Nestaseyah Baadani remembers vividly the time before she worked in coffee — feeling that she was sleepwalking through life, that she didn’t measure up, that she had no idea what to do.
The people who mentored her over a decade working as a barista changed the way she saw herself, she says, and that changed the way she saw her place in the world.
With Prism, her new craft coffee catering venture, Baadani plans not only to bring local, specialty coffee and “a little extra love” to weddings and events around Colorado — she also wants to bring hope to women escaping abusive homes and to at-risk youth.
Launching this month with one coffee catering cart, Baadani plans to expand Prism Coffee Co. to at least three carts and train those who need a job, a new start and a craft they can take anywhere.
“That’s really important to me personally. I’d love to be able to mentor them and teach them a trade,” she said. “It’s just a great stepping stone because what I believe is, a job is a great place to find a sense of self worth — especially if you’ve never had it before — and to make beautiful connections.
“I feel like that’s super important, especially if you’re coming from a toxic environment or one that wasn’t stable or loving or encouraging.”
Baadani grew up all over — her parents split when she was 2 years old and when her mom remarried, she moved the family to Okinawa, Japan with her new husband, who was in the military.
Baadani remembers her years on the Japanese island as the “most joyful time” in her childhood, but she knows the pain of a toxic environment too well. Her mother escaped an abusive relationship, and the upheaval loomed large in Baadani’s life. At 17, she moved to San Diego, Calif., on her own. It was there she got her start in coffee.
“I found this café in North Park, and they hired me on the spot,” she said. “And I lied! I had never worked at a café before, but I really, really needed a job. … And when I left [the interview] I was like, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’”
It worked out. Baadani threw herself into the work and the learning and the lifestyle.
“I was totally that barista surfer girl that would go surf before she went in for her shifts,” she said. “It was such a dream.”
Baadani moved from San Diego to San Antonio, Texas, then six years ago moved to Colorado Springs with her then-husband, a Springs native.
Today, Baadani is an award-winning barista who has worked at Loyal Coffee Co. in downtown Colorado Springs since it opened three years ago. This week she talked with the Business Journal about her new venture, her unconventional pastimes, and being a beacon for others trying to find their way.
How did you get the idea for Prism?
When I was 19 I was like, ‘I really want to start my own café one day.’ It was always in the back of my mind, but the idea was like a storefront, on a bigger scale. My ex-husband was the one who said, ‘Maybe you should do a catering company.’ And that was the switch from big scale to catering company, very small. … I think [serving specialty coffee] is important because it’s just a little extra love, when you have something really high quality at events. … There’s something that is just so special about sipping really good coffee.
Is Colorado Springs home now?
Yeah, this is definitely home. I’ve met so many amazing people; I love my life here and I can’t see myself living anywhere else. If I were to move anywhere, it’d probably on an island. I really want to be that creepy, witchy aunt that just travels the world and reads Tarot — because I’m also a Tarot reader. … And I’m just the one that’s traveling the world and comes back and is always at the gatherings drinking wine and like, being really weird. I was thinking about it this morning, actually. I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to just have enough money in the bank so I can just travel and pop up here and there.’
How did you get started Tarot card reading?
When I was 19 my mom gave me my first deck of cards. It was something that I was drawn to. I just have a very natural gift of being able to channel and give people messages that they need to hear from the cards. … I really try to stay away from the love stuff. My sister always calls me for the love readings and I’m like, OK, it’s always the same thing and it’s always ‘Focus on yourself’ — but she wants me to read it, every time. I try to stay away from that because love is fickle, and other people have their own free will. So it kind of gets muddy in those areas — I’ll still read them for people if they really want it. But I like to center my Tarot readings around giving people the advice that they need to propel their life forward.
You’re into martial arts too?
I did kung fu for a bit and then I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I love Brazilian jiu-jitsu so much and I would still be doing it right now if it wasn’t for the fact that, one, I have to save every penny for my business … and two, I really cannot risk getting injured. And that’s something in Brazilian jiu-jitsu that eventually does happen. I had already been injured — I tore my pectoralis major, which meant I couldn’t lift things at work, and it took a month to fully heal. This was a hard decision to make … but I just kind of have to let that go for now, as much as I love it.
When you look ahead a year or two, what do you hope your life will look like?
A couple years from now, I see myself having two more carts. I want to at least have three and I want to be the specialty coffee catering company in the Springs and surrounding areas. And I want to be able to hire people who want to learn a new trade — something that they can take with them. I really want to work with TESSA [a nonprofit that provides safety and empowerment for women, children and others escaping abuse]. That’s one of my dreams, to be able to teach women who have been either battered or abused — whatever their situation is — who may have not been able to hold a job or even get one because of their circumstances.
I would love to be able to teach them a craft like coffee. If you look at the Springs, we have so many coffee shops — even Starbucks — and it’s something that they can take with them forever. I mean, I’m 32 and I started in coffee when I was 19 and now I’m starting my own business. I would love for them to learn a trade with me, so that way they can take it somewhere like Starbucks that offers tuition reimbursement. If they’ve never gone to school before, well, now they have a way to be able to pay for that — and benefits. A lot of them have kids; they need benefits.
In my own life, where I found my sense of selfworth in the beginning was by working and creating relationships with people that were super encouraging. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, these people saw something in me and they were able to say, ‘You have so much potential, you are so good at this’ and then I was like, ‘Wow. I am.’ I started to believe it. That’s really where that shift happened, and I would love to be able to do that for others.
You know, I come from a home — my mom, she was an abused woman, and she was left, eventually. And then she had to take care of three kids on her own. She was cleaning people’s houses, she was cleaning cages at the zoo, just doing anything she could. That’s another reason this means so much to me, because I was a kid growing up in that environment.
So it’s those two aspects — seeing my mom go through that, and also being a child who needed some love and encouragement because, you know, I was also abused. For me, this is so much more than coffee. And that’s really where the name Prism comes into play. I’ve been able to really take myself out of this situation and create the most beautiful life for myself, and I really want to be able to shine my light and live my most authentic life so that other people can see that light and be like, ‘Oh wow, if she can come from a place like she did, maybe that’s possible for me, too.’ And also being able to use my platform, use my business to create change, and to provide some type of inspiration for others to see it in themselves and to start this new journey in their lives.
Thinking about young people — there was a time where honestly, I was just sleepwalking through life. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I felt this pressure from society to be like, ‘Figure it out now! Do all these things!’ I was always discouraged by that and I felt also some shame, because I did come from a harder life, and abuse, and … I didn’t finish high school. I dropped out in ninth grade and I didn’t have my GED, so I also felt that extra pressure: ‘Wow, what am I really going to do?’ … I was going through life not living to my fullest potential. The people who would shine their own light brightest were the people that I met in cafés and through cafés, who were always like, ‘You can do anything you want to do.’ People are always saying you have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else — and that’s true to a certain extent, but I also feel very strongly that the people who are always there feeding you love and reminding you of who you are, are also the ones helping you to see it in yourself.
That is really when I started believing it, was when I was hearing it all the time. So I went and got my GED when I was 28, 29. From then on, I was just like, ‘You know what, it took me this long — but I did it and now I know my worth. And now I know that I can do anything.’ Just from all these beautiful, colorful people all over the world pouring all this love into me, I felt, ‘I can do it. I can achieve what I want to do. And this dream that I’ve had, I can make that reality.’ It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It took me this long to love myself — what else is possible?
That’s really where Prism came from, just finding my light — and now I can be that beacon that others were for me, and keep it going and create that ripple effect. Being a rainbow. I’m really excited about it.