Published on January 21, 2021 at 3:39pm.
Interview by Mary Martin. Photos by Jan Osborn.
This past December, a new coffee shop opened its doors just down the street from the Dallas Arboretum. But more than coffee and pastries, Well Grounded Coffee Community is dedicated to its baristas first. Michael and Natalie Huscheck are the co-founders of Well Grounded, and their partnership with Exodus Ministries is making it possible for women who have experienced incarceration to get a job at the new coffee shop, and continue to receive job training and holistic development. Our interview with Natalie highlights the journey to opening their nonprofit, and how the community can get involved.
Well Grounded Coffee Community opened its doors just a month ago. Can you tell us the story of how you decided to open a coffee shop that partners with Exodus Ministries to provide job training?
We had been interested and studying the possibilities of influencing someone’s life toward transformation, when we stumbled on an amazing place in San Francisco called The Delancey Street Foundation. They have been doing social transformation with formerly incarcerated adults for almost 50 years through work and education. We visited a couple times and learned from the residents there. Since then, we have had the privilege to see other great organizations doing similar work right here in Dallas such as Bonton Farms, LalaLand Cafe’, Cafe Momentum. We met Susan Stephens, the Director of Exodus Ministries, at a local networking meeting and knew it was a perfect fit.
Opening any restaurant in the middle of pandemic seems like an uphill battle, not to mention the challenges of launching a nonprofit. What has been the most satisfying moment for you to see your dream come to life?
Two things come to mind here. One is the incredible community support and feedback. The other is when the caseworker tells me that our Baristas are saying “this is so much more than just a job. It’s a community with opportunity to learn and grow so much.”
How did you begin working collaboratively with Exodus Ministries? Can you share about that partnership and some of the other partnerships you’ve formed along the way?
We initially planned to begin our NonProfit as a residential program with the Coffee House being the employment for the residents. When we found Exodus, we realized we could get started sooner with the Coffee House if we partnered with them. They are a residential program for ladies who have been incarcerated, and they have been doing an amazing job for three decades. The partnership is a true blessing. Other local partners are Maya’s Mediterranean for soup, Empire Baking Company for traditional pastries, Unrefined Bakery for gluten free, dairy free, and vegan options, and And I Like It for keto cheesecakes.
What were your first employees saying as they learned the coffee shop ropes? Does each employee learn every part of the business?
We have hired three Barista Heroes so far. At first they expressed feeling overwhelmed and not sure they would get it all down. It’s fun to see their confidence growing in all areas: coffee, food, customer care, inventory, business strategy, etc. They each definitely have areas they prefer, but are each willing to learn all aspects.
You are calling Well-Grounded a community, rather than simply a coffee shop. How are you seeing the community support around your organization?
We have four pillars to our nonprofit: Work, Education, Community, and Faith. The community aspect begins with the little community we are making on the team/staff. It then extends to our customers and the welcome experience we hope to create. From there we reach out into the Dallas community to partner with businesses and neighbors in many different ways. We support local, open up to networking meetings, bible studies, work groups, classes, etc. The partnering opportunities are unlimited.
What did your life look like when you were growing up? Was there someone who inspired you to give back and keep helping others?
My parents (Natalie’s) have always been exceedingly generous in time, resources, and money. They have definitely set a great example to give back.
How can people support Well-Grounded Coffee Community and your employees?
There are two sides to supporting us. Simply drinking our coffee and eating our food gives the ladies a great job and helps us to hire the next Barista Hero. The other side is donations. Donations help us move the ladies toward their goals. Right now the donations are focused on three specific goals:
Vehicle Fund – for a great, used vehicle for each of the ladies.
Education Fund – for taking specific college and vocational classes.
Faith Fund – for a four-day Spiritual Retreat we are planning for the ladies and their children in June.
You know we have to ask—what’s your coffee order?
We are somewhat of purists! Michael is either an espresso or Americano. Natalie is always a Latte!