INDIANAPOLIS — When Skyler Balta accepted the barista position at Bee Coffee Roasters in 2020, she was fully aware her job was in jeopardy.
"I got hired on with a few other individuals at the same time, post-COVID, and [the owner] was like, 'I'm probably gonna close,'" Balta said.
It was the perfect fit for Balta, who, at the time, had just left a landscaping gig and was training to become a real estate agent. A friend of Balta's told her getting into a coffee shop would be the chill vibe she sought while studying.
"I was like, 'They're gonna end, I'm gonna end, it's gonna be fine,'" Balta said.
Soon, she fell in love with the coffee shop and enjoyed being a barista more than she could've anticipated. "I never really felt like I was truly working too hard," Balta said.
Now, a year and a half later, Balta has taken over the space that once housed Bee Coffee at a strip mall on the northwest side and opened her own coffee shop, Gaia Cafe & Botanical.
"I was like, at home looking at jobs, and I was like '... no, I'll make my own job here,'" Balta said.
Balta, 24, decided to bet on herself and give her dream of owning a business a shot.
Balta told her then-boss about her intentions, and Balta says she gladly took her under her wing. In Bee Coffee's last month of 17 years, Balta was mentored by her boss and handed recipes, suppliers, and tips for running a small business.
"I probably would have been in over my head unless she had helped me," Balta said.
Although Balta is glad to continue using Bee Coffee's beans and espresso drink recipes, she's excited to add more herbal teas to the menu and plants-available-for-purchase around the shop.
Balta herself enjoys working, meeting, and studying in coffee shops and says Gaia is a laptop-friendly space. She's cleared out that back — where Bee Coffee used to roast their coffee beans — and added more seating options.
"I feed off people saying that they like the place or like they feel at home here. So I just hope that I create that kind of environment," Balta said.
Gaia Cafe & Botanicals is open Tuesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can learn more about Gaia Cafe & Botanicals on its Instagram.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.