Sip & Sonder
An interview with Amanda-Jane Thomas and Shanita Nicholas
Sometimes I find it very hard to follow the news because it reminds me of the unrest all around the world. I see us radiant, just as timeless as this Sonia Sanchez poem, sudden stars exploding in our blue black skins. But to some, we are still seen as a threat, and even small children like Ralp Yarl are being shot and wounded at an alarming rate because of the color of their skin. I think of one of my brothers the same color as Ralph, who just turned 21 this week, and I think of the future shining so bright. So here we are again asking ourselves, during this challenging experience, how do we find joy, comfort, and most of all, purpose in living freely as a Black man or woman in America? I do not have one answer, but in this season, I choose to rest and build. Rest so that my body and mind are prepared for the world. Build so that I can continue to expand dream projects like Sunday Forever.
I am always inspired by women who are constantly evolving and building, like Amanda-Jane Thomas and Shanita Nicholas, founders of Sip & Sonder. Sip & Sonder is much more than your usual coffee spot, a Black, woman-owned business in Inglewood. It is a coffee house, coffee roaster, lifestyle brand, creative hub, event space, place of enjoyment, and where you can find inspiration and community. Thomas has her B.A. in Sociology from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Nicholas has her B.S. in chemical engineering from the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science and a J.D./M.B.A. from Columbia Law and Business Schools. The two met while practicing at the same law firm in NYC in 2013; the rest is history.
“We were two of the very few black people at a corporate wall street law firm. We found this beautiful space to connect with other black women at this large company and show up for each other in friendship, and it was so refreshing,” Thomas says.
Nicholas knew she wanted to retire, be a barista, and travel worldwide, drinking coffee. Unlike Thomas, who never believed she would work in the coffee industry and became an attorney because practicing law aligned with her passion for social change. This is why Sonder Impact, A non-profit organization focused on entrepreneurship, well-being, equity, and engagement, manifested. For the last five years, Thomas and Nicholas have worked together to involve the community in connecting passions, storytelling, and empowerment.
The sonder meaning is “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” Nicholas adds, “Everyone lives unique and has solid ups and downs, but we are a part of this overarching collective within our individuality. We like alliteration, so we brainstormed words like sit & wander. We knew we had found it when Amanda texted the words Sip & Sonder.”
As your Sunday ends, I hope you sit and wander tonight. To rebuild. I was so empowered by my conversation with Amanda and Shanita. We discussed everything from advice from critical lessons they learned in their 20s, to starting a business, the worst advice they ever received, and more! I am so happy to share my grandmother’s celebrated cherry cake recipe to go along with this interview. My grandmother is one of the best cooks I know, and her cherry cake recipe does not last more than two hours in our homes. Cay curated the perfect French 76 recipe using vodka instead of gin! This drink and dessert will be perfect for any occasion!
Building a business from the ground up is not always effortless, but Amanda-Jane Thomas and Shanita Nicholas are reflections of impact, love, dedication, and curiosity!