As a quiet and lonely child, Juanny Romero found comfort in reading science fiction books about cosmic worlds that were far more inviting than the real world.
So, when the mother of Mothership Coffee came up with the name for her new coffee roasting venture, it felt only natural to honor those roots and create a space where everyone belongs.
Romero and her business partner, Joshua Walters, already owned a Las Vegas coffeehouse, Sunrise Coffee. They started roasting sustainable, single-origin coffee for Mothership Coffee in 2012, opening the first brick-and-mortar location in 2015.
Today, the coffeehouse has four locations in Las Vegas, Downtown Las Vegas, Henderson and Downtown Summerlin, with a fifth set to open in January 2024.
“Mothership is your space … a place to be however you need to be – whether that is stepping outside with courage after battling loneliness or showing up on a first date excited and hopeful to meet ‘the one.’ It’s a place to bring your kids and a place to treat yourself. It’s a place to work … a place to be with your friends,” said Romero. “Mothership is all of this because it’s the background to the beautiful expression that makes us humans human.”
She added: “Mothership is community. Coffee is just the vehicle of that experience.”
Funky and hip, yet warm and inviting, Mothership Coffee started, as most small businesses do, with Romero wearing many hats.
“I was the barista, the bookkeeper, the office administrator and everything else that my business needed me to be,” said Romero, a child of immigrants, who described herself as “a fierce mama bear” and “a whirlwind of a boss lady.”
She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York and has lived in Las Vegas for nearly two decades.
“I think my scrappiness, innovation and my ability to ‘just do it’ comes from my culture,” said Romero. “In Ecuadorian culture, we really honor family, hard work, integrity and humility. I have appreciated these qualities and always look at them as my guiding light.”
It’s tough to be “brown and a woman in business,” added Romero, who faces the same issues as any other small business owner compounded by implicit biases. Since she’s an “unapologetic woman-of-color CEO,” however, she doesn’t let it hold her back.
“I have made it my mission to join forces with phenomenal female farmers, champions [of] ethically sourced coffee, and I inhale social change like it’s my morning brew,” she said. “For 14 years, I’ve been grinding it out as the unstoppable force behind one of the rare woman and minority-owned coffee brands in the nation.”
Romero is grateful that her challenges are minimal to overcome in Nevada, where 99.2 percent of all businesses are small businesses (as of 2022).
“A great attitude, hard work, capitalizing on opportunity, good reputation and integrity can go a long way,” she said, adding, “These are the hallmarks of our Latin culture.”
While Romero thinks it’s crucial to support Latino-owned businesses, she stressed that Nevadans of all walks of life work, live and raise their kids side by side in the Silver State. To overcome human problems like poverty, suicide, homelessness and despair, we all need to work together.
Still, Romero takes great pride in being a Latina business owner in a state with so many Hispanic-owned businesses.
“I love the smile and nod that people in the Latino community give each other,” she said. “It’s a ‘yes, I see you.’”
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