Many entrepreneurs and freelance workers have found themselves out of work and with few options for supplemental income because of the current crisis. Kathryn Melheim is one such Denver creative who has had to get even more creative about earning an income right now.
Melheim, or "Coffee Kathryn," as she's known to her Instagram followers, left behind the roasting life in October (she was working for Allegro Coffee Roasters) to build on the reputation she has earned in the coffee industry as the founder and editor of the Coffee People zine. She's a coffee professional, but not a barista or roaster, so she doesn't have the support of any one specific coffee shop.
Much of Melheim's job as the Coffee People person has included travel. "Right after I quit [Allegro], I was invited to go to Brazil to cover a big coffee producer competition there," she explains. "I was able to go to all the coffee events and competitions, so schedule-wise, it's been great. Monetarily it has been not so great. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur...and now with Covid19...the coffee companies I was working with have frozen their marketing budgets, so there’s no money to be had right now."
With work slowing down and travel limited, she's taking the time to learn new skills that will help her in the future. "I'm trying to see this time as honing my skills and developing something not as money-making, but as more of an investment in the future," she says.
One of the zine owner's projects has been starting a YouTube channel where she experiments with different brewing methods. "I’ve been thinking about starting a YouTube channel for a while, mostly to chronicle the coffee that I’m drinking around on my travels and the people I’m meeting," she notes. A novice vlogger, she's learning the medium and sees it as an investment of time in the Coffee People brand. She's also turned her in-person art groups into a virtual community art hour, and hosts live-stream interviews with coffee professionals.
Melheim is also promoting and participating in the worldwide campaign #rallyforcoffee, which launches today (Saturday, April 11) to bring attention to independent coffee shops around the world suffering because of business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. When she travels to new cities for work, she often hosts in-person coffee crawls, during which she explores a city's unique coffee scene and connects with locals. She's put together an unofficial coffee crawl to promote the #rallyforcoffee campaign in Denver.
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"I’ve done coffee crawls around the world...so I'm going to bike around to different cafes, check in with them and showcase them on my Instagram," she says. Stopping points include Little Owl, Huckleberry Dairy Block, Weathervane, Crema Bodega, and Queen City Bakery. Instead of asking people to join her in person, she wants them to follow along on social media and support Denver coffee shops while still practicing social distancing. The virtual coffee crawl will be posted on social media for viewers to follow along, and will hopefully inspire some patronage.
"I have conflicting feelings about it just because everybody’s going to be out and about," says Melheim, so she visited the shops over the past few days and is releasing the virtual crawl today. "Let’s all show up for coffee shops on Saturday," she says— but also beyond that day.
In addition, Melheim created a real-time list of Denver coffee shops with updated hours, closures and offerings from the city's coffee scene. Because changes are being made daily, she hopes the list will provide timely information for those looking for local coffee options.
Melheim is down but not out. She's staying busy, trying to make the best of the situation, and still drinking local. But figuring out how to translate that into enough money to pay her bills, especially without the option of unemployment (the federal government's coverage for gig and freelance workers still hasn't been fully set up), is an ongoing challenge. Meanwhile, Coffee People is taking quarantine-created submissions for the next issue, with a deadline of June 15.