But I felt guilty for feeling that way because I know so many people are unemployed or underemployed.
This unexpected time away from work gave me the chance to re-evaluate my plans. Maybe Social Brew didn’t have to be a pipe dream.
My sister became a huge motivating force. In the midst of the chaos and a serious re-evaluation of her own career, she started building an app. I saw how her eyes lit up when she talked about her ideas. I started thinking about how nobody knows what the future will hold, so perhaps taking a risk is the best thing to do in uncertain times. I decided to take the leap, but I soon learned what all entrepreneurs eventually do: When and how to pivot.
The COVID crisis meant my initial vision of a physical coffee collective would have to be on indefinite hold. I decided I would launch an e-commerce website within a year. Social Brew launched in October 2021, and I'm learning more lessons every day.
What do you love about the greater Los Angeles region and why is it a good place to launch your business?
I first moved to Southern California to attend Biola University. I never imagined I'd call it home, but I've grown to love it as a place of endless possibilities, communities of all races and ethnicities, beautiful beaches, a buzzing art culture, a thriving foodie scene with some of the most wonderful coffee shops in the country, serving up some pretty epic brews.
It was daunting at first to find my place in a city of 3.9 million people, but through my personal faith and support from friends and family, I've realized I have something unique to offer. No one is going to invite me to take up space. I simply have to show up and invite others into a conversation about dreams and stories.
You have a unique background, having lived on three different continents. What role has that played in your work and professional interests?
My father was an executive for a global company, so our family moved around a lot. Growing up while experiencing many different cultures and worldviews has shaped so much of who I am and how I go about my life. I feel extremely grateful for it.
It has definitely come with its fair share of challenges, though. Sometimes it felt equally as difficult as it was beautiful. I had to start over and assimilate wherever I was. But I did learn to be adaptable and comfortable with change. I have learnt so much about myself by taking risks and putting myself out there with others.
As an adult, I have become more confident about who I am, so I don’t fear it as much as I used to. Instead, I approach new people and situations with a curiosity to learn. I feel like you can never go wrong when you approach things this way. I always encourage people to travel if they have the chance. When we learn how big the world is, we can better appreciate the differences in others' backgrounds and experiences as part of what makes life beautiful.
I am a firm believer that everyone has something to offer to this world. My family started a foundation when I was quite young, which does service work in India and Romania. This has also contributed to the vision I have for Social Brew.
My parents raised my sister and I to always show up with open hands and a willing heart; to simply ask “what do you need?” and “is there any way I can practically help?” Sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s both. Often, helping just means sitting with someone and having a conversation. I hope to infuse this mentality into the fabric of Social Brew.
Time for a fun one. What’s your favorite coffee memory?
When I was back home in Hawaii, I visited a small coffee farm on the beautiful north shore of Oahu. I loved learning about a small, fair-trade business — and it was so cool to talk to the people who work there. I marveled at how much coffee they produce from such a small piece of land!
Getting a glimpse of coffee's journey from berry to cup makes a difference when I’m enjoying it. It just tastes that much sweeter.
What’s your favorite coffee drink?
A vanilla latte (basic, I know) but it’s SO good. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. When I am trying to taste all of the flavors of a certain type of coffee, I like to try it black first — but I always find myself wanting to add a bit of sweetness afterward.
For Social Brew newbies, which product is a good starting point?
I love all of them (I'm biased!) but if I had to choose my favorite, it would be the 100% Kona single-origin. Kona is a legendary bean that hails from the Big Island of Hawaii. I love the semi-sweet, deeply rich flavor. It’s a perfect balance of both and it's never bitter.