So, what happens when two attorneys meet, become friends, and develop an idea?
Apparently, a space is born were people can come together in an inviting environment while sipping on some coffee. Sip & Sonder is more than a place to get a great cup of coffee—it’s a hub for Black culture, creativity, and community.
The brains and beauty behind Sip & Sonder are co-owners, Amanda-Jane Thomas and Shanita Nicholas. As an attorney, Thomas represented an array of clients and worked with financial service industries in intellectual property, complex commercial litigation, and corporate matters. She has her B.A. in Sociology from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Nicholas’ has practiced law with general corporate start-ups and venture capital financing work. She has her B.S. in chemical engineering from the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science and a J.D./M.B.A. from Columbia Law and Business Schools.
One day, the ladies began to discuss what they could do beyond their legal practices with Nicholas looking at the coffee industry.
“That has always been a passion of mine, to build a space like a coffee shop or coffee house where I was able to gain a lot of positive experiences,” said Nicholas.
“To have that actual space, and point of connection in a community, and that’s kind of what coffee shops represent and have represented in different communities for years,” said Thomas.
Sip & Sonder, located in Inglewood, CA, opened in April 2019, but had been a work in progress since June 2017. The ladies took their time shaping Sip & Sonder because they wanted to see what they could bring that was authentic to the community.
“We looked around and thought, how can we bring ourselves to this already established community and get feedback on what is wanted there,” said Nicholas.
“In retrospect, in looking back, I think that it really took the amount of time that it needed to take,” said Thomas. “It allowed us to acclimate ourselves to the community.”
Sip & Sonder offers an array of brewed delights including a Rose Latte, Lavender Latte and Honey Lavender Latte Expressos. If you are more of a tea connoisseur, you can sample their Matcha Tea, Chai Latte or Turmeric Latte. And of course, no coffee shop would be complete without the appropriate knosh such as croissants, scones, cookies, and vegan pastries. Besides all the things you’d come to expect, the ladies shared that Sip & Sonder is much more than your usual coffee spot.
“We focus on the quality of products that we serve our community in that sense, but we are coffee roasters, as in, in-house roasters with the coffee that we are providing is really carefully and specifically sourced and curated by us,” said Nicholas.
She continued, “We wanted to be a space where entrepreneurs and creatives can come and just have a space to be, either with themselves or other people.”
“I mean—we have really good coffee,” said Thomas. “There’s a coffee world that exist—a coffee industry that doesn’t have many folks that look like us, and it’s crazy, because most coffee comes from Black and Brown countries.”
Sip & Sonder is also an event space open for a variety of occasions—that is before COVID-19. Black businesses have taken a hard hit due to the pandemic. The ladies shared their COVID-19 story and what they are offering during these challenging times.
“It was a really difficult decision, probably one of the most difficult decisions we’ve made as business owners,” said Nicholas and Thomas about having to furlough their SipSquad personnel as they closed their business initially.
“We were thinking, how can we be innovative? How can we pivot in the moment?” said Nicholas.
They were able to open for limited hours on the weekends, where they both brushed up on their barista skills and went to work. They eventually opened back up in June, slowly bringing the SipSquad family back together. Sip & Sonder, like many businesses, is currently only serving outside with storefront pickups and limited hours.
Nicholas shared, “Every one of our team members has been invited back and we continue to create space for that.”
Since May, Sip & Sonder has donated over 1,000 cups of coffee and pastries to essential workers on the frontlines of battling COVID-19.
It’s been an interesting year for Sip & Sonder so far, but they are becoming a hub in the community. As they navigate the rest of 2020, serving coffee, souls and more, they wanted to let the community know they want to meet them.
“We’re still here,” said Nicholas. “We’re still here for the community, and for the culture. It looks a little different with COVID, but we continue to have that same mindset and that same singular focus to be for the community and to be a service to the community in everything that we do,” said Nicholas.
“We pride ourselves in being a Black-owned business in Inglewood—a Black, woman-owned business in Inglewood,” said Thomas.
“Come stop by, grab a cup of coffee, we have some really exciting programming that’s coming up this Fall and Winter.
“We want to hear from you, we want to meet you.”
Sip & Sonder is located at 108 S Market St. in Inglewood, CA. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For more information, please visit their website at www.sipandsonder.com.