Rachel Solomito ‘17 began working at Rough Draft in the summer of 2017. Last month, she became the general manager, seeking to advance its motto of “Coffee, cocktails, and community.”
Instead of leaving Hillsdale after graduation, she received a message from Carly Hubbard ‘16 offering a job at a new café called Rough Draft. As the school year began, she gained more hours and experience as a barista, quickly becoming one of Rough Draft’s most trusted employees.
Hubbard opened Rough Draft with help from her family and managed the enterprise until Solomito took over in January. Hubbard attributed Solomito’s success to her resourcefulness, reliability, and curiosity.
“She’s someone who shows up, does a great job, and asks questions. She’s curious and always ready to grow and improve,” she said. “She has helped me learn how to be a good leader. Really, she’s just the whole package.”
On her first day as a freshman, Solomito met William Persson ‘17, who now works as Bon Appétit’s marketing coordinator. “We both were shy freshmen and we wanted to talk to each other,” Persson said. “The only way I was able to initiate contact with her was by saying, ‘Oh, I like your phone case.’ Then she needed help with Blackboard, so we started talking. She told me later that she had only pretended not to know how it works so that we could talk more.”
Born in Indianapolis, Solomito learned about Hillsdale through family friends.
“I really landed here by accident. My entire story is just a bunch of happy accidents,” she said.
As an English major, Solomito saw herself as a creative type. While at Hillsdale, she wrote for The Collegian and planned on adding the journalism minor until she discovered a passion for business. After graduation, Solomito considered moving to Grand Rapids to work at a political consulting firm she had previously interned with.
“It’s not Wall Street,” Solomito said, studying the concrete floors and exposed pipes lining the ceiling of the former tool factory. “I don’t need politics, either. I’ve got coffee.”
Though Solomito said she loves business, it means much more to her than making money.
“In English, we studied how important relationships and community are,” she said. “For me, small business is exploring that relationship with people, informing those relationships, serving people, and learning who they are.”
Since they met in “Baby chem,” Persson and Solomito have remained close friends. Persson frequently visits Rough Draft and said he believes Solomito is a great fit for the position because of her creativity and meticulous attention to detail.
“It’s the combination of her being detail-oriented and creative,” he said. “She’s very plan-oriented, regimented in her life. She makes lists for everything.”
Hubbard said she wants Rough Draft to serve as a training ground for Hillsdale graduates who want experience running a business without the financial risk or hefty time commitment. She’s interviewing for work in San Francisco and decided to put Solomito in charge.
“Carly left really big shoes to fill. She is the face of Rough Draft and did such a good job of creating the place as it is today,” Solomito said. “I could never be Carly, but I definitely want to try and put my own spin on it, make it my own.”
Since she took over, Solomito rearranged Rough Draft’s entire front room. According to Hubbard, Solomito is working on menu updates and new latte flavors as well as more ways to engage the community.
“From the very beginning, we wanted this to be a place that bridges the gap between the collegiate atmosphere and the town itself. This building was part of the town long before we were ever here,” Solomito said. “Carly was someone who lived in town. She was from Hillsdale and she also was a student. She saw the need for a place that could host both.
“I still feel like a kid, so I don’t know what I’m doing running a business,” she said. “I was a little nervous everyone would be sad that Carly is leaving, but people have been really kind. I’m extremely grateful that Carly gave me this opportunity.”