We had the good fortune of connecting with Alicia Zyburt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alicia, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My husband, Devon and I co-founded Bae Coffee Company in the midst of the pandemic last year. In the spring of 2020, both of us furloughed from our hospitality jobs in the throes of the pandemic and local lockdowns in Chicago, we were asking a lot of questions. We, for the first time, were able to assess what our lives looked like from the outside looking in. We were two people who only knew how to work hard, and we’d been working hard on other people’s projects for our entire careers. We decided it was time to make a leap, so we dove in head-first and started learning everything we could about the coffee roasting and selling process. After all, we really had nothing but time to learn. A few phone calls, some virtual networking, and several books later, we stood in front of a roaster and successfully dropped our first ten pounds of beans. We officially launched the Bae Coffee ecommerce store on September 21st of 2020 and have since partnered with local businesses and wholesalers in and around Chicago, and we are so passionate about our process and proud of our ethically-sourced product (we only work with companies that guarantee fair wages for their farmers). Our founding mindsets were essentially “If not now, when?” and “How can we learn the most and do the most good?”Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
With a degree in illustration, it’s hard to draw a direct line between what I graduated college thinking I would do and where I am now. However, my creative education has clearly informed my skills and what I have been able to bring to the table, up to and including Bae Coffee. As the Creative Director of Bae, the design of the brand (as well as the marketing and promotion I’ve picked up throughout my years of diversifying my skills) in all its forms has been the most gratifying creative endeavor I’ve ever taken on. It can be challenging to have the identity of such a fledgling thing rest solely on your shoulders, but it has taught me to trust my instincts, to remember why I was drawn to art at a young age, and to, most importantly, JUST GO FOR IT. I feel we’re taught all too often that a project (or an idea or business etc) is ready to be shown to the world when, and only when, all the wrinkles have been ironed out, all questions are answered, and when the do-er is an absolute expert on every matter they may come across. Setting aside how purely unattainable any of those individual criterion are to attain, it can be positively paralyzing to someone with passion to be expected to answer for and defend their passion from the word “go.” We as a society are not kind to creatives, so it was an enormous struggle to learn how to be kind to myself as one. And now that I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn how every day), it is my goal to pass that onto others.If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m writing this from a post-COVID, day-dreaming perspective, so here it goes: In Chicago, with no shortage of things to do, eat, and drink, the itinerary is easily mucked up by tourist traps. But, like every city, it has its gems, sometimes hiding in plain sight. Each day, we would rise slowly. I will have made a reservation for my dear friend and The Publishing House, a bed-and-breakfast in the West Loop neighborhood, and we will be within walking distance to several fabulous coffee spots first thing in the morning. We would change it up each day, but be sure to visit La Colombe, Sawada Coffee, and Sweetgoat for a caffeine boost and a pastry to start the day. One day though, we would traverse up to Lincoln Park to get our tastebuds going with a sip and a bite from Elaine’s Coffee Call in the Hotel Lincoln. Brunch would be essential of course, and we would be sure to visit The Allis at Soho House, also in the West Loop, as well as Beatnik on the River in the Loop, and Lost Larson in Andersonville to name a few. In the late mornings and early afternoons, sight seeing would include the Art Institute, the Garfield Park Conservatory, The Architectural Boat Tour, and a walk through the Lincoln Park gardens, just on the outskirts of the zoo. Shopping, of course, would be along the Magnificent Mile, never missing the boutique Oak and Rush streets. The Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods also have remarkable antique stores, which alone could take up an entire afternoon. Then when it’s time to change for the main events (cocktails and dinner), the evenings would be spent at Dusek’s (either before or after a live show at the attached Thalia Hall in Pilsen), NoMi on the roof of the Park Hyatt Chicago, the incomparable Lula Cafe in Logan Square (ideally on a Monday for their famed Farm Dinner), Mama Delia in Wicker Park, and most notably Cindy’s Rooftop, on the thirteenth floor of the historic Chicago Athletic Association, with views of Millennium Park and the lake.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people have made this blossoming business possible for Devon and I. Firstly, Devon’s mother, who passed away in 2019, is the woman we have to thank for our slogan “Life’s too short for bad coffee.” With the money she left to Devon, we were able to put ourselves through “coffee school” to learn all the technical training behind roasting our own coffee. And secondly, Brewpoint Coffee’s amazing founders (Melissa and Angelo Villanueva) and their head roaster (Pete McMahon) have given us the support and training we’ve needed to flourish, and have graciously shared their workshop space with us to realize this dream.
Other: TikTok @baecoffeeco