travel

small is beautiful: blue sparrow coffee

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land
Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

I'm super excited to introduce you to Jeffrey Knott, the owner of Blue Sparrow Coffee in Denver, CO. Jeffrey contacted me last year to shoot some images for his website. When I set foot inside BSC, I fell in love with the space. This cozy coffee shop has a beautiful decor, anchored by a deep cyan blue banquette and studded with brass accents throughout. They also serve first-rate coffee (we're talking homemade nitro cold brew on tap!) and have some of the friendliest baristas around. (Having lived in Seattle for over a decade, where baristas sometimes take themselves a little too seriously, I always give massive bonus points for friendly baristas.) 

When Jeffrey told me about his unconventional path to owning his own coffee shop, I knew I wanted to share his story with you. If you've been dreaming of opening your own small business, read on for Jeffrey's excellent advice. And if you live in Denver or are planning a trip there, don't miss this gem of a coffee shop.


An interview with Jeffrey Knott, owner of Blue Sparrow Coffee.

Mad lib time! You could describe my business as my experience traveling the world meets how I like my coffee

What is your background? 
After a stint in the military, a degree in finance, and a cubicle in NYC I decided it was time for a change. I “gave it all up” and became a barista. As much as I love coffee, and loved being a barista, I needed more. After managing my first coffee shop, I had an opportunity to help open, and manage a new café in town. That experience was unbelievably challenging--I did a pretty good job faking it until I made it. I've helped open the doors to the seventh café in half as many years. I own, open, and operate coffee shops. And it’s my dream job. 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land
Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land
Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture?
Coffee is universal. It’s something that is shared all across our little blue dot. When I travel I've always sought out cafe’s, experiencing coffee in new ways, a reflection into local culture. BSC is a direct reflection on what I've experienced—what I want to experience. We feature coffee roasters from around the world, sharing these cultural reflections with our community while keeping it simple, friendly, and tasty.

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business? 
.5? I’ve had the opportunity to open several coffee shops for others before my own—some much larger than BSC. In comparison this was a walk in the park. 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

What's the greatest challenge with your business?
Letting go. Stepping back, and letting the team takeover. I want to create a very specific experience for our guests, and it’s most challenging making sure each and every team member knows what that experience is, then shares it with hundreds of customers day in and day out. 

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy?
Owning a coffee shop is so often over romanticized. Everyone want’s to own and coffee shop because they envision sitting around drinking coffee all day. It’s a lot of work—not all of it’s fun. I love the challenge of building a team that can deliver amazing products and amazing experiences to our guests. I love working my ass off behind the scenes, so it seems effortless from the outside looking in. 

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

What's on your bedside table (be honest)?
Apple Watch charger
Kiss my Face chapstick
Air plant
Soy candle No. 05 : Spruce by P.F. Candle co. (A little out of season, I’m thinking nightshade next)

Secret hobby and/or obsession?
Golf. I started playing to spend time with my granddad. He’s in his 80’s and still plays every single day #goals. I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. Part of me wishes I put as much time, effort, and money 🙄 into something more useful for humanity, but it’s my escape. I don’t know what I would do without it. 

Favorite city? 
Lisbon

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
Start social media sooner. This time around I decided to keep quite on the new café until we were open. It took much longer for people to find out about us than expected. Create your social media accounts early, reach out to the press, be active, build the hype and hope you can measure up to it! 

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Small coffee shops gotta stick together, I’d check out Little Owl and Lula Rose. Food: To the Wind Bistro. Bar: Bread Bar

Blue Sparrow Coffee. Shot by Olaiya Land

how to pack like a pro

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello lovelies!

If you're following me over on Instagram, you know that I'm in Lisbon recuperating from a nasty bout of food poisoning. (In case any of you were wondering, food poisoning is THE WORST. I can't recommend it at all.) So I'm not exactly feeling up to adventuring all over town. Which is great news for you, because it means I finally have time to get this post up!

Whether or not I am actually a travel "pro" is up for debate. I'm not a flight attendant or anything hardcore like that. But I do spend 3-4 months a year living out of a suitcase in some near- or far-flung location on the globe. 

In my opinion, the tricky thing about packing is finding the right balance between economy of things (I mean, you're going to be the one lugging that overstuffed suitcase around) and comfort. I always aim to bring the minimum amount of stuff that will allow me to function relatively well and keep me from feeling too homesick/out of sorts on my travels. It also helps to remind myself that most things can be purchased wherever I'm going, so it's not the end of the world if I don't get it exactly right.

I hope this list of my favorite packing tricks and gear will make your next trip a bit more stress-free. Let me know in the comments below if you found it helpful. And if you've got any brilliant packing tips of your own, please share!

XO,

Olaiya


Image: Olaiya Land

LUGGAGE

I am a BIG fans of packing light. One carry-on rolling bag and one tote can be totally sufficient if your trip isn't too long. And it makes you a lot more mobile, especially if you want to use public transportation. (Also, it's a real bummer if your checked bags get lost.) I have The Away Bigger Cary-On and I love it! (Use this link for $20 off your purchase.) I sometimes use this smaller, Euro-sized cary-on when I know I'm going to be on a European airline. I use this larger bag for longer trips and/or when I need to bring a lot of camera gear. I always toss this ultra-light collapsible duffle in my suitcase to allow for the inevitable purchase (or ten) I might make while traveling.

 

CLOTHING

- Layers are your friend! Since you won't have your full wardrobe at your disposal, choose lighter weight items that you can layer in case it gets cold. Bulky sweaters are the ultimate space stealer.

- Remember that in most parts of the world, it is completely acceptable to wear the same clothes two or more days in a row. Let your comfort level be your guide. I usually never bring more than 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of jeans, a skirt and a dress. 

- If you're having trouble fitting your clothes into your suitcase, I highly recommend these Travel Space Bags. They are basically a large, very sturdy Ziploc bag with a one-way valve at one end. You put your clothes in, seal, and then press out all the excess air. Your clothes magically take up half the space! (Be sure to order the medium size if you're getting them for your carry-on.)

Woolite packets and a sink stopper (many foreign sinks don't have stoppers) are great to have for emergency laundry and washing personal items. Adding a travel clothesline ensures you'll have somewhere to hang your laundry up.

- I try to bring mostly items that don't wrinkle. But for pieces that need to be freshened up, this wrinkle spray is AMAZING (no joke--it has changed my life travel-wise) and the bottle is small enough to put in your carry-on luggage.

- I always tell people coming on my workshops and retreats to please, please, please bring comfortable shoes and to BREAK THEM IN before they come. I can't stress this enough. You will inevitably walk a ton on your travels and blisters can ruin a trip. I pack plenty of these extra-sticky Band-Aids for emergencies.

How to Pack Like a Pro-5.jpg
Image: Olaiya Land

TOILETRIES

- I use Nalgene and GoToob containers because they are leak-proof, super sturdy and stand up to cabin pressure.

- I discovered Au de Raisin from Caudalie on a recent trip to France. Now I never travel without it. I use it as part of my daily beauty routine and spritz it on my face during long flights to improve hydration.

- I always toss a couple of these Koruna masks in my bag to use while I'm traveling. They're loaded with hyaluronic acid and other skin-plumping goodness that help offset the stress of travel and keep my skin looking bright and fresh. 

- Lip Medex Balm always and forever. 

- In my book, La Roche-Posay makes the best sunscreen. Bonus points for the TSA-approved 1.7 oz bottle.

- These are hands-down the best nail polish remover pads on earth. They somehow magically thoroughly remove polish and moisturize your nails at the same time. And the container they come in is tiny. 

- I light an incense match or two when I arrive at my AirBnB or hotel room to make it feel a little bit homier. Goddess of Egypt and Patchouli are my favorite.

- Don't forget the hand sanitizer.

 

Image: Olaiya Land

COMFORT

- I use this Mighty Bright book light for reading on the plane or when I'm up in the middle of the night with jet lag. It's super bright, has a dimmer switch and holds its charge for a long time. 

- A travel umbrella is a great thing to have; I have this one and it's small, light and super tough.

- Sleeping: It's never a bad idea to have an eye mask and some earplugs. Lewis & Clark masks are the only ones that I've found that truly block out all light without cutting off circulation to your brain. And I swear by these Hearos earplugs for their ability to block sound and still be comfortable. If you are in need of a neck pillow for the plane, I recommend this one and this one. I have both and they are firm enough to actually hold up your head but you can roll them down pretty small in their travel cases.

- For special occasions, I bring one of these Carry-On Cocktail Kits to kick off my trip in style!

- Speaking of beverages, my friend Megan over at Cream & Honey turned me on to her super-effective sleepy tea blend and now I can't be without it. For any other tea lovers out there, check out the brilliant Gourmia collapsible travel kettle! It folds down super-small and has dual voltage. Now you can always have your morning cup of joe or your nighttime herbal tea no matter where you are. (Well, almost no matter where. If you're trekking in the Outback, that's another story.) I also love this Simple Modern insulated water bottle/thermos and this awesome tea strainer.

- When I'm checking a bag, I also pack a pocket knife and a small cutting board for impromptu picnics or dinners of cheese, bread and wine.

- This is my favorite travel-size notebook for journaling and recording details of my trip I don't want to forget.

- I also HIGHLY recommend a power bank for your phone. Using online maps and taking tons of photos drains your phone’s battery pretty quickly. I use the one that came with my Away suitcase, but this one is small, light and has great reviews.

Image: Olaiya Land

 

SAFETY, MONEY, ETC.

- I like to bring one larger tote and something smaller and only take the large tote when I have my camera. You'll want your bag to have a zip or other secure closure if possible--just an extra bit of security. I don't recommend backpacks as they are a target for pickpockets. I also use this leather key strap and wallet combo from Madewell to make sure my cash and cards are attached to my bag and not easy to snatch.

- Should your passport be lost or stolen, it's much easier to replace if you have a copy. I recommend emailing yourself a copy, making a photocopy to carry with you, and leaving the original at the hotel. Ditto for your driver's license.

- Money: There are lots of approaches to this, but I recommend bringing around $300 dollars (or equivalent local currency) in cash in case of emergencies and leaving it somewhere secure in your hotel room or AirBnB. Money belts are just too awkward for me, but I've used this Bra Stash for large amounts of cash and cards.

- In the unlikely event anything should go wrong (natural disaster, lost luggage, theft, etc.), you will be very happy to have travel insurance. I never used to purchase travel insurance, but now that I travel a lot, I find it a small price to pay for piece of mind. I use AIG Travel Guard, but there are many reputable companies offering travel insurance.

 

BONUS

- Here is a link to my personal packing spreadsheet that I customize to each trip. Please feel free to copy and adapt to your own needs! 😘


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Image: Olaiya Land

the love list

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello beautiful people!

I’ve got a lot of new projects in the works--which is why it’s been a little slow around here lately. But I didn’t want to leave you without some weekend inspiration. So here’s a little Love List to help you kick things off in style!

XO,

Olaiya


- I'm getting antsy to take off on my next travel adventure. In the meantime, I scratch my travel itch daily with the gorgeous images Suitcase Magazine posts to their Instagram feed.

 

- I'm dreaming of making these Blueberry Dark Chocolate Scones from @dinnerwithjulie. Bake up a batch of these and your weekend brunch just got a whole lot sexier.

  Image: Julie Van Rosendaal

Image: Julie Van Rosendaal

 

- I met Jeska and Dean Hearne at a photography workshop in Scotland last year. Not only are these two a super-talented photography duo, they offer a beautifully curated selection of goods by independent designers and makers in their online shop, The Future Kept. I want pretty much every item they've selected for their shop. And I love their "Buy Less. Buy Better." motto. 

 

- If you're going to be anywhere near Seattle, I suggest you check out my new favorite local restaurant: Le Messe. My friend Sharon turned me onto this new Eastlake gem. Part of me doesn't want to tell anyone about it because I don't want it to get so busy I can't get a reservation. But the other part of me thinks a restaurant with stellar service, inventive small plates and perfectly cooked handmade pasta (at a reasonable price) definitely deserves a shoutout.

 

- Nothing But the Wax is an online magazine devoted to "telling the untold stories of black millennials through culture, fashion & beauty". It's beautifully designed, provocative and very necessary. Yes, yes, yes to celebrating the beauty, style and intelligence of young black men and women! (P.S. You need their Instagram in your life.)

 

- And last but not least, it wouldn't be Friday without a cocktail! This Mango and Black Pepper Gin & Tonic is happening as soon as I hit "post". XO and Happy Weekend!


Hey travel lovers! There are still some spots left in my Alentejo, Portugal fall retreat. Click here for the details and to join me in all the deliciousness I have planned!