There are many styles of leadership out there in the world, but often the ones people are drawn to and that earn the most sincere respect and loyalty are the quiet yet confident servant leaders.
Meet Laura Sinkgraven, the manager of our newest cafe out at Dawley Farms.
Laura came to us after graduating from Augustana University with a triple major in French, Art, and Modern Foreign Languages. While at Augie, she also studied cello--actually initially deciding on Augustana largely because of a long-time connection with cello instructor and professor at Augie, Dr. Stepanov.
When it comes to coffee, though, Laura explains, "It actually started with Cherry Bean, because they’re the first place I realized freshly roasted coffee makes a difference. Coffea helped me experience coffee itself differently."
As with many vikings, respites from campus life often included trips to the Louise Coffea, and, "After school I saw that Coffea was hiring and had always really enjoyed being a customer because of the environment the baristas created, so I wanted to join the team and recreate that for other customers, because service has always been really important to me. I always knew Coffea was different than just a normal coffee shop, but I didn't know why, so I was super interested in figuring that out."
At Augie, Laura cultivated a passion for cultural connection through languages, and she still seeks to bridge the cultures and the seemingly disparate worlds of coffee drinkers and coffee produces.
"I couldn't realize the why behind what Coffea is all about, but before long I realized it's all about pursuit of quality, community, and understanding... How much more the coffee industry can be than just a 10 second interaction at the counter. You can really have a connection with a customer and help them connect to that more global picture."
This bridging of communities is important to Laura as well as her husband--Dan Sinkgraven--who also works at Coffea as our Sales Manager.
At the Dawley Farms cafe, Laura's passion for community-building and that personal touch is clearly woven into that cafe's experience. She's worked with the neighboring bank to hold a Fall festival, hosted end-of-season banquets for high school sports teams, and so many food-truck afternoons to counteract wild road-construction.
But what stands out to her coworkers and customers alike is how you know that when you're in conversation, you're being heard. She really wants to understand--really wants to hear the intent of--the person that is in front of her.
What I feel are two very different questions when interviewing a barista are as follows:
1) What is your favorite drink to make for yourself? (Pour-overs of various coffees)
2) What is your favorite drink to have someone else make for you?
Her answer to number two is what really caught my attention and analogous to why she's such a good barista, manager, and person:
"Cappuccinos. Usually it’s something they [Laura's coworkers] are really proud of. They’re so concerned about texture, temp, and everything so when they hand it to you, they’re like, 'This is me. This is my person.'"
And that's Laura in a nut-shell.
She really gets it, which is exactly why she is such a great manager. Whether it's coffee, languages, art, or music, she wants to share the best she has to offer. And she makes herself fully present as she invites you to share your best self, makes you feel seen, feel heard, feel like you're not just welcome, but that you've got a place there.