The Rise of Alternative Coffee Businesses

A picture of a desk with a white iphone sitting next to a notepad and a newspaper. A text title reads "The Rise of Alternative Coffee Businesses."

In an uncertain time, some coffee pros have pivoted toward unique endeavors, including consulting businesses to advance our industry.


Cover photo by Markus Spiske for Unsplash

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last March, many coffee professionals found themselves suddenly out of work. While some folks remain as such, and others ultimately found their way into other fields, some coffee people saw an opportunity to forge their own paths by creating alternative coffee businesses.

One such individual is Sophie Short (she/her) of Sophie Does Coffee, who prior to the start of the pandemic, worked as the director of education and outreach at a small-medium roaster in Rhode Island. As her company scrambled to respond to COVID-19, Sophie was unfortunately furloughed. 

“Rather than seek out another similar position, I opted to work for myself,” Sophie explains. Sophie is now a private coffee consultant, offering her expertise as a seasoned coffee professional to help individuals and businesses bring their personal visions to fruition. Sophie’s services include developing training resources for cafés and roasters, equipment consultations, menu and service design, and overseeing café buildout from start to finish. You can access Sophie’s services via Instagram DM or by emailing her

Adam is a bald, Black man with a beard. He stands in an industrial-looking building with gray, tiled floors and metal scaffolding along the ceiling. He wears a green and white striped shirt, green shorts, white sneakers, and carries an off-white tote bag on his shoulder. He looks directly into the camera with a neutral expression.
Adam, pictured here pre-pandemic, seeks to help business owners understand how they can achieve workplace equity and diversity.

Adam Murray (he/him) was already in a transitional phase of his career when the pandemic began. As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum last summer, he saw an opportunity to combine his passions for hospitality and social justice into an equity and inclusion consulting business. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Apron Equity offers assessment, strategic planning, and workshop facilitation services on a sliding scale to help small-medium hospitality businesses reach their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. “Along with everyone else in hospitality, we’ve had to evolve our skill sets and build our personal brands to survive,” Adam says.

Apron Equity has received enthusiastic support from the coffee community in Portland and beyond. You can access their services via their website.

Court Gillyard (she/her) worked in the mortgage industry until February 2019, when she embarked on her own personal “eat pray love” journey. “I spent most of my days drinking various types of coffee,” Court remarks. It was during this time that she launched Coffee with Court, which she originally envisioned as a space to introduce coffee lovers to their next favorite shop.

Court, a Black woman with medium-length, wavy brown hair, sits among white blankets while holding a coffee mug that says “coffee is my life.” She has a toothy grin, and her eyes appear closed. She wears a dark grey Christmas sweater with images of snowmen and candy canes.
Court has a love for local coffee shops, especially those run by women or minorities. She is excited to support their marketing efforts through Coffee with Court.

Much like Adam, Court eventually saw an opportunity to combine two of her passions into a business, and soon began offering marketing services to coffee shop owners. “Owners are quite busy and wear multiple hats, so in many cases they don’t have the time to market their business on a consistent basis,” Court explains. “That’s where I come into the picture.” Court helps businesses develop their social media strategies, creating custom monthly calendars of unique post ideas that keep customers interested and engaged with business offerings. She also offers social media management, as well as one-time consultations for businesses seeking marketing advice.

An image of metallic green metal straws with “Coffee with Court” written in all capital letters on the side.
 In the interest of sustainability, Court offers eco-friendly, reusable straws with “Coffee with Court” printed down the side. “One less paper straw and business card in the trash, but one more Coffee with Court follower,” she teases.

As coffee professionals continue to navigate through the pandemic, the industry may continue to see an increase in individuals forging their own paths by building alternative businesses. “Everyone is an entrepreneur in 2021,” says Adam. Everyone has unique skills and passions that can help push the coffee industry toward a better future, perhaps in long-overdue ways, during this otherwise incredibly difficult time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 72440396_10220463448402035_4945210930704154624_o-1-550x687.jpg

Arielle Rebekah Gordon is a transgender activist, coffee professional, and author of the blog Trans and Caffeinated. Though her love for an impeccably brewed cup of coffee is strong, her passion for fostering genuine human connection using coffee as a medium is even stronger. She dreams of a world in which producers are paid a thriving wage, baristas are treated equitably, and consumers understand the love evident in those first 90 feet.

About baristamagazine 2121 Articles
Barista Magazine is the leading trade magazine in the world for the professional coffee community.