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Melissa Villanueva of Brewpoint Coffee on Creating Avenues for Café Owners of Color

Interview with Brewpoint Coffee CEO and Founder Melissa Villanueva about balancing community and larger ambitions, creating opportunities for people of color, and equity and inclusion in business.

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Takeaways:

Being Both Hyper Local & Hyper National - Melissa Villanueva prefers coffee shops without drive thrus to harbor the feel of local community. However, she is inspired by Chip and Joanna Gaines and hopes for Brewpoint Coffee to mimic the famous duo's national notoriety and simultaneous small town soul.

A Core of Equity and Inclusion - Melissa Villanueva has built Brewpoint Coffee on a specific set of core values. These days, those values have evolved to include equity and inclusion in every facet of the company.

Cultivate More Cafe Owners - Representation Matters. Melissa Villanueva represents a litany of minority demographics in the cafe space, but she has plans to make Brewpoint Coffee a place to cultivate more cafe business owners of color.

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"If I was to say there were two words I would want my ecosystem to be defined by, it's a system that is equitable and a system that's inclusive."

Melissa Villanueva is the CEO and Founder of Brewpoint Coffee and author of "Starting and Running a Coffee Shop". Like the title to her book and her quote above suggests, she has aspirations to grow Brewpoint Coffee and teach other people of color how to effectively find their way in the café space.

Villanueva's personal journey to open a coffee shop mimics the trajectory of Brewpoint's growth from a shop to a company.

"While I was out in the Philippines during the self-discovery trip, I ended up dreaming about opening a coffee shop someday because it's a great way to build a community," Villanueva says on the Restaurant Influencers podcast hosted by Shawn P. Walchef of CaliBBQ Media. "Ended up coming back from the Philippines, found this coffee shop on Craigslist, ended up buying it with it within a month."

Just that quickly, Villanueva and her then boyfriend, now husband, were in business.

Always the dreamer, Villanueva jumped headfirst into the venture with the idea of incremental improvement. Her blissful ignorance, or self proclaimed "delusion", of what it took to run a coffee business allowed her to act on her dreams. Unlike most business owners, though, she was more interested than simply generating income.

"At the core of it was because I had amazing staff that I wanted to see if they could have a career in coffee," Villanueva says of her initial motivation behind expansion. "I started dreaming about, okay, let's have a second space. And can the second space be a place that we roast coffee and we have a second cafe within this? We could have enough cash flow to justify higher wages to be able to have a career in coffee."

Brewpoint's core values continue to evolve as the company evolves. Drawing inspiration from famous real estate couple Chip and Joanna Gaines, Villanueva wishes to grow Brewpoint Coffee while remaining true to the core value of community. In addition, it has become increasingly important for the coffee company to harbor an environment that is inclusive and equitable from top to bottom, and look internally to ask the right questions that ensure the plan is being executed.

Now eight years in, Villanueva is no longer delusional about starting a business, but remains as bold as ever in her endeavors. One thing is for sure, Villenueva and Brewpoint have made their mark in the Greater Chicago area and have plans of taking their ideas global by empowering others to embark on their own journeys.

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