It's two o'clock on a November day in Los Angeles and I am meeting with Monica Gutierrez the founder of Sipp Curated Goods at Korea Town's Document Coffee Bar. The afternoon sunlight has stretched itself boldly into the entrance of the coffee shop and I find Monica perched in the front window, finishing up some work, half way through an iced cappuccino, and entirely at home in the space.
The thing about making online connections happen in real life is reconciling the discrepancies between an Instagram feed and a human. In the case of Gutierrez, her digital reflection was near seamless with her personality. Monica was every bit as welcoming, delightful, fun, and easy going as the photos, words, and products I came to know through following along with the Instagram account for her soon-to-be-launched online store, Sipp Curated Goods.
On this day at Document Coffee Bar, Monica shared her excitement about her pending coffee ware focused business, while gushing about the talented artists who's work she was thrilled to have the opportunity to share. Above all else, Gutierrez wore her unpretentious love of specialty coffee and it's culture on her sleeve, and a cortado pin proudly on her jean jacket collar.
Sipp Curated Goods enjoyed it's official site site launch in late November 2106, only a couple of weeks after Monica and I first connected, and just in time for the holidays. I followed up with Gutierrez recently find out more about Sipp Curated Goods, and how the first few months of business have been. I hope you enjoy learning about Monica's experience starting up an online coffee-ware focused shop as much as I do...
tLBCC: What is your coffee origin story? What led you to become passionate about specialty coffee?
Monica Gutierrez: Like most people, I sort fell into the specialty coffee world as a consumer. Many years back before the LA coffee shop boom, only a few shops had created an air of hospitality, other than Intelli [Intelligentsia] or Handsome Roasters. I just remember feeling like I wanted to linger. I wanted to stay in these types of buzzing shops, instead of what we were used to from Starbucks. I've met so many great people in coffee shops because of this interactive setting of serving. I loved the whole experience and this feeling has stayed with me ever since.
tLBCC: You launched Sipp Curated Goods in 2016, about a month before the holidays. What was your experience like launching an online business during one of the busiest retail seasons of the year?
Monica Gutierrez: The launch at that time was sort of unintentional. I had been preparing for this shop for almost a year. Researching platforms, lots and lots of studying! Reaching out to small vendors who would take a chance on such a niche idea, but I often found most people were so receptive and excited to be a part of something so unique. The holidays came up quite fast and I was super nervous about putting out something very few knew about. I just thought, "It's now or never". I figured most wouldn't understand it, but maybe some would. I was pleasantly surprised by all the coffee lovers across the country.
tLBCC: Do you have a current favorite item that you are stocking? and why?
Monica Gutierrez: At the moment, I'm just amazed by the espresso and coffee cups by Brian Giniewski. They are just unique, colorful, and make morning coffee less boring. His work is beautiful.
tLBCC: When I see images of your curated coffee wares on Instagram, and on your website, two words come to mind: creative and delightful. How do you know when a piece is the perfect fit for Sipp Curated Goods?
Monica Gutierrez: Part of my background and day job revolves around buying/curating gifts for many occasions. Its been interesting and telling to see what makes buyers gravitate to certain brands and items. It seems most people are looking for things that make other people or themselves smile. A pick me-up. Personally, I love things with a story, creative intent, and mindfulness. Most of the items on the site are things I purchased before I even had a store in mind. I always say, it was "A selfish coffee curation"!
tLBCC: What do you think makes Sipp Curated Goods different than other coffee ware retailers out there?
Monica Gutierrez: When I started visiting coffee shops, I noticed most retail areas sold just coffee, gear or both. It was stark, cold, and sometimes intimidating. Not everyone needs to pick up expensive gear each time, but rather a small gift or impression of their love of coffee culture. After combing through tons of sites and shops, I realized this "fun coffee retail" doesn't exist in ONE place! That was my lightbulb moment. I wanted to create a place where makers and artists could sell their coffee-centric goods and share the stories behind them.
tLBCC: Is this your first experience running your own business? If so, what is the most important thing you have learned so far?
Monica Gutierrez: This is my first time diving into something like this. It's been a thrilling experience because it's all about learning. I've learned that the most important thing above the items in the store, is the "People Connection." My day job has helped hone what customers value and remember the most. No matter how small the order is, I always write a hand written note and package everything with such care. I'm a sucker for great packaging and love when gifts or shipments feel like a present. That's what I want people to feel when they open something up that was made by a maker or an artist. I want them to know they are receiving something special and these people worked hard to make something great.
tLBCC: Does SIPP Curated Goods sell coffee?
Monica Gutierrez: I don't sell coffee, but I do share lots of coffee experiences on Instagram. I love sharing roasters i'm drinking and coffee shops I frequent. It's a huge part of the social community and enjoy when people tag me in new places or things I should try. BUT, somewhere down the line I'd love to work with coffee roasters & include them in gift boxes or local shops and maybe do a pop-up. This year is all about collaboration.
tLBCC: Do you have any fun projects, collaborations or features coming down the pipeline that we should know about?
Monica Gutierrez: I'm really excited to start planning the Curated section of the shop where certain items and artists are grouped together as a special numbered set. Which i'm hoping circles back to the last question, roasters i'm ready for you!
tLBCC: Though your shop stocks wares from all over the US, you are based in Los Angeles. What is it about LA, and the LA coffee scene, that inspires you?
Monica Gutierrez: I'm a LA native and love my city so much. It's a great time to be here and be an entrepreneur/creative. This city has so many transplants chasing the same dreams, which I think breeds so much innovative talent and creativity. In respect to the LA coffee scene, no matter how big or small, male or female, I like that every shop out here caters to all the diversity. You can literally find a coffee shop now in every major neighborhood. Its become the new social house, where everyone comes together and gathers. Coffee shops have really become a place where people feel like they have a second home and sometimes another family. I see the same baristas everyday and in a weird way it's comforting to see the same cool folks.
tLBCC: Do you have a favorite coffee shop?
Monica Gutierrez: I'm lucky that the first Go Get Em Tiger opened near my job many years ago, so I always have consistently delicious coffee. Charles and Kyle have created such distinct spaces meant for interaction and community. Its a small space with lots of energy, great food/music, and really awesome baristas. I can always count on them to play a nostalgic rap song or banter about current events. Its a great place to take a break from work and chat with the crew.