Pride Month Interview with Norma Jean Odegard
Norma Jean Odegard, General Manager of Siphon Coffee talks about their ideas for creating an inclusive and safe space for all.
by Anita Tam
As a leader of a fast paced coffee shop, how does diversity impacted your team?
When I came on board at Siphon, I was really lucky that we already had a very diverse team - 85% of our team is from the LGBTQIA community, and four languages are spoken in our kitchen. We're like a family, and with that, we've created a safe space to build each other up, so highlighting each other's talents and uniqueness comes natural. As a manager, I'm very protective of my team and lead by a formula to support my team and business- People + Place + Product.
What's an example of how you highlighted diversity on your team while showcasing their artistic talents?
(Gestures to the photography art on the wall) - This is Jessica Ofelia Alvarenga’s work. She is an amazing photographer who's majoring in journalism and is currently a successful photojournalist, documenting families who immigrated to the US from Central and South America. For this series at Siphon, Jessica's work is named "Southern Queers." Her goal is to challenge taboos and provide a visual representation of the LGBTQIA community in the south, which differs from places on the west coast and east coast. I think she definitely hit the mark and sparked conversations with our international and local guests.
What made you or your team come up with the idea to install a new art series and mural at Siphon?
It's kind of interesting how organically everything came together. My one year anniversary was here, and there was art on the wall that had been there for a long time. At the time Jessica was working on a project for Photo Fest, and I thought it was perfect for the shop, since we encourage our team and guests to freely express themselves and feel safe to be who they truly are. Additionally, the new mural outside on the patio by Rob DiTeodoro uses rainbow of colors and shapes, that not only represents the Montrose neighborhood, but how colorful our team and community truly is. It used to be dingy out there and was totally not expressing who we are. We made these changes happened as a team.
What has it been like for you coming from Seattle to Houston?
I’ve been in coffee for 15 years, and Siphon has been the most unique experience I've had so far. Previously, I worked for small coffee shops on the West Coast, but it was a very different culture. 10 years ago, in Seattle, the market was already saturated with coffee shops, and you had to find ways to be unique. Latte art was not the main focus since every shop was doing it. Coming to Siphon, it's exciting because the market is not yet saturated, so we can embrace ourselves and stand out while bringing education as well as having our SCA membership so to raise the bar.
What changes have you made at Siphon that you learned from past experiences? What about the future for Siphon?
Basically, the siphon brew method is already unique. When I started, I changed the coffee roaster lineup from mostly out of state roasters to rotate in come local Houston coffee roasters. There's a lot of small coffee roasters doing great things, and they are roasting rare coffees that the Siphon brewer can showcase. In the future, I think being able to add and play around with different brewing methods, as well as educating our guests on the coffee farms and producers will add to our shop experience. We'll continue to highlight the diversity of our team and guests, so be on the look out for more!
June 22nd - Pride Throwdown