Dordt College News

Student-run coffee shop gives students a taste of running a business

August 16, 2010

At the end of its first week open, the new campus coffee shop’s marketing interns could have wondered if they were really needed.

Customers were lined up to twelve deep most evenings, and Defender Dollars were being swiped steadily, even though the average sale was only about two dollars.

55th Avenue, the coffee shop located in the front space of the new Kuyper Apartments and along the campus greenway, serves coffees, smoothies, and an assortment of breakfast, lunch, and snack foods to students and anyone else who comes through the door. It is a place where students can grab a quick drink, meal, or snack, or they can relax, study, and meet others.Studying and smoothies seem to mix well based on how many of them are being sold in the 55th Avenue Coffee Shop

The coffee shop was Associate Provost Bethany Schuttinga’s idea. She and her staff felt that the college needed a place for students on the east side of campus to gather informally over food. She asked the Dordt College Business Club (DCBC) to consider running the operation.

They, along with their sponsor and professor, Art Attema, have been busy ever since.

The coffee shop gives students an opportunity to get hands-on business experience and apply what they are learning in their classes. It also gives them a source of revenue for funding their semi-annual trips to businesses in metropolitan areas.

A team of five business students supervises two student managers, Kyle Van Otterloo and Kristen De Vries, who are also co-presidents of the club. The managers are supported by four teams of two interns each, who take care of marketing, accounting, personnel, and event planning. Each of the fifty club members is required to work at least one two-hour shift per week.

“We’ve had and will continue to have some interesting experiences,” says club sponsor Professor Art Attema, who is appreciative of the enthusiastic response students have given so far.

To prepare for the fall opening, Attema hired students Carissa Drenth and Kim Hoekstra to work out a business plan and organize a production system. Hoekstra continues to order all of the supplies and food for the business.

“Operation can go smoothly during training, even with fifty people involved, but when customers are backed up and the machine gives an error message, chaos can follow quickly. Someone needs to be able to get things going again,” says Attema.

The Business Club wants 55th Avenue to be a place where first year to senior students want to hang out.That’s where De Vries and Van Otterloo come in. They stop in regularly to help trouble shoot problems—although they’re needed less as time goes on.

“We spent a lot of time during training trying to help workers become self-sufficient,” says De Vries.

55th Avenue is not licensed as a food preparer but as a food distributor, so the coffee shop will serve food prepared elsewhere—although it does bake prepared cookie dough. It cooperates with local businesses to supply special items, such as breakfast pizzas, that will only be for sale on campus. And partly because fifty people need to be able to staff the counter, the club opted for a push button Douwe Egberts coffee machine that offers a variety of options and flavors.

“Convenience is a big issue,” says De Vries. Students want to stop by on the way to class or run down from their room on Saturday morning and grab a coffee and muffin.
De Vries and Van Otterloo have been breathing more slowly these days, and they’re glad to be learning what they are.

“We knew it would be a ton of work,” says Van Otterloo, “but we weren’t prepared for the breadth of what needs to be done. We’re learning that we can’t control everything all the time, that managers need to delegate and trust people to do their jobs. I’m glad we’re able to learn as much as we are before we go out looking for jobs.


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