Meet Amanda Harth, a teaching artist and serial entrepreneur from the Southside of Chicago. As the creative force behind two beloved Chicago brands, Universe of Harth and Monday Coffee, Amanda crafts thoughtful products and experiences that delight the senses.
With her hands in so many projects and businesses, we sat down with Amanda to understand her ethos and driving forces. As a Cancer, she's always striving to create spaces and experiences for people to feel welcome and loved.
Enjoy our discussion with Amanda Harth and find both her candles and coffee in our other retail venture, The Center of Order and Experimentation.
Hi Amanda! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a teaching artist and serial entrepreneur from the Southside of Chicago. I’m very close with my family and I am obsessed with my furry little boy, Robbie Klum Harth (he’s a dog). I own Universe of Harth and co-own Monday Coffee.
What did you love as a child?
I loved music growing up! I really thought I would be a songwriter when I was a teenager.
What drew you to studying fashion? How did your studies evolve into a clothing company?
To be honest I grew into my love for fashion. It was a random interest and by the time I finished college I was obsessed with design. I studied fashion and was a menswear designer for several years after college. My first clothing brand was ‘Harth Society’- RTW mens clothing. No one wanted to pay, so I decided to take a break and figure out other ways to make money.
Could you tell us more about denim and your seven years of extensive research around it?
Denim is fascinating! It’s one of those things that’s always there and I believe everyone should have a denim piece- pant, shirt, jacket, bandana, upcycled coaster, etc. It’s a universal clothing item with a massive history and what started as a global study has become more focused on America’s history of Denim over the last three years. During my artist residency with SAIC-Homan Square in 2021 I conducted research on the intersectionality of black culture and denim culture. Before rice and tobacco, indigo was the cash crop in America. Enslaved Africans and African-Americans were familiar with the cultivation of indigo plants in Africa and technically created workwear garments before Levi Strauss. A lot of my research is black people’s influence and connection to textiles and materials; denim, quilting, sneakers, street wear fashion, etc.
During 2020, you began Universe of Harth. What inspired you to start the fragrance house and scent lab?
Originally it was supposed to be a capsule collection and it kept going. The capsule was created in collaboration with my graphic designer at the time and during lockdown. I had never made candles before and I don't know why I decided “yeah, I can do this.” I do believe it was me getting back to making things so I was curious about the process and how it would go.
Your scents are distinctly the Universe of Harth. Is there a running theme throughout your scent creations?
During the evolution of the brand I discovered how powerful fragrance was, and a lot of the original scents I created are inspired by my family. One of my scents is inspired by my grandmother’s home at the peak of the holiday season. Harth is a little spicy, sweet, and a familiar smell for other black women. Universe of Harth is about nostalgia and most scents are designed off of emotion.
Let’s talk about Monday Coffee Co! How did you come to partner with Felton Kizer on this coffee business?
I’ve known Felton for almost a decade!! We actually started working on the coffee business a year and a half before the 2020 lockdown. We started working again on the business in May 2020 and knew cold brew would be the main product because there weren’t a lot of good small batch cold brew around at that time. We decided to launch October 2020 and something that was very important to us was the packaging and how this product was going to be marketed. The pictures from our first campaign are still my favorite MCC photos! Felton is a brilliant photographer.
You’re in the process of growing Monday Coffee Co. and just finished a round of fundraising. Congrats! What did you learn from that fundraising experience and how can your community continue to help you grow?
Thank God it went well! That was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done LOL. I learned you have to follow up. I found creative ways to communicate the same information and weekly updates to potential investors via email/text and our followers on social media. Looking back on the overall experience; it was very effective having scheduled reminders to remind people to get involved with our campaign.
What are the future plans for Monday Coffee Co.?
The goal of the fundraiser is to open our first cafe. We started as a pop up and after a while we would run into the same issues regarding challenges with having enough space, carving out our brand identity within another space, and only being in these spaces a limited amount of time. Our cafe will provide our customers with the full Monday Coffee experience and be one of three cafes locations we open over the next few years.
How do you take your coffee?
Ya know the weather is changing and lately my drinks have been hot. I start with a double shot of espresso occasionally with a little oat milk OR black drip coffee, preferably a light roast. Then I’ll have a cappuccino with whole or oat milk. I try to done drinking coffee before 11am.
You work in a lot of different mediums, but it seems like everything you do is rooted in the same values and mission. What are you trying to create and say through all of your ventures?
I come from a very close knit and loving family. I was blessed to grow up with both parents and a house full of kids and summers full of birthdays with aunties, uncles, cousins, and my grandmother. There is this common thread of creating a space, experience, or thing that makes people feel safe, loved, comfortable, and understood. I want to share what I had growing up with other people so it comes out through my work often.
Yes, I’m a Cancer sign LOL.
What's Amanda Loving?
I’m OBSESSED with all things stationery at MM! Stationery is nostalgic and special! I love Grid notebooks. I always have to draw things out and take quick notes, and they are great for things like that.