Sarah Kern

Office & HR Manager, Grindsmith coffee roasters, Grindsmiths, Brewherher, The Kore Directive

Before my second career in coffee, I was strictly a 1 shot grande latte with vanilla syrup or the pumpkin spice girl! That journey started after 6 years at home with two small kids. I took a part time job in a small independent cafe with a scary looking espresso machine and lots of cake! Gradually the machine got easier and I began to understand the fundamentals. But it took a second part time job with Starbucks that I really began to understand coffee. The education and support from Starbucks lead me to become not only a Store Coffee Master and District Barista Champion - I was after the black apron to be honest - but also to be the District Coffee Master and Trainer for Store Managers by condensing and delivering the training. I led our district to becoming one of the first Black Apron Districts in the company. I loved my job and this was all done on 16 hours a week and two jobs. 

But then we moved to Manchester and working for Starbucks just wasn't feasible anymore so I entered the specialty arena. This was a tough gig, learning a new machine - the PB - I fell in love with this machine and all its crazy ways - but I felt disconnected within the specialty industry - a lack of support and connection that I had felt with Starbucks where I could train in the Reserve stores or take a coffee tour in Seattle and be welcomed by the Starbucks family. Then I found Brewherher, a womxn in coffee collective, newly formed in Manchester. This proved to be my turning point. I started to connect with people, engage in events, attending Cup North and not scuttle around because I thought I didn’t belong, that I had made those connections. I left my specialty gig to go to a zero-waste store and continued making those coffee connections eventually becoming a committee member of Brewherher and getting to know the Kore Directive. Then the pandemic. I’m put on furlough, home schooling two kids with additional needs, getting to grips with the new family dynamic, all whilst the world turned upside down. 

Brewherher and The Kore Directive saved my sanity! I could focus on something other than the pandemic. I rediscovered the joy of helping people through the panels both collectives set up, working with people I respect and make more connections. The pandemic showed me a new path within the industry and I’ve been lucky to take a new position at Grindsmith whilst deciding to study for Level 5 CIPD qualification. One thing that came out of the pandemic is that specialty coffee has a long way to go in securing the future for its workers, especially as many employees have exposed a lack of basic HR and understanding of what their rights are and the industry needs to get this right.

The future of womxn in coffee is bright but we need to keep going, we need to keep making those connections, to make our industry more accessible and diverse. I’m passionate about bringing womxn into the industry, to consider it a real career choice that supports family, understands the complexities faced by womxn and then continue to push those boundaries.