Seven years ago, a simple idea-pitch at a football game ignited the beginning of a thriving student-run coffee shop which now has 70 student baristas and provides a place for students to gain practical experience and fundraise for their programs.
The shop originally began as an opportunity for Hillsdale High School’s Business Professionals of America chapter to earn money for events and competitions. Emma Woods, parent of Hillsdale High School students and a Hillsdale High School ’88 graduate, initially presented the idea to Mindy Eggleston, the BPA faculty adviser.
“I had this idea because students had to pay for their competitions,” Woods said. “I thought starting a business for the school meant that the students could actually work and spend money for themselves on this trip. It was kind of a win-win, and we just took off running with it.”
The idea took off in 2012 and Eggleston said everything quickly fell into place.
“We wrote a business plan with the kids back in 2012 and it cost us about $21,000 to build it and get the equipment,” Eggleston said. “We wrote some grants and we also were able to take out a loan. We quickly paid it back and everything since 2013 has been profit for the kids. We now invest the money solely in the program.”
Up until then, the local chapter of Business Professionals of America only had 22 members. Now, the club has grown to over 70 members in the high school chapter and 21 students in the middle school chapter. Eggleston said the chapter aims to build essential interpersonal and professional skills for their future careers.
“I like them to have good communication skills, confidence, customer service, and I like them to be able to count change back and accept different forms of payment,” Eggleston said. “This opportunity definitely makes the kids employable and they also have barista skills. They can make anything.”
A “showcase” of Hillsdale High School, Eggleston said the Study Cup is an essential stop when showing new students and parents the school. The shop is open every day before and after school. Serving the “good stuff,” the shop orders their coffee from Checker Records and purchases their snacks from Sam’s Club.
Typically, eight to ten people run the shifts, as each member of BPA is required to work at the Study Cup. Emily Kimball, senior and current treasurer of BPA, said the kitchen craze has improved their communication with one another.
“There’s someone who runs the cash register, washing dishes, making cold drinks, warm drinks, and cleaning off the tables,” Kimball said. “Communication is really important in an environment like this. If I need a Gatorade, and I don’t tell the person behind that to get the Gatorade, then the customer isn’t going to get the Gatorade.”
High School Senior Breanna Bildner, president of the BPA, said Study Cup has completely changed her “freshman-year self.”
“Most of all, I’ve learned leadership,” Bildner said. “Freshman year, I was really shy, and I wasn’t a big leader. Now I’m a senior, and this year I ended up being president of BPA. I’ve learned how to connect with all the members and make sure that everyone’s heard with all their questions, concerns, and ideas.”
But the students aren’t limited to the mere 40-minute shifts in the morning or afternoon. When the shop opened, Eggleston initiated an independent study where various students learned and worked as the Study Cup manager.
“First off, I knew I couldn’t do it on my own,” Eggleston said. “And second off, I really wanted it to be a true, student-run business. They do payroll, ordering, I have them come up with marketing materials, or they might have to do some certain cleaning that they can’t do during a shift.”
Aside from the shop being everything she hoped it would be, Woods said the shop gives direction to various students.
“The vast amount of jobs that are available is kind of overwhelming to kids,” Woods said. “The more skills that these kids are exposed to, the more they can figure out what they want to do in life, or if they like entrepreneurship. Two of my three kids so far have majored in the similar skills that they were exposed to at BPA.”
Most importantly, Eggleston praises the “dependability, punctuality, kindness, and cooperation” of the students.
“I’m just really proud of it,” Eggleston said. “The kids impress me everyday.”