Alumni brew coffee, tea, community at Kind Grounds

A barista pours coffee into a plastic cup with ice
Kind Grounds opened February 2023 with the focus of bringing positive impacts to its community and environment. The café hires employees via nonprofits that connect those who are financially insecure with jobs. (Marissa Ding | Daily Trojan)

Evelina Godecki graduated from USC in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in public policy and quickly pursued a career in tech consulting. However, Godecki’s education and volunteer experience inspired her to return to her philanthropic roots.

During her college years, the Sol Price School of Public Policy graduate spent a lot of time assisting nonprofit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity. She resonated with the idea of a social enterprise — a for-profit organization with a mission and values-driven focus. When Godecki knew it was time to pursue her passion, she became a part-time tech consultant and began her own social enterprise, Kind Grounds. The coffee and tea shop located in Los Angeles is designed to be a low-pressure environment that fosters relationships between people.

“Both coffees and teas are very community-centric, a lot of different cultures have either coffee or tea as a center of gatherings or getting together,” Evelina said, referring to why she decided to open Kind Grounds.

Evelina was not able to create Kind Grounds alone; she gathered the help of an advisory board to brainstorm ideas and approach challenges.

USC alum Justin Wu Jr. has supported Evelina and her project since the beginning. He serves as a member of the Kind Grounds advisory board assisting with operations and logistics and helped with a variety of business-related tasks to get Kind Grounds up and running.

“It was kind of something that she tossed around,” said Wu regarding the creation of Kind Grounds. “Then it became an idea and then something serious.” 

Kind Grounds opened February 2023 with the focus of bringing positive impacts to its people, community and environment. 

The shop recruits its employees from PATH and Chrysalis, two nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping those with housing or financial insecurity seek employment opportunities. Eveina said employees’ experiences at Kind Grounds may lead them to career opportunities in the coffee industry. 

“Whether they choose to go into distribution, or roasting, or become a professional barista, whatever channel they choose to go, there’s so many different paths that you can go through entering into coffee,” Evelina said.  

Photo shows different coffee packagings used at Kind Grounds.
Kind Grounds sells its products only in compostable packaging. It is also a collection site for compostables and does its own composting. (Marissa Ding | Daily Trojan)

Kind Grounds has shared its commitment to those in the community through fundraising and events. To celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Kind Grounds donated $1 from every pour-over of Café Femenino, a coffee sourced from women coffee producers based in Peru, to the Downtown Women’s Center. Earlier this month, the shop partnered with Wags & Walks, a nonprofit organization, to host an animal adoption event.

Wu said the cafe hopes to partner with additional organizations in the future to continue building relationships with those in the community and further its partnerships. 

Kind Grounds advisor Monica Godecki, who attended USC with her younger sister and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management, said what makes Kind Grounds unique from other coffee shops is its commitment to environmental efforts, which may be seen through its product sourcing. Evelina and her team were able to connect with suppliers on a personal level, and selected suppliers that have an environmental or social mission.

“I think she’s put something really nice together, not just to go in and have a cup of coffee, but something you can really feel good about supporting everyday,” Monica said.

The shop has additional environmental-related goals, including an initiative to sell its products only in compostable packaging. Kind Grounds is also a collection site for compostable items and the shop does its own composting. 

Monica said Kind Grounds aims to create an environment that has a positive social impact that makes employees and customers feel good about being involved. 

“It’s a beautiful shop,” Monica said. “[Evelina] has great coffee that she sells and she has a really nice group of employees that work for her as well.” 

Evelina said her passion fueled her ability to create Kind Grounds.

“There was a lot of challenges, but what always made me excited throughout the entire process is that I was really passionate about what I was doing and I was excited to create something,” Evelina said. 

Evelina encouraged those interested in starting their own business to get people excited and involved with your idea. She said being excited about her work kept her motivated through the process of creating her own social enterprise.

Some challenges Evelina faced when creating Kind Grounds relate to its brick-and-mortar location. The shop faced a lot of upfront costs, she said, but her excitement to create allowed her to continue following her dream. 

“There’s many, many different things that I think are making me really proud of working here,” Evelina said.