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EmployABILITY Champion: Cognoscenti Coffee Roasters

Cognoscenti Coffee, founded in 2009 by Yeekai Lim, roasts and makes high-quality coffee and beans in their cafes and roastery locations in Los Angeles and Culver City. We spent some time talking with Lim and Amy Krauser, head roaster at Cognoscenti, to celebrate the business's new status as an EmployABILITY Champion and to learn what that means to them.

The reflective front window of Cognoscenti Coffee, showing both the inside of the shop and an outside, where someone is walking

How did you start your business?

“In 2008, the specialty coffee scene was just starting,” Lim said. “I went to a specialty coffee place and was blown away by the drink I had. I was so impressed that I decided to get into the business. I started with a coffee cart inside of a yogurt shop. From that small beginning, I kept innovating with the product and with the process – sourcing and serving the most delicious, highest-quality coffee, but in a way that was approachable and enjoyable. The business kept growing, and we opened our first permanent store in 2011.” Krauser attributes the success of Cognoscenti to Lim’s curiosity about and passion for coffee.

How do you plan to use EmployABILITY Business Grant funds to grow your business?

“The EmployABILITY Business Grant is going to help us grow our business by making it possible for us to hire new employees with disabilities, start a three-month training program for interns with disabilities, and renovate and improve our stores and roastery to be ADA-compliant. Some of the funds will be used to help us learn about hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. We’ll also be buying new equipment that will be accessible and will also improve product quality and customer service,” said Lim.

A barista pouring hot water over coffee grounds

What does the future look like for your business?

Krauser said that Cognoscenti wants to dig deeper into the science of coffee. They also want to continue to source the best coffee while working more directly with the coffee farmers. “We also want to have a staff that is knowledgeable about the product and where it comes from,” Krauser said. “And this grant will help us hire and train staff to do just that.”

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of this grant, an EmployABILITY Champion? “The grant has opened up how we think about equal opportunity and how we can impact the community more. We had never thought about hiring beyond traditional candidates, and with EmployABILITY, we’re better equipped and connected to do so,” said Lim. Kraus said, “Getting the grant, being an EmployABILITY Champion is inspiring! More people having access to work can only be good. Removing barriers for future employees will help us grow our workforce, and getting this grant gives us hope for the future. It’s really a win-win for everyone!”

For more information about Cognoscenti Coffee, visit


Image by Nick Karvounis

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