Sharon Stephenson is the owner and operator of Blooming Bean Coffee Co., which recently opened on the first floor of Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano Beach. The shop offers local, privately-roasted coffee from sustainable farms and serves artisan treats from local bakeries. In addition to selling such goodies, Blooming Bean Coffee has an activist’s mission: to help raise awareness and funds for the fight against global and local human trafficking. A portion of the profits from Blooming Bean Coffee Co. goes toward supporting two organizations: Hepzibah House and There is Hope for Me. Both organizations help rescue, provide safe homes and restore girls who have been freed from human trafficking. Lighthouse Point magazine’s food writer Abbie Gonçalves, who is a friend of Sharon’s, sat down for coffee with her to discuss her journey opening Blooming Bean.
It’s not every day you meet someone with whom your values align so precisely and who makes you feel so incredibly blessed to live in their community. A loving wife, dedicated mother of three almost-grown boys, creative entrepreneur, coffee connoisseur, active community member and passionate advocate for justice, Sharon Stephenson is truly a gem with a heart of gold.
Sharon is the owner and operator of the newly-opened Blooming Bean Coffee Co. housed on the first floor of Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano Beach. The charming coffee shop serves local, privately-roasted coffee and baked goods from local artisans. Sharon’s overwhelming passion for impacting her community is probably why one can feel such warmth when walking into Blooming Bean and ordering a hand-crafted cup of coffee. It is flowing from the heart of the woman who dreamed for years of having exactly such a place.
“I have always been a coffee fanatic and had a passion for local community. It’s always been in my heart,” Sharon said as we sat down outside Blooming Bean and talked over an Americano and a warm guava and cheese pastry.
It wasn’t until last year that Sharon really started pursuing her coffee dream, but the passion had been building up in her over many years and through many seasons.
“I always knew I would do something coffee related… its been over 19 years now,” she said.
Fifteen years ago, when Sharon still had young children, she began to get what she calls “downloads” — visions about how her coffee dream would manifest. When I asked her what the image looked like, she described it as “local, with local coffee, that had art, where kids could take classes and moms could visit. It would have a friendly vibe and a sense of community.”
Art is Sharon’s other love. Sharon studied art in college and then built a career in artistic marketing. When one walks into Blooming Bean, it is incredible to see how Sharon’s dream has materialized.
Sharon serves her own home-roasted coffee from Blooming Bean, which she first began serving at a local artist exhibition last November. Her partnership with Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) really was a match made in heaven.
Her ability to engage the community is also evident in the variety of artisan baked goods she serves — empañadas by Tartastic along with salted chocolate chip cookies by Love Well Baking Co. She also integrated beautiful pottery crafted by Sandy Lazar, one of the artists whose studio is upstairs at BaCA. Sharon never stops looking for ways to include and engage her community.
Coffee with Purpose
As beautiful and creative as the Blooming Bean café is, there’s more to the shop than meets the eye. Around six years ago Sharon was exposed to a film called “Nefarious” that highlighted the crisis of human trafficking around the world and in our own backyard. The film impacted her heart dramatically. She also had close friends who were already active in bringing awareness to the problem in South Florida. The film sparked a spirit of activism in Sharon.
“I knew I was called to minister and bring hope to girls and show them that they are valuable and good enough,” she said with a gentle, yet confident tone.
This idea inspired Blooming Bean’s slogan, “Every Bloom Matters.” Sharon points out the beautiful parallel between roasting coffee — how the bean “blooms” during the roasting process, releasing its flavor and aroma — and the transformation process that can happen in women who are healing from trauma. This “blooming” is what Sharon wants to see happen in the lives of woman and children who have been rescued from pain and abuse. She wants to see them be set free and release their “fragrance” in the world.
In the future, Sharon dreams of being able to offer rehabilitation and counseling under the umbrella of The Blooming Difference (a non-profit that is currently being formed). The Blooming Difference will offer programs that utilize the arts to help women realize their value. She wants to provide them with a safe place to process what they have been through, whether its through a canvas and brush, or by talking with a professionally-trained therapist. The Blooming Difference also plans to practically equip the young women through mentorship programs. The girls will be able to learn entrepreneurial skills such as business management and creative marketing. Sharon dreams of even being able to offer micro-loans to those who have shown they are actively pursuing their business ideas. Empowering these women within our community is at the heart of what Blooming Bean stands for.
The Long and Winding Road
Sharon’s practical journey to where she is now was not without it’s ups and downs. While home- schooling her three children and building a career in creative marketing, her dream was placed on the back burner for many seasons.
“I wanted it (the dream) to die,” she said. “But it never did.”
When Sharon realized it was never going to, she began making steps toward accomplishing the dream, little by little. In February of 2015 she began learning about roasting coffee. She connected with local coffee roasters in the area and started serving coffee at BaCA’s monthly Untapped event.
Now Sharon is well connected to the coffee community across Broward and Palm Beach counties. She hopes to eventually have her own space where Blooming Bean could roast coffee on-site, but she assured me that her intention is to stay in the Pompano Arts District.