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BRCC Barista and Army Veteran Becomes Retail Trainer

In less than a year, Bethany Keen went from being a barista at Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Bitters Road shop to being a corporate trainer. 


Keen joined the Army to deploy — not an unusual story. Nor is it unusual that she served for five years without ever seeing combat. 


“I literally joined the Army to deploy,” Keen said. “I was assigned to the most deployed unit in the Army, and I still didn’t manage to get deployed.” 


Photo courtesy of Bethany Keen/Black Rifle Coffee Company. 

Instead, her military service entailed four years of paralegal work at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and one year at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In her last year at Fort Campbell and her one year at Fort Sam Houston, Keen served as a noncommissioned officer Special Victim Counsel. For a staff judge advocate to appoint Keen as an SVC, Keen had to pass through a highly selective process and receive special training. Very few paralegals serve in this capacity. When Keen was serving, there were only 23 people working as SVCs across the Army.


In July 2019, Keen got out of the Army, started going to school, and began working for Starbucks. 

 

“The unfortunate thing about the legal sector is that, even though I served as a paralegal in the Army, that only translates to a legal clerk in the civilian world,” Keen said. “In order to do anything, I would have to go to school. So I chose to go to school for human resources.”


Photo courtesy of Bethany Keen/Black Rifle Coffee Company. 

 

Six months into school and life as a Starbucks barista, a friend suggested that Keen check out Black Rifle Coffee. She did, and in July 2020, Keen began working as a team member at the Bitters store. 


“The transition to Black Rifle Coffee was just so seamless for me,” Keen said. “They align with my values, being able to support and be in a veteran community. I’m able to do what I like and work my way up through the company. I started as a team member, then became a shift leader, and I’m now a lead retail trainer.”


“When I started with BRCC, there were about 350 employees,” Keen said. “Now, seeing over 1,000 people in our general chat channel in Slack, it's so cool to see the company continue to grow and develop.”


As a lead retail trainer, Keen is responsible for helping new stores get ready to open. This means setting up the back of the house, labeling everything, organizing store manuals, and ensuring that the staff is trained to open the store. Once the initial training is complete, Keen stays through the next week or so to ensure a smooth transition. 



Photo courtesy of Phoenix Nouveau/Black Rifle Coffee Company.


“Now, the pace is picking up,” Keen said. “Right before this, I opened our Plano store. Four days before that, I was training in Sevierville, and four days before that, I was at Temple … and Harker Heights. Next week, I’ll be in Houston.”

 

Originally, there were two lead retail trainers. Now there are three, and like Keen, the other two are internal hires. There’s value to knowing how the stores run from the ground up before landing a store-opener position. The store openers have learned to do more than just make sure the equipment is running smoothly; their jobs are about helping the staff learn to build a community. 


“Creating the connections that you do at the stores is just so cool,” Keen said. “One sergeant major who frequents the store purchased coffee for her promotion ceremony and then came back and coined me and another barista. People really feel tied, particularly to the Bitters store, and that’s due in part to the people who work there. It’s great to see that connection.”



Photo courtesy of Phoenix Nouveau/Black Rifle Coffee Company.


“I love watching people fall in love with BRCC,” Keen said. “As new-store openers, we’re the first experience that the staff has with BRCC. Watching people see how much we love the company and watching them all buy in and be so committed to the BRCC standards, it’s so amazing. I love the ‘aha!’ moments that they have when everything just clicks.”