Business

Best Under 40: Michael Shipley

Cafe Owner Operator

BIOGRAPHY

Age: 33

Occupation: Cafe Owner Operator

Current residence: Lincoln Square in Chicago

Hometown: Mundelein

Family: Wife, Trisha; no children except their dog Barley, also known as Barley Boo

Education: Bachelor's degree in English from St. Norbert College

What was your first job? I worked as a stock boy for Epco Paint in Mundelein, beginning the summer after my eighth grade. I stocked and mixed paint, cleaned and had my first cup of coffee.

Favorite non-work related hobby? I love good food. I am an avid taco-maker. I spend a lot of time outside with my wife and dog.

Favorite book? "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck

What's one word that best describes you? Caffeinated

PROFILE QUESTIONS

What is your job and how have you found success with it?

I help run a coffee company. We have two retail locations and a couple dozen wholesale accounts. We roast our coffee right in our Crystal Lake cafe. We've always believed in authenticity. For us, there are three things that make a place what it is: atmosphere, service, and product. We believe if we are honest with ourselves, and can focus and excel in each of these three things – we can find success. There are lots of ways we impact these three things every day, understanding them and their impact on our customers is our top priority.

How did you first get involved with your current job? Why have you kept doing it?

My brother, my parents and I opened Conscious Cup in 2006. I was a couple of years out of college and filled with naive ambition. We've learned so much about coffee, people and the restaurant business. I'm fortunate to be in an industry that has evolved and changed over the years. The opportunity to learn while growing the company has kept me engaged and interested.

What's a recent accomplishment and innovation that you are most proud of? Why?

This summer we rolled out a completely new event catering program. We are now a full service espresso catering company in addition to our retail and wholesale businesses. This is completely new territory for us, and it has been fun developing the idea. We are beginning to cater weddings and corporate events. We can now serve everything from a classic espresso to a cafe mocha. Being able to duplicate the quality in product and experience at a wedding or event has been a great feeling.

How do you give back to the community or your profession? What drives you to volunteerism?

We have a very active donation and fundraising business. We work with many local non-profits, schools and churches. We try to say yes to every donation that we can. In turn, we work with these organizations to develop ongoing, mutually beneficial coffee fundraisers. Sometimes a donation turns into a fundraiser, sometimes it doesn't. Either way, we really believe that our success and growth hinges on the good will of our communities – and, you only get as much as you give.

What is the best career advice you have received?

Be honest with yourself and with your customers. For me, this means look at the business critically, ask hard questions, and embrace innovation and change.

Do you consider yourself one of the county's Best Under 40? Why or why not?

That's a difficult question. In the cafe industry, owners are not always the face of the business – our people and our cafes are. If I can facilitate a great experience for our customers and our employees, then I feel like I'm succeeding. So do I think our cafes and our people are among the best in the county? Yes, absolutely! If that means I'm doing a good job, then great.

BIOGRAPHY

Age: 33

Occupation: Cafe Owner Operator

Current residence: Lincoln Square in Chicago

Hometown: Mundelein

Family: Wife, Trisha; no children except their dog Barley, also known as Barley Boo

Education: Bachelor's degree in English from St. Norbert College

What was your first job? I worked as a stock boy for Epco Paint in Mundelein, beginning the summer after my eighth grade. I stocked and mixed paint, cleaned and had my first cup of coffee.

Favorite non-work related hobby? I love good food. I am an avid taco-maker. I spend a lot of time outside with my wife and dog.

Favorite book? "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck

What's one word that best describes you? Caffeinated

PROFILE QUESTIONS

What is your job and how have you found success with it?

I help run a coffee company. We have two retail locations and a couple dozen wholesale accounts. We roast our coffee right in our Crystal Lake cafe. We've always believed in authenticity. For us, there are three things that make a place what it is: atmosphere, service, and product. We believe if we are honest with ourselves, and can focus and excel in each of these three things – we can find success. There are lots of ways we impact these three things every day, understanding them and their impact on our customers is our top priority.

How did you first get involved with your current job? Why have you kept doing it?

My brother, my parents and I opened Conscious Cup in 2006. I was a couple of years out of college and filled with naive ambition. We've learned so much about coffee, people and the restaurant business. I'm fortunate to be in an industry that has evolved and changed over the years. The opportunity to learn while growing the company has kept me engaged and interested.

What's a recent accomplishment and innovation that you are most proud of? Why?

This summer we rolled out a completely new event catering program. We are now a full service espresso catering company in addition to our retail and wholesale businesses. This is completely new territory for us, and it has been fun developing the idea. We are beginning to cater weddings and corporate events. We can now serve everything from a classic espresso to a cafe mocha. Being able to duplicate the quality in product and experience at a wedding or event has been a great feeling.

How do you give back to the community or your profession? What drives you to volunteerism?

We have a very active donation and fundraising business. We work with many local non-profits, schools and churches. We try to say yes to every donation that we can. In turn, we work with these organizations to develop ongoing, mutually beneficial coffee fundraisers. Sometimes a donation turns into a fundraiser, sometimes it doesn't. Either way, we really believe that our success and growth hinges on the good will of our communities – and, you only get as much as you give.

What is the best career advice you have received?

Be honest with yourself and with your customers. For me, this means look at the business critically, ask hard questions, and embrace innovation and change.

Do you consider yourself one of the county's Best Under 40? Why or why not?

That's a difficult question. In the cafe industry, owners are not always the face of the business – our people and our cafes are. If I can facilitate a great experience for our customers and our employees, then I feel like I'm succeeding. So do I think our cafes and our people are among the best in the county? Yes, absolutely! If that means I'm doing a good job, then great.

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