Baristas Mean Business: Aashifa Hussain

Baristas Mean Business: Aashifa Hussain

At Sandows we're proud of our roots. Launched from a basement in Hackney whilst holding down our barista jobs, Sandows is a side hustle gone wild. Although our days of trading shifts for space to brew cold brew coffee are behind us, we remember them fondly. Our latest series, Baristas Mean Business looks to celebrate other people working in coffee doing something special on the side.

Barista Trainer at Speciality Coffee Training Academy, Well Grounded, Aashifa Hussain has harnessed her skills in coffee and channelled them into a side hustle with a difference: The Kore Directive. We sat down with her to discuss how she’s got to where she is, her top tips for keeping the plates spinning, and why she believes it’s all about being committed to your community.

Aashifa is passionate about her role at Well Grounded. By providing a route to successful employability through speciality coffee, Well Grounded has become a social enterprise which changes lives. The company works on the belief that honing a particular craft and trade makes people exceptional. They provide everything from expert coffee training programmes, one-to-one mentoring, interpersonal skill development and recruitment support for programme graduates. To date, they have supported 132 adults who would’ve been at risk of long term unemployment and are creating a diverse new pool of talent who may never have considered coffee as a career.

Nevertheless in 2018, after noticing the lack of wxmen in the industry, Aashifa took the initiative, along with a number of other women to start The Kore Directive: a network for Womxn (womxn, LGBTQIA+ persons, and womxn of colour) working in coffee in the U.K. They create a safe space where womxn can grow their creative coffee skills, connect with like-minded professionals, and support other womxn in the industry. They also run some pretty amazing events such as the first No Waste Latte Art Throwdown, an activity which is now catching on across the coffee industry. 

We asked Aashifa a few quick-fire questions on advice she has for running a successful side hustle whistle staying in love with your day job: 

What drives your passion for your side hustle?

We noticed that womxn were not being encouraged or pushed higher up in the industry and we didn’t like that.  We wanted to create space for womxn in higher positions via bespoke events. The idea was to promote a good sense of community, create networking opportunities, and start a conversation.

We've held events such as a mental health panel. Mental health needs to be talked about more, particularly in hospitality, which is such a customer-facing industry. Sometimes what we do is as simple as showing someone how to clean an espresso machine. Small things like that can easily hold you back but can be intimidating to ask for.

What are two traits that have helped you in your hustle, and one quality you'd love to develop?

Gosh, I do hate bigging myself up. One quality I would love to develop is my creativity! Two traits which have helped: my organisational skills and commitment to people. Balancing two jobs can be tricky so I find it best to keep organised by allocating chunks of time to each thing. From nine to five I’m working for Well Grounded so I try to fit in answering Kore Directive emails around that.

Committing time to people is also so important. People can be draining but they can also be amazing! Making time for developing the community around you and your hustle can be such a game-changer. So make time, and work towards creating a community. 

What has taken the most courage so far?

Being visible to the public eye via public social media. I was a very shy child and there aren't very many pictures of me growing up. Having my picture put in the public eye was a big step but I feel very empowered by it.

What was your biggest fuck up?

Saying 'I love you too' in response to a regular customer who said 'have a nice day' - they never came back. Probably not the biggest, but it definitely makes me cringe/laugh every time it comes to mind.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

It's okay to look stupid, there's a chance that no one will think that anyway, and even if they do then that's a reflection of them and not you. When I’m presenting to an audience I find myself holding back because I don't want to look stupid - but I’ve realised its best just to go for it!

What do you see for the future?

I’ve had lots of great and unexpected experiences whilst working in coffee. When I finished university I never thought this is what I'd be doing but since joining Well Grounded as a trainee in 2016 I’ve worked my way up to the position of Head Barista, contributed to Caffeine Magazine, been a part of the ChangeMakers campaign with Keep Cup, started up the Kore Directive and spoken on panels about careers in coffee so I am excited for more opportunities that the future will hold.

It terms of the industry, I’m excited to see more womxn moving further up in the industry, to see people who don’t directly make coffee become more celebrated, and for more people to understand that a good cup of coffee does not happen by accident. 

You can find more info about Well Grounded at:

And The Kore Directive at:

1 comment

Aug 28, 2019 • Posted by THOMAS NOBLE

Ashifa, I’m sooo happy to see how far you’ve came!!! Can you believe how long ago we were on the well grounded course together. I miss you hope we can catch up sooon

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