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Meet Trailblazer Vanessa Hopkins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Hopkins.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Coffee has been a part of my daily life since my pre-teen years. Back when The Coffee Plantation in Tempe was the only real coffee shop in the valley. I think of special moments like my dad bringing me a cup of coffee as I got ready for the day in high school. There’s just something about a cup of coffee that brings people together, creates a connection.

Wander Coffee is a dream that has been evolving since my first job as a barista when I was 18 in Gold Canyon AZ. I’ve worked at a handful of coffee shops. Working my way up to manager at the Scottsdale Nordstrom Ebar in my early 20’s and helping open Liberty Market as the FOH manager. I tried my hand outside of the restaurant and beverage industry and I always seemed to find myself back behind the bar slinging drinks and meeting new customers. Working at Press Coffee Roasters took me from a black americano girl, to a single origin pour over fan. When I saw pour overs on a menu, I never understood why someone would pay so much for a cup of drip coffee! Little did I know, that cup of coffee would transport me to coffee farms around the world and once again give that special connection, this time to the farmers and coffee roasters.

Wander Coffee is the culmination of the desire to create a special connection in communities around Arizona, only serving locally roasted coffee. We are an event based coffee company, providing drinks for guests at events, and pop-ups at local boutiques and churches.

We love our customers! People bring me to life. I think that’s why I never did well in an office setting. To see someone have that ‘Ah Ha’ moment when they try an Ethiopian coffee for the first time, to learn exactly how they like their cold brew or even just being someone to help them feel heard and seen, makes my day.

I hope one day soon when people think of Wander Coffee, they think of a company where they feel welcome, appreciated and confident they will get the best cup of coffee around.

Has it been a smooth road?
Wander Coffee has been a dream for so long, it has been scary to take that leap into making it a reality. We are bootstrapping our company and are starting small to grow efficiently and thoughtfully. Once I’m invested in something, I want to do the job or task to the best of my ability. I sometimes need to listen to female entrepreneurs on a podcast or audiobook to remind me to ‘Go Scared’. That if I wait until everything is perfect to launch my website or to book an event, it will never happen. I’ve learned, that no company big or small has it all figured out. It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. In our culture we like to go it alone and get to the top of the mountain and say, I did it! But truly, for most, it takes a community of friends and fellow business owners to accomplish the impossible. I was afraid to reach out to business owners who had similar business models, thinking they would feel threatened or treat me poorly. Not one time has another business owner turned me away when I asked for advice. I’m not saying it will never happen, but my advice is, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help if you get stuck.

We’d love to hear more about Wander Coffee.
When deciding on a name for the business, Wander Coffee just felt so perfect. It was like fireworks went off when it came to me. Not only does it explain my gypsy soul, of always pursuing the ‘next thing’, my love for nature and exploring, but it perfectly explains what we do.

Wander Coffee not only wanders the valley showing up at events, but we also rotate locally roasted coffee.
If a coffee shop does not roast their own coffee, it seems very limiting to only serve coffee from one roaster.
Our first coffee roaster on the pour over the bar was from Garland Coffee Roasters of Sedona. Sedona is magical all by itself, but the Garland family makes Sedona truly special, including their small roastery.

But they are just one of several local coffee roasters who expertly tease out the flavors naturally infused by the soil, elevation, climate and drying process of the coffee beans.

There are roasters just starting out who make my head spin with their coffee knowledge. Companies like Pair and Mythical Coffee, aren’t just selling beans, but an experience.

Along with our coffee, we also make delicious non-coffee drinks. We customize our menu for events and will even create a new drink for an event upon request.

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I’m thankful to be alive in this time when a woman has freedoms we’ve only dreamed of since the beginning of civilization. That being said, becoming a mother changed everything for me. I loved my career I was building, managing a team at an espresso bar that had sales close to a million a year. I received lots of pats on the back and was usually at the top of the ranking in my division. I also had several favorite customers who I would see throughout the week. Going from that to sleepless nights and diaper changes was isolating and thankless most days. But when it came time to return from maternity leave, I was addicted to the sweet smell of my baby. I remember crying on the way home from work, knowing he would only be awake for an hour or two after I got home from work. After realizing I had to be the one who was raising him full time, it broke my heart to leave my other love, my job.

Most men don’t struggle with this. It’s understood that most dads are gone most of the day and the responsibility falls on the mother. My husband was always very supportive of my dreams.

But either way, this kept me from growing in my career. That is partly how Wander Coffee evolved. I can, for the most part, make my own hours and be available when one of my kids has a special event at school, which they would be heartbroken if I missed.

Maybe when my kids are grown and out of the house, my dreams can grow without limitation? Until then, we do what we can to be there for our family, but also live out our dreams and goals.

Pricing:

  • Pour Over $5.00
  • Cold Brew $4.00
  • Microburst $5.00

Contact Info:

  • Website: wander.coffee
  • Email: vanessa@wandercoffee.com
  • Instagram: @_wandercoffee
  • Facebook: @wander.coffee

Image Credit:
Denise Karis, Emily Irby, Melanie Cedeno

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