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Maker Spotlight: Sputnik Coffee, Revisited

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We’ve been offering employee-owned and operated Sputnik Coffee to customers since March 2019. As our partnership with this unique Chicago roaster has grown throughout the Midwest, we’ve learned even more about the practices and people behind the unique space-dog coffee bag. Here’s why Sputnik is a verifiable shooting star in the Midwest coffee galaxy.

Sputnik Coffee does more than just make and sell a down-to-earth medium roast blend; they nourish the community in Chicago. Walk into the modest brick building on the corner of 51st and Hoyne in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood and you will find a bustling café full of police officers, schoolteachers, maintenance men, and mechanics alike. Originally an empty storefront for the better part of 5 years, the remodeled storefront now houses its vibrant roastery and café.

While sustainability and community-building weren’t originally at the forefront of the company’s goals, the owners began to realize the environmental, economic, and social implications of their business. From choosing the initial bag of green coffee, opting to deliver in recycled boxes, providing grounds for urban farms, and refurbishing espresso equipment for other small cafes, Sputnik understands the ways in which sustainable practices are key to growing a new kind of coffee business. This focus on the communal benefit of their business resonates with all of us at Imperfect.

“The owners have not only opened a café but a hub for the community in an area where others would shy away,” says employee Narcy Robles, “Their organic connections to community members is inspiring. While it is impossible to entirely change the industries that have long informed the way consumers receive resources like coffee, working for a company like Sputnik that is not only passionate about coffee but also creating an enriching experience for people, drives me to push boundaries and exceed the norm.”

Recently, Sputnik ventured into new coffee bag territory to meet the needs of its customers, adjusting their bags to include multiple languages to better communicate with the surrounding communities it serves. “Connection is what drives our enterprise and makes it all the more worthwhile, says co-founder Vova Kagan. “When we deliver to Imperfect Produce and arrive at the dock, it’s awesome to see the excitement from employees who drink our coffee and pack them into boxes. Our mission has always been to engage people and start conversations with delicious coffee.”

We’re proud to partner with companies that not only complement our business goals but also help us learn and navigate the market in progressive ways. That’s why building a sustainable business, providing a product, and servicing customers mean so much for everyone at Sputnik Coffee and Imperfect Foods. When you buy coffee or vegetables, you are not simply purchasing a bag of roasted beans or a box of carrots you are making a decision to support the work and the people who supply it, too.

The next time you customize your Imperfect box, keep an eye out for Sputnik Coffee, and see just how delicious community and sustainability can be.

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