When a coffee shop is on a mission to do more than serve up great coffee and a great experience, it takes finding that one person who can make all the parts fits together. For Inspired, we needed someone with the experience of running a coffee shop and working with people, but also someone who would love working with our employees in our work training program. That sounds like a tall order, but we were so blessed to have found Jessie Bongiorno, our new Inspired General Manager.
Jessie comes to us with two very different but also perfect backgrounds. Jessie’s first job out of college was working at Starbucks. While working there she got a lot of management experience and fell in love with working with coffee and the coffee culture. “The culture of coffee is what I love,” Jessie said. “Coffee is a point of connection with people. I love it.” Before falling in love with the world of coffee, Jessie studied social work in college. “I got my bachelor’s degree and never used it,” Jessie said. “It’s very different from what my coffee experience is, but it’s the other elements that I didn’t have in my career yet.” Jessie said when she heard from a friend that Inspired was hiring a GM, she knew it would be a good fit. “I feel blessed that every little piece of my heart is put into this experience I get to have.”
The coffee shop
While Jessie has a lot of experience working in and running a coffee shop, she’s never gotten to be part of opening one from the beginning. She’s excited to be part of the planning process and having input on how the area behind the counter is set up, what types of appliances and products they use, and what will be on the menu. “I really want to stick to more of the coffee purist drinks, like the cortado. It’s equal parts espresso and milk. It’s a simple coffee drink that is so good but not on a lot of menus,” Jessie said. “Our menu and what we’re going to be doing, we’ll be more true to coffee.” While we’re excited to get back to the basics with coffee, we’ll also have flavored lattes, blended beverages, cold brew and even nitro cold brew on the menu. “We will have a variety of beverages for everyone,” including coffee roasts that all have local connections, Jessie said. She’s also been watching the transformation of the space and loves that the coffee shop feels both cozy and professional. “There’s a cozy coffee shop feel with the fireplace and big chairs, but there’s also some fun pops of color and a conference room where people can come in and have meetings. There will be elements of the space that appeal to everyone,” Jessie said.
Inspired will be doing something very different than other coffee shops. Our training program will help adults with disabilities gain valuable experience. “We are breaking ground in with having adults with disabilities in a coffee shop and that experience in and of itself is unique. People don’t see that or experience that every day,” Jessie said. “Because Lake Geneva is a travel town, we will have people from all over the place who can grow and learn from our trainees,” Jessie said. “Our customers will have a unique coffee experience and I hope they’ll leave different because of the experience they have there.” We’ll be getting to know our trainees and what their strengths are, and we’re going to build their confidence through the program. “It’s going to be them doing the work and gaining the hands-on experience. That will give them better experience in the workforce to be able to get a job afterwards. You can’t beat that!” Jessie said. Jessie said the training program will be so beneficial in giving the trainees experience in how to interact and communicate with people, but also give them tangible skills in how to work in a coffee shop, how to stay task oriented and how to work on a team together. The combination of the coffee shop and the training program will be new to everyone working at Inspired, so everyone will be learning in the beginning…including Jessie. “We’ll try things that might not work, but we’ll adjust based on what’s best for our team.”
It’s been a busy first couple of weeks on the job for Jessie, but she said the Inspired community has been welcoming and excited. “Even before I got to Inspiration Ministries when I accepted the position, everyone in the building knew my name,” she said. “Everyone was super excited to know that their dream had a leader.” Jessie loves getting to experience all of that excitement and is looking forward to seeing it in person at the coffee shop this spring. Come #GetInspired with Jessie when we open in April!