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Life and Work with Danée Shows

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danée Shows.

Danée, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Years ago, when my husband, Shiv, and I first met, he made me coffee in bed. I was floored not only because any man that brings you coffee in bed is a keeper, but ALSO the coffee was out-of-this-world delicious! It was like what I had always imagined coffee should taste like. I asked him how he made it and he showed me this funny looking, brewing contraption, then opened his cupboards to reveal a very large stash of what he said was Indian coffee. I totally didn’t believe him – everyone knows India does chai, not coffee… wrong!

So, I had been drinking the coffee for a while, until we were completely out that is. I searched all the Indian grocery stores for beans, and when I couldn’t find them, neither in the city nor online, I said F it, took a giant leap of faith and started my own Indian coffee company. (Naiveté is a great thing. Anything’s possible when you’re wearing rose colored glasses.) The idea was that I’d go to India myself, buy this amazing coffee, bring it back, and bam! I’d be wildly successful! After I returned from India, I started my online shop and waited for the money to come rolling in, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan. I had overlooked just one tiny detail: no one has ever heard of Kaapi or Indian coffee! How would they know to order it from my site? I quickly realized I needed to bring Kaapi to market. People have to experience Kaapi for themselves!

So that’s the long story, short, and brings us to where we are today.

Right now, we’re focusing on making Kaapi – the whole experience, the beans, the filters, the decoction (small, hand-batch coffee concentrate) – more available. We’re popping up around Miami and NYC, and we’ve just returned to Smorgasburg, in Brooklyn, for another season. We also have some collaborations in the works that I’m super excited about but can’t quite yet reveal. However, most recently, we partnered with the beautiful ladies at Under the Mango Tree, on the beach, and I’m thrilled to share that Kaapi is officially on the menu!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
They say straight roads do not make skillful drivers. And this road, this journey, has been anything but straight!

There are too many obstacles to mention, but the most challenging, however vague, has been starting a business in two cities (NYC and Miami) – simultaneously! – but especially in NYC. Hell, just buying and hauling groceries back home can be a feat! But it’s not all bad, and if I’m to be completely straightforward, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to start my venture in both places. Each has so much to offer. NY for the colossal amount of people alone, the sheer exposure, and Miami because it’s such an invigorating, vibrant, and tightly-knit community. It’s even more awesome because I feel like it’s on the precipice of something great, and it’s thrilling to be a part of that or at least be around for the ride. I’m continually in awe of and drawn to, the untethered soul of it here. Sure, there are many sides, but I’ve found that people are generally less afraid to try something new, to explore, to create – without being pretentious.

To that extent, I’d say the best advice I’ve been given/am learning is that persistence isn’t a terrible thing. I used to be so afraid of being perceived as “pushy” for going after the things I really wanted. Afraid of using my voice, afraid of following-up (‘if they were really interested, they would have gotten back to me by now’). But really, people are just busy and are consumed with their own stuff so why should I let it get to me? Why should I care so much? I try not to listen to that voice of self-doubt and anxious questioning/reading-too-much-into-it. It’s a subtle art, not giving AF. And the less you do, the better off you are! So, stay persistent and don’t give such AF (about other people’s perceptions of you).

Also, rejection isn’t as horrible as it seems. Hearing “No” might seem daunting at first and seemingly make you feel defeated, but don’t let minor setbacks get you down. Have faith you’re on the right path and keep moving forward.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Ministry of Kaapi – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
As an entrepreneur, I literally do EVERYTHING and specialize in NOTHING. I’m kinda a perfectionist and a horrible multi-tasker (I’m probably the only woman who admits defeat in her inability to do multiple things at once) so I’m pretty sure I specialize in taking things A LOT slower than necessary. I blame it on my Mars in Taurus, “Slow and steady wins the race!” I just stumbled upon the hashtag #slowentrepreneur. That’s totally me!

But all slowness aside, I am super pleased with everything that’s come to fruition thus far. I’m most proud of launching a product that is totally new – at least in the US – and bringing awareness to Indian coffee. I mean, nobody knows that India has their own delicious version of coffee, called Kaapi. Imagine if you were just hearing for the first time, what a cappuccino was! It’s kinda like that. Forget “third wave.” Forget “fair trade.” Forget cold brew. We’re not on that train. We’re directly sourcing our beans from small parcels on coffee farms in India and brewing our coffee the traditional Indian way. It’s stronger yet smoother than espresso. It’s meant to be a treat, to be savored. And we’re on a mission to share it.

Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so naturally, from a young age, they instilled in me the intrinsic values of hard work and diligence. I cleaned houses so I could pay for diving lessons. I hauled camera equipment and held reflectors at weddings so I could afford gas money and the upkeep on my car. Hard work and humility were definitely tantamount to character building at Chez Shows! I don’t think they ever expected me to start my own business, but my best effort, in anything and everything, was expected.

I think this notion of best-effort, along with my general stubbornness, has served me well. I’ve kind of always found a way to do what I wanted to do – be the first in my family to go to college, move abroad to London with nothing but $5 in one pocket and hope in the other… I’m not sure it’s been a recipe for success, but it’s definitely helped when taking a bite of that proverbial “shit sandwich” (thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert for the visual!). I do my best and try to have no regrets.

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Danée Shows

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