Lara Lespi is a UI/UX Designer who has been with X-Team for almost three years. 2023 was an especially big year for her, because she opened a coffee shop in Buenos Aires called ioshek. In this interview, we discuss how she combines running a coffee shop with being an X-Teamer, what her biggest challenges were setting up ioshek, and what her future plans are for the business.

What inspired you to open a coffee shop in Buenos Aires? How did you come up with the idea?

I've always wanted to open a bar with a unique concept and, when I met my partner, she said that she had always wanted to start a coffee shop in her own town. So we combined both our ideas and began exploring the idea of opening a coffee shop of Buenos Aires.

First we explored the vibrant coffee scene of the city. Every day, we visited different coffee shops to discuss what worked and didn't work for each place. We learned a lot from these daily coffee excursions.

During the 2022 New Year's Eve celebration, we decided to get serious. We would open a coffee shop in Buenos Aires in 2023, using everything that we believed made a coffee shop great. Eight months later, our combined vision and effort led to the opening our coffee shop, ioshek.

You said you wanted to open a bar with a unique concept. What's the concept behind ioshek?

ioshek roughly stands for hedgehog in Russian. It's how we celebrate my partner's Russian-Ukrainian roots, especially now that so many people from there are moving to Argentina.

But ioshek is more than just a name. We've turned it into a cozy spot where people can hang out and work. It has power outlets, great Wi-Fi, good coffee, and warm vibes. People come in all the time with their laptops, ready to work. The other day, we had nine laptops open at the same time!

But what's really special about ioshek is the mix of flavors and cultures that we offer. We're now introducing Russian pastries that the people here may not know yet, as well as some Argentinian favorites like medialunas and cakes. We blend the best of Russia and Ukraine in Argentina.

What was the biggest challenge you faced setting up ioshek? How did you overcome that challenge and what did you learn from it?

The biggest challenge was just how new everything was. I'd never opened a coffee shop before and knew no one in my family or close circle who could help me. It was entirely unfamiliar territory. My background in design allowed me to approach some projects with confidence, but starting a business from scratch was a totally different experience. Everything about ioshek had to be built from the ground up, learning as we went along.

One of the first and most important things I learned was the value that lies in building a network of trustworthy people. Equally crucial was accepting that mistakes are an inevitable part of the journey. That mindset was vital to overcome those initial challenges.

Another key insight was that the actual product, the coffee, isn't the only thing that matters. At first, I thought that the quality of the coffee would be central to our success. But it's not just about having a great product. That's still important, but it's also about setting up efficient processes, being able to swiftly address problems, understanding taxes, et cetera.

All these elements are critical for a well-rounded, successful business. ioshek has taught me a lot about coffee, but I've learned even more about running a business.

How do you balance your responsibilities as an X-Teamer with managing ioshek?

Balancing X-Team and ioshek has been challenging, especially during the initial months. There were several nights where I went to bed super late or didn't sleep at all because I thinking about the different ways I could walk the balancing act.

Thankfully, right now I'm at a turning point where things are starting to change. We're introducing better processes and systems at ioshek, and I'm increasingly able to reduce my day-to-day involvement. That helps a lot balancing my responsibilities.

What has been the most unexpected thing about running a coffee shop?

How eager Argentinians are to try out new, international flavors. Especially our unique mix of Russian and Ukrainian coffee and pastries. The positive feedback from the community about the authenticity of our recipes has been both surprising and gratifying. The fusion of culture and taste has really defined the unique character of ioshek.

What are your future plans for ioshek?

Currently, I'm focused on growing the team, improving our products, hosting some events, and hopefully opening more locations. We want to make ioshek bigger and better, creating a unique and enjoyable experience for everyone who walks through our doors.

Looking back, what has been the most rewarding part of the journey for you so far?

The most rewarding part has been seeing ioshek come alive in just eight months, especially through the feedback from our customers. Today, so much happens online. It's incredibly fulfilling to have a tangible, physical space where we can interact with people. There's something very satisfying in talking with customers and receiving their feedback on the spot.

Additionally, it's amazing to see people become regular customers, who visit almost every day, who each have their favorite dishes. It's a sign we've created something where people feel comfortable, that our efforts in providing quality products and a welcoming atmosphere are truly appreciated.

Do you want to join a community full of creative entrepreneurs like Lara? You can! X-Team is always looking for experienced software engineers. Create your candidate profile today.