Where do you start building a cafe that's ... a little different than everywhere else?

Well, not everywhere. I did not invent Gift Economies. I learned about them! First, on a visit to Mosaic when my kiddo was small, then in my local Buy Nothing group, then in the brain blasting book Sacred Economics by Charles Einstein. The free exchange of goods is not a new idea, it's a forgotten connection-building system.

It begins with a gift. In that first moment, the gift is enough. The gift is the magic. When I give you a gift, that item is no longer mine. It still exists. It's just yours now. I can no longer interact with that object in the same way I once did. Its energy has changed in a very subtle way. You can keep the gift, eat it, burn it, cherish it, or even give it away to someone else. The next part of the magic is activated when you believe in the value of the gifts you can contribute to the system of exchange. Sometime in my childhood, I remember unlearning the value of the gifts I could give. Sometime after macaroni necklaces and before my first paid job, I misunderstood what gifting is about. Relearning the value of my gifts is an everyday practice for me now. Maybe you recognize it? Imposter syndrome? Impulse shopping? Credit Card debt? Anyone? Yikes. It's work.

Cash economies happened because somewhere along our historical march toward individualism, people wanted proof of Enough. In an exchange of goods based on currency, there will always need to be a third party to determine value. Apples and oranges, as They say! Fairness is very helpful in litigation, but it turns out it's destructive in community building.

What the heck does this have to do with a gift-based coffee shop?

When you walk in to Bonus Room, the first thing that will happen is I will give you a gift. A coffee, a tea, a muffin or soup and maybe a warm nook for you and your kiddo to spend some time. Instead of considering what that coffee is worth, I want you to consider all the wonderful gifts you have the ability to share. It's just fine if you feel most comfortable giving money in return. I'll take your cash and turn it into a fresh gift for someone else tomorrow.

In Bonus Room, I am most interested in the experimental alchemy that can happen when we embrace the vulnerability of gifting what we have, especially when our society has not found a way to quantify it in cash. I can't ask you for the perfect gift, but I can trust you'll share exactly what I need to keep Bonus Room growing.

-<3 Jen

PS: Shout out this week to my inspiring and gracious Whole Enchilada cohort. Including Ruby, Ann, and Nancy, who have already joined me here. You're the Cat's Meow, and by that I mean that your comraderie in class and support in coffees reminded me to keep my bowl filled because I am cuddly, capable, and worth it. Thank you.

This week I have worked on this Buy Me a Coffee, a Redbubble Shop, a business plan, and my website. Eleven weeks ago I would not have been able to do any of it. At least I didn't believe I could. I enrolled in a business course designed and led by Kelly Hogaboom at Bespoke Hogaboom. I thought I was going to learn how to make a business plan. I did! AND I learned to believe in myself. Kelly is not only a gifted artist in their own right, they are a generous, Master Builder of community. Anything Bonus Room grows to become will be rooted in the rich soil composed of powerful memes and shitposts, firm and fair accountability, and the awesome momentum created by being seen and celebrated. I knew I needed help. Kelly knew I needed care. For that I am blubbery, and oh so grateful.