My introduction to the specialty coffee industry began eleven years ago when my brother and I decided to open a cybercafé in Concord, California. It is said that the best ideas come from meeting a customer’s need. We didn’t know that the need we would meet would exceed our expectations.
Our family had always been super close, but, an unexpected event separated us for a year in 2006. My mother and sister were in Mexico and since we wanted to stay close to them, we started relying on internet cafes to communicate. It is hard to imagine that this was just a decade ago since technology has dramatically advanced and we are now more connected than ever. But, during this time, phones were not accessible to everyone and most of our community around Concord, CA didn’t know what the internet was or how to use it to communicate with their loved ones. Some in our community had not seen their families in a long time, while others had never met new family members, nephews and nieces, cousins etc. That’s how Mi Oficina Computer Café was born. We wanted to enrich our community by connecting them with their families via webcam and at the same time narrow the digital divide through a great cup of coffee.
We opened our doors in 2007 right before the collapse of the economy, which didn’t affect us as much as other industries, since we were just beginning. My husband Carlos worked in the construction industry, which was impacted by the recession, and he soon joined me in the café. Working together wasn’t ideal, so when the opportunity came for him to go help a fellow technician, I highly encouraged him.
That is how Carlos begin working in the service sector. Unfortunately, not long afterward the coffee industry suffered the loss of a great man and a great friend to many, as Silvano Meconi passed away. Silvano was a pioneer for La Spaziale USA and Nuova Ricambi USA. He was also well known for his brilliance and ability to fix everything. As Gene Lemos would say, “He was the worst customer; he fixed it all.” This unexpected event propelled me to join Carlos in this new adventure and mission to keep Silvano’s business and legacy alive. So, two years ago I jumped into the technician’s world, a world full of entrepreneurs and I’m glad to say that all my interactions with everyone in this sector have propelled me and inspired me to grow.
This growth is both personal and relational. On a personal level, I am a connector and I am passionate about building strategic partnerships. And, on a relational level, I want to contribute, and I want to be able to help shape this community.
I remember walking into my first CTG summit 2017, a room full of men, as well as a few couples. I immediately scanned the room and was drawn to a table where a man and a woman were talking. I didn’t know at that time that I was sitting with the well-known Marty Roe and his wife Tooti. I immediately began asking questions and without hesitation Tooti started sharing tips and giving me a list of resources. I walked out encouraged and with two new friends.
At this year’s Specialty Coffee Expo I met many women in the tech industry. Meeting Rebecca McNelly and the other technicians inspired me to learn more and to get involved even though I’m not a technician. That is why I attended the CTG Summit in Los Angeles. This experience has been by far the most rewarding one of all. I was welcomed by familiar faces, lucky enough to be partnered up with great techs like Will Lahara, John Holladay and many others during the competitions and I was a part of the winning team! But aside from winning a trophy for being a part of the team to successfully diagnose and fix a machine, I was once again coming back with new connections and with a new resolve to learn more and do more.
To all the women, I say keep on inspiring others. To all the men, thanks for cheering us on.