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Meet Kateri Gutierrez and Jonathan Robles of Collective Avenue Coffee

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kateri Gutierrez and Jonathan Robles.

Jonathan and Kateri were both passionate about their communities in their own way: coffee. Jonathan with his love for specialty coffee and bringing his friends together for coffee, he wanted to create a coffee shop that showcased his friends’ artwork and talents.

Kateri loved how coffee shops bring insightful conversations into a space and her fascination for worker cooperative businesses, and how the model makes the workers the owners.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road, but we got smart! We struggled to find an affordable location or anyone to approve us for a business loan in the beginning (we were both 23 years old) so we overcame it by popping up at locations such as Balam and events around the county.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are LA County’s first worker-owned cooperative cafe, where locally roasted specialty coffee meets community. We host music events such as Last Fridays, which is what we are most known for. Last Fridays is our way of giving back to the community and our way to let local bands, musicians and artists showcase their talents and work.

We are most proud of bringing the community together from all over, from our space to our events and our brand, ” #communityis ” where we ask folks to answer that in a whiteboard with their definition of community. It brings the consciousness of what e are as people.

FAQ – Collective Avenue Coffee:

1. What is Collective Avenue Coffee?
a. Collective Avenue Coffee is a pop-up stand that provides specialty coffee, lattes and teas in a variety of locations. We are a worker-owned cooperative that pops up anywhere we are called upon in the community from Zumba classes, to polling venues, to festivals and more. Additionally, we host local events like our monthly Last Fridays.

2. What is Collective Avenue’s mission?
a. Our mission is to become the first worker-owned cooperative coffee shop in Los Angeles County that focuses on providing teens and young adults a space to enjoy quality coffee and express themselves through music, art and civic engagement.

3. Why make Collective Avenue a cooperative?
a. A worker-owned cooperative is a business that is run by the people who work in them and it operates for the benefit of these members. Every member is paid equally and treated fairly. There is no hierarchy or bureaucratic establishment that oversees the day-to-day operations. It’s a group of people who pull their knowledge and resources together to run a small business.

4. What products does Collective Avenue offer?
a. We serve a variety of hot and cold beverages including espressos, lattes (available in vanilla, lavender, Vietnamese and mocha), tea (black and green), as of course, coffee.

5. What is Last Fridays?
a. Last Fridays brings together the power of local artistic talent with our specialty coffee to create a vibrant space for all Lynwood community members. From live performances to artistic booths and delicious coffee, this event celebrates the diverse talents of the Lynwood community. As the name suggests, the event takes place on the Last Friday of every month at BALAM Mexican Kitchen. While BALAM is an avid supporter, they do not facilitate or plan Last Fridays. We, at Collective Avenue, conduct widespread talent searches for local artists, business owners, musicians and other community organizations that we can showcase at Last Fridays.

What were you like growing up?
Meet the Co-Founders: Kateri Gutierez:
Surrounded by a town that lacked economic prosperity, Kateri was no stranger to financial struggle in the city of Lynwood. At the tender age of 12, she found herself selling Omnilife health products to neighbors and other locals alongside her mother.

Fueled by the need to make ends meet, Kateri put everything she had into making the most out of a dire situation. Here she discovered that she had the determination and ambition that would enable her to run her own business one day.

With a desire to bring about economic change in her neighborhood, Kateri went on to UC Berkeley to obtain her undergraduate degree in American Studies with an emphasis in Consumerism. She poured over books day in and day out to learn about corporate business structures and came to discover that very few if any, enabled low-income communities to thrive. Frustrated with the lack of opportunity in areas like her hometown, Kateri returned to Los Angeles purposely to start her own business that would ignite positive change.

Upon graduation, she was granted the opportunity to work in top accounting firms and the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland. While she gathered the corporate experience she needed to run a business, Kateri believed that there was no need to waste time if she had the privilege of knowing what she wanted to do. Two years after working in corporate, she set out to achieve her goal.

Over a span of six months, she conducted widespread research on different business structures, products and services that were lacking in the Lynwood area and met Jonathan Robles, her current business partner. Together, they launched Collective Avenue Coffee, a worker-owned, coffee pop-up stand in November of 2015. Blending hand-crafted, specialty coffee with community and the arts, Kateri and Jonathan are bridging the gap between inner-city youth and the lack of communal spaces to learn and grow through coffee.

Today, Kateri hopes to inspire inner-city youth to believe in their own potential to affect change in society. “We don’t just want to mentor and tutor kids in our local neighborhoods, we want to inspire them by being actual role models,” she says. She wants individuals to look beyond the scope of creating your own business solely for profit and into creating businesses for the betterment of one’s communities and society at large.

Meet the Co-Founders: Jonathan Robles:
Driven by his love of coffee, Jonathan found himself traveling along the California coastline in his early 20s in pursuit of perfecting his coffee-making skills. Starting off with a gig at Tierra Mia in Los Angeles, he was pivotal in the opening of this popular Latino café in the bay area upon expansion. Yearning for more experience and the opportunity to meet new people, he moved back down to Los Angeles, where he worked at The Refinery.

Here, he became a well-known barista by everyday customers who were appreciative of his delicate attention to detail in preparing their morning cup. TLC is his secret ingredient. Something that Abdul, a regular at The Refinery took note of every day when he ordered his hot mocha. He was so pleased with the amount of tender love and care that Jonathan exerted onto every cup, that he encouraged him to open his own coffee shop. “Don’t let your fears stop you from what you want to do,” advised Abdul. But with a shy and introverted personality, Jonathan found it difficult at first to engage with other people and learn more about the art of coffee-making.

By slowly overcoming his introverted character, he discovered that he was better at having individual conversations which enabled him to become comfortable in his own skin. This, combined with continuous and positive reinforcement from Abdul and other regulars, ignited a newfound sense of confidence that inspired him to start his own business. After months of searching for a business partner, a mutual friend introduced him to his current partner, Kateri. Together, they envisioned a shop that would bring specialty coffee and artistic spaces to a community that was deprived of such resources; their hometown, Lynwood.

Today, this explosive pop-up stand is known as Collective Avenue Coffee. For nearly a year now, this stand has been at the epicenter of Jonathan’s everyday happiness. He thrives in personalized conversations with all his customers as he handcrafts every order with fresh, homemade ingredients. While he finds himself working several jobs, often taking time away from friends and family, he believes it is worthwhile for a greater cause. His hope is to share his love of caffeine and engage in genuine conversations with all whom visit Collective Avenue and inspire them to believe that good thing can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Harmony Rose

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