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The Key to Being a Successful Small Business Employee

Don’t let anyone tell you working for a small business isn’t hard. From experience, I know it’s nothing short of a wild ride. In my case, it’s 5:30 a.m. shifts, extreme weather conditions, cold-brew stained boots and a never-ending feeling of uncertainty. I’ve been The Wild Way Coffee’s lead barista for a little over a year now and while the early mornings and the week-of scheduling is a given, the rewarding feeling at the end of a shift and the best-friendship between boss and employee is too. The most important thing I’ve learned over this past year is not how to pull a shot of espresso (although that’s vital and a pretty cool party trick if you ask me), but that you must be fully invested in both the company and its parents to thrive in working for a small business. 

A startup is like a child — it requires all of your energy, all of your attention and all of your money too. But, while a child needs its parents, don’t they say it takes a village?  My four co-workers and I are that village. Yes, you read correctly. There are only five of us, plus boss-lady Chrisitine and her husband who is part-time. We’re a badass group of six women (and Jon) making a young couple’s dream come true! The truth is, if you’re not 100% invested in what the company is and what it can be, you won’t make it. The dreaming is the fun part and it's what carries you and your co-workers forward through the tough days.

The ups and downs of working for a small business can be overwhelming. Things like scheduling, the amount of hours, business plans, what product you’re using and even your personal tasks can all fluctuate within a day and sometimes out of sheer necessity. I can’t tell you how many times something has gone wrong in the camper. Whether it's running out of oat milk, stocking the wrong sized cups the night before or a milk bottle shattering in the fridge, these little mistakes are a part of the game and the best way to deal with them is head on — every time. In conditions like these, every mistake is an opportunity for growth or new ideas. What I have found is that the key to succeeding in this environment is waking up every day with an understanding that you aren’t doing this for you or for the cute jeans in your Madewell shopping cart. You’re putting in the work for the livelihood and sanity of your bosses. This is their dream, their baby, their whole heart and everything they have. If you don’t show up to work, you could cost them money, customers or even just their lunch break. 

Working for a small business is not just a job, it's a responsibility. It’s personal, and you become a family working toward a goal together — a goal to build community and produce a quality product. While I’m sure working for a small coffee shop is much different than working for a small law firm or insurance company, what we have in common is this: dedication to the people you work for is everything. If you don’t respect the people you work for, you’ll never reach your potential and neither will the business. I am so grateful to work for a company that needs me, where I feel my work is valued no matter how small the job. Nothing is more rewarding than getting done with an 8.5hour shift, looking around at my best friends and realizing we absolutely slayed… and that now it's time for a chai break because we definitely earned it! 

Remember to shop small and always tip your baristas.

Megan is currently a Sociology and Urban Studies major at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, hoping to pursue a career in non-profit community development. Along side her education, Megan is a lead barista for a mobile coffee shop called The Wild Way, and volunteers at a local urban farm where she lives out her badass-female-farmer dreams. Megan is passionate about all things organic farming, climate activism, sustainability, intersectional environmentalism, and social justice.
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