BABE #155: COURTNEY MCCLANAHAN, GM + Head Barista @ Vagabond Coffee
We all have know that one Babe who’s somehow involved in everything hip and happening. For us, Courtney is that Babe. From pouring lattes and managing the IG-worthy and extra cozy Vagabond Coffee Co, to organizing and hosting the shop’s coolest flea markets, to managing the minimal and marvelous Six Hundred King event space, this girl supports local causes with vengeance and style. She’s kind, she’s talented, she’s funny, and she introduced us to MFM, so we’re kind of forever indebted to her. (#SSDGM.) Thanks for chatting with us, Courtney! You are as babely as they come.
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Current city: Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: University of North Florida
Degree: B.A., Psychology and Criminal Justice
Very first job: Sales Associate @ Pinch-A-Penny
Hustle(s): GM + Head Barista @ Vagabond Coffee / Venue + Events Coordinator @ Six Hundred King / Market Coordinator @ Vagabond Flea
Babe you admire and why?
My boss and dear friend, Christina Karst. Never have I met a woman with so much passion and drive to grow a city, its art culture and its community.
How do you spend your free time?
Despite my incredibly social-heavy jobs, I’m really introverted and need a lot of time to recharge. You can usually find me recovering from the week on my couch, hiding from the world and catching up on Netflix or my latest project. I’ve recently taken up embroidery. It’s a super fun way to stay creative and productive while I binge “Forensic Files” for the seventh time.
Go-to coffee order?
When I’m making it for myself, a pour over, which inevitably turns into an iced pour over because I get distracted or busy and it goes cold. When I’m exploring other coffee shops, a shot of espresso or a cortado.
Go-to adult beverage?
Depending on how surly I’m feeling that day, either a glass of whiskey or a dusty boot from Black Sheep. Hands down, best cocktail in Jacksonville.
Go-to power anthem?
“i,” by Kendrick Lamar.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Tacos. No, mashed potatoes. No, an entire tub of noodles. Please don’t make me choose.
What is something you want to learn or master?
I really want to learn another language.
Go-to news source?
NPR and for a quick daily update, Twitter.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I’m in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with my husband and a few friends in Jacksonville. It soothes my nerdy little soul.
Tell us about your hustle.
About 30 hours of my week are spent behind the bar at Vagabond making coffee, engaging with customers and keeping up with the more boring parts of being a barista (so … many … dishes). My primary focus, however, is behind the scenes: managing social media, answering emails, keeping up with inventory, scheduling, community outreach, planning events, managing our wholesale accounts, furthering coffee education for both myself and my kickass team of baristas, and pretty much anything else that has to do with keeping the shop running and growing. At Six Hundred King, I take care of communicating with potential and future clients, handling bookings, running social media, updating the website and planning parties with Christina. On the day of each Vagabond Flea, you can find me running around, setting up the market layout, directing vendors, tying up any loose ends before the market and snapping stories for Instagram throughout the chaos. In the weeks between, I handle new vendor applications, market curation, social media and website management, coordinating vendors and marketing for upcoming events.
What does your typical workday look like?
I usually work the opening shifts at Vagabond, so despite being the polar opposite of a morning person, I’m rolling out of bed around 5 a.m. At the shop, I begin each day dialing in the espresso and prepping for the day ahead. Before the morning rush sets in, I set aside time to post something to the various Instagram accounts, check on inventory and scroll through emails on my phone. (I’m on my phone a lot for my jobs; I promise I’m not usually shitposting on Twitter). During the shift, I make drinks, interact with customers, maintain the shop and prep the bar for shift change. Once the next barista comes on—if I don’t have to run any errands for the shop—I head home to my desk and work on any administrative tasks I may need to do for the day. This ranges from writing the schedule and ordering inventory to prepping social media posts or managing wholesale accounts. After my Vagabond tasks are done, I open up emails for Six Hundred King and Vagabond Flea and take care of whatever task I may have assigned myself for the day. I get as much done as I can until I either head to Six Hundred King for a walkthrough or cut myself off and eat dinner, take care of personal tasks and rest for the evening.
Have you always had a love for coffee, or is it something that happened organically on the job?
I definitely grew up in a family of avid coffee drinkers, but it wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 that I discovered the world of craft coffee. My time at Vagabond has made me see the beauty in coffee. It’s not just a drink; it’s science and art and craft and I’m never not learning something new. What’s more, coffee has fostered 99 percent of the friendships I have today.
What makes Vagabond stand out from other local coffee spots and roasters?
While we put a lot of effort into the quality of the coffee, our true vision is community and culture. From crop, to cup, to customer, our goal is to create lasting and meaningful relationships with every individual along the way.
What makes Six Hundred King stand out from other venues?
Christina’s objective for Six Hundred King was for it to be more than just a venue for parties and events. She wanted it to be a place of inspiration and creativity, and I wholeheartedly believe she nailed it on the head.
What makes Vagabond Flea stand out from other markets?
I take a lot of pride in the quality of the vendors who sell their goods at the market, and I feel like there’s a sense of community among all the makers and thrifters. It’s such a cool feeling to foster the growth of local businesses.
What’s it like working so closely with the the business owners in your workplaces?
Sometimes it can be a challenge since both my bosses are good friends of mine. There are days when we drive each other up a tree, but, usually, it’s a blast working alongside your friends on projects you’re both passionate about. Both Will and Christina have taught me what hard work really looks like.
What would you say is your biggest career milestone and why?
The day I was put on salary, I felt a little less like a kid playing house and more like an adult with an actual job.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work?
Managing a work/life balance. I’m a perfectionist and tend to work until everything is just right. It’s really easy to get carried away and leave no room to be with my husband and our friends. I’ve made a point in my life to schedule in time for myself; I literally write it into my schedule. My time is just as valuable as my jobs’ time, and I need to respect that—for my own sake and for the sake of my relationships.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
There are not a ton of women in the coffee industry as a whole, but there are a few Florida coffee babes I look up to. Sarah Weaver from Bandit Coffee, Erin Lee from Bold Bean, and Amelie Haakonsen from Concord Coffee.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
Homicide detective or forensic psychologist.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Never stop learning, and expect burnout. There’s always room for growth, but there will be times that you’ll feel stagnant. Power through, strive to learn and lean on your community.
What motivates and inspires you?
My friends—seriously. All my friends are mad hustlers and it’s just mind-blowing and encouraging to be surrounded by such hardworking people.
What does success look like to you?
Community. What’s the point of “being on top” if there’s no one with you up there?
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Self. Care. It’s so, so, so, so important, but too often gets put on the backburner. Also, don’t be a dick. Learn how to separate your personal feelings about other people from your professional interaction with them and their business.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure. I really love where I’m at and what I do, but eventually I would love to explore my fields of study and pursue a master’s degree. In an ideal world, I’m working for the FBI as a forensic psychologist.
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