Andželika // BREW Manager
Andželika Jokubauskaitė is a passionate coffee lover, she started as a barista behind the bar, but now she is a roaster and a manager at BREW, counting sixth year in this company. Most importantly though – a lover of connection, for her, coffee indeed is a way to connect. In this conversation, she shares about the challenges of finding her style of leadership, amid questions and answers on how to do it in her unique way. The beautiful art of creating an atmosphere where people want to come back, and finding a balance between the job she adores, and the challenge of finding time to recharge after you give it your best.
Tell me how your journey with coffee began? What was it that personally drew you in about it?
I started drinking coffee back when I was still in school. I used to live in Mažeikiai which is a small city, so there were no coffee shops to go to and enjoy a cup of coffee or to spend some time on my own. That is why every time I visited Vilnius packed with coffee spots, I saw the romance of it. I always had that nagging thought of living here and spending time in coffee shops, enjoying every cup, writing, reading, having quality time with myself. It felt like it was my “thing”. Exactly that happened, I came to study in Vilnius, and my free time was spent in cafes.
I started paying more attention to a barista craft and quietly dreaming about being in their position, on the other side of the bar, serving people instead of being served. It snowballed from there. This happened about 8 years ago. I sent out my resume to one coffee chain - ended up working there for a year.
After that, I went to the USA spent some time traveling. I came back to continue my studies, needed a job once again, so I ended up searching for one!
Funny thing was that my friend tagged me in a post that BREW. Specialty Coffee was hiring. She knew how important and how special coffee is for me, and here I am working with them. If it wasn’t for my friend, I might not even be here.
How crazy is that when you think about it?
You’ve been working in this industry for quite some time and I’m sure you’ve met all kinds of people. How has it affected your personal life?
People who were customers at first, became my closest friends.
Actually, my whole friend group was reshaped because I started working here. I am so thankful for it.
I even met my boyfriend while working at BREW. So that definitely changed my life. A lot of people became like family to me.
You would have learned so much through interacting with people from different backgrounds, do you think your experience has changed the way you approach interpersonal relationships?
I think the main thing that I learned was to never differentiate people. I learned to approach people as kindly and simply as I can.
I learned that it wasn‘t always me who tried to better someones day, I had days when people came in, and changed my day for the better. It reminded me, how different people are, and how easy it is to share joy. It was a default for me to share joy with others, but it always somehow left me in awe each time I received it from the customers. That encouraged me, and inspired me to share kindness even more.
What is something that urges you to wake up in the morning, even after 5 years, and go to work?
People. It was, and always is about people for me. While I was still working behind the bar every person who came in trough that door was like a gift, it felt like welcoming them into my home. I wanted to make people smile.
After awhile it became more about the team I am trusted to work with, now that motivates me the most.
On the topic of the team! I paid attention to how carefully and responsibly you select such a beautiful team of people to work at BREW. What is your way of selecting people to be on the team in this coffee shop?
I think the first and the most important part is the interview. To me the conversation opens up a lot about their personality. I try to make it simple. I want for them to feel comfortable, if I see that a person is nervous, I try to make them feel safe, as I want to have an honest conversation instead of making them feel like they have to prove something. In the conversation I want to learn about their values, and hobbies, reasons why they want to work in the coffee industry.
Honesty is very important to me. Then I feel if that person wants a job to have extra cash, or if they are burning for it with passion as I did, when I came for it.
I want to know if they are excited to work in customer service, and enjoy talking and learning about people. You usually spot all of that in the interview. I search for passion, kindness and warmth about a person, always.
What is something you wish every barista would pay attention to when serving a customer?
I want them to pay extra attention to the customer. A quality cup of coffee is already a must, but giving some more attention to a customer is very vital. I think people come back to BREW because there is that little touch of kindness. They remember how we make them feel. For me it was a natural instinct. People weren‘t just customers for me, they were guests. Imagine if a friend comes to your home, you would do everything to make them feel comfortable, accepted, and satisfied. You share a good meal or a warm drink accompanied with a wholesome conversation. So I approach it the same way when it comes to serving them at BREW that‘s what I wish from every barista working here.
How do you think you all managed to create a space which feels like a social club in a way?
Relationships. Cause we create connections with people. One day after another, it grows. We start the connection, afterwards customers become comfortable enough to create it with us in return. We are like a roll of yarn of connections, even customers become friends with each other here, not only with us baristas.
It was like that from the very beginning.
With all of this experience and wisdom you've gathered, can you share what some of the biggest challenges are when managing a coffee shop?
I think right now it is making sure the quality stays good, as our team grows. Also, keeping up the curiosity of our baristas and willingness to learn. Hopefully, our social club energy is present. And as for me, the challenge is learning balance, to have my heart full of joy not only at work, but also in my own life. I usually give it all to my team, and customers that come in to the shop, so my personal challenge is to find balance.
Can you tell me about the most challenging times you had figuring out what you wanted to do?
There was a quite challenging time about 3 years ago. BREW started growing a big clientele, at that point I was already done with my studies. The job became my everyday life. In relation to it being my everyday, along with more customers coming in, it reshaped customer service for me. Now it was fast paced. I didn‘t have as much time to chit chat with every customer, just how it used to be in the beginning. I started working harder, and faster. Making a quality cup of coffee, and being able to show some extra attention to every customer became much more complicated.
Because customers became my close friends, I couldn‘t imagine my life any other way, doing a different job. I felt like I didn‘t have a right to be tired, cause I wanted it to always be a part of me.
What do you think brought that on? Do you feel like maybe something was missing in that time?
I think joy was gone, I didn‘t enjoy the routine anymore. My main motivation, the slow process I enjoyed at the very beginning when I started here, to serve every single customer as a guest in my own home, that was gone.
What encouraged you to keep going?
BREW founders Agnė and Tadas gave me space for growth, and challenge which I believe gave me back that motivation again. Even though the beginning of learning new things was pretty tough. I hated to make mistakes, it felt like the end of the world each time I messed up.
I felt the pressure of needing to take responsibility, and act a certain way because I was in a manager position. I am very hard on myself, I felt unworthy if I didn‘t do everything perfectly. That‘s something that is still part of me, but I did learn to own up to my mistakes, and improve to make things better. Nonetheless, working with a team brought me joy that I lost working behind the bar. So here I am, still here. (giggles)
It sounds like you had so many different seasons of your life in this career, how do you think this has shaped you as a person?
I actually never thought I could be in a leading position. I considered myself as too soft, and too sensitive. I never liked to order people around. I mean, that‘s how I saw it at the beginning. That‘s why I didn‘t see myself as a good fit for that.
I made a promise to myself, that my way of leading wouldn't be telling people what to do, I was determined to lead by example. I did my best in hopes that my team would feel inspired to follow. I did it this way, because I found it was the most effective for me when I was learning from someone. As you watch others, feeling inspired, and fascinated by someone‘s work ethic it encourages you to do your best.
Also, I learned to take responsibility for my actions. I couldn‘t run away anymore if I messed up, cause I was also the link between the team, and the founders. So when something ever went wrong, it taught me to take on responsibility, if I or anyone from the team made a mistake.
I grew so much as a person, Agnė and Tadas are like a second family to me. I learned things that I wasn‘t able to learn from my own family growing up, and for that journey I am so thankful.
Who knows what else may it bring?