Talk Shop with Virginia Bauman and Iris Bainum-Houle, founders of Cuties

By Kristine Isidro · July 9, 2018

Cuties is a queer owned and operated coffee shop in East Hollywood. Owners Virginia Bauman and Iris Bainum-Houle, also use the commercial space for monthly events geared towards the LGBTQ+ community. This month, we're welcoming Virginia and Iris to Talk Shop to share their experience fostering community through coffee.

Before the event, get to know more with our chat with co-founder Virginia Bauman and RSVP for Talk Shop happening Thursday, July 12 at Lumi HQ.

What’s your career path been like leading up to Cuties?

I've been in coffee for a long time now. I started a company called Tonx Coffee which sold coffee directly to consumers. It was a really fun three years where I got to work with a lot of people I respect in the coffee industry. It helped me grow as a professional by leaps and bounds. The next chapter was at Blue Bottle where I was a Director of Digital Product. I got to see how they think about their retail organization and once again found many amazing people that helped me grow and think about the role that coffee shops play in communities, both negative and positive.

After Blue Bottle Coffee, I just focused on deepening my focus on community here in Los Angeles. My co-founder Iris and I both found the community was lacking the sorts of spaces and events that would have helped us at various stages of coming out in our lives. We decided to create those spaces, but also build a business that could help make that focus sustainable.

Cuties began as an organization and community events newsletter. Did you always envision opening up your own coffee shop?

We knew we wanted a small business that was integrated with and supported by our community to help create more space — that space could then be used by ourselves and others to create more events and community. We are not experienced in grant writing or doing non-profits, so we used the tools we have to support our efforts. 

You’re providing a much-needed space for the LGBTQ+ community. Why was programming such an important focus for Cuties from the beginning?

The queer community faces higher rates of depression and mental illness; isolation can play a big role. Sometimes it's hard for folks to get up the courage to leave the house. The more community we have, the less isolated we are.

 Talk Shop with Virginia Bauman and Iris Bainum-Houle, founders of Cuties

“We can't do as much as we wanted. A year into the coffee shop and we are still fine tuning the core business.”

What has been the hardest lesson you have had to learn as the owner of Cuties?

We can't do as much as we wanted. This sounds obvious but we've had to pull back in many areas to make sure that the health of the coffee bar is priority number one, since it keeps the employees in work, the doors open, and the lights on. We had grand ambitions of starting housing boards and quickly expanding into other areas of need, but a year into the coffee shop and we are still fine tuning the core business. 

Are there events you can recommend people check out to educate themselves and support the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles?

The community is vast, so it's hard to point to any one place. But we are here as a resource! If anyone has a particular interest we can point you towards something relevant. We regularly refer to support groups, other queer businesses and non-profits that are doing work on a daily basis.

You can also support the work we do by going to our Patreon page and you can get a list of events in our community every week by signing up for our newsletter.

Meet Virginia and Iris and ask all your questions at Talk Shop. RSVP here.

When: Thursday, July 12, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Wine, cheese, and mingling at 6:30pm. Talk is at 7pm.

Where: Lumi HQ, 3828 S Santa Fe Ave, Vernon, CA 90058

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