Student entrepreneurs have high hopes for potential MHS cafe

Tanya Keskar | The Chronicle

A team of Mason High School (MHS) students are brewing plans for an in-school cafe, currently set to launch during the 2022-23 school year.

The cafe will be a student-run business selling coffee, tea and other drinks in the mornings and after school. It will be constructed in the Learning Commons as an endeavor to support a more relaxing atmosphere for students. The newly designed cafe will house students enjoying locally-sourced drinks crafted by their peers and, to cater to a school of about 3500 students, the team of students and staff behind the designing of the cafe hope to implement a sort of online ordering system with an app or website.

Besides snagging their daily caffeine fix, students will also have the opportunity to gain real business experience behind the register with a new learning program during the school day. With MHS students intended to work in the cafe as baristas and management positions, they will be provided with a chance to develop marketing, business and customer service skills.

Business teacher Lori Toerner has been working with the student team to launch the cafe. Toerner says that the cafe will help students get real-world experience, especially with collaboration and decision making.

“[Students] can apply [these skills] even if they’re not necessarily going into business,” Toerner said. “Providing students the opportunity to put into action what they’re learning sitting in a classroom and giving them that experience before they leave high school is invaluable to me.”

The development of the cafe has been led by senior Myles Tavernier, junior Emma Winegardner and senior Lauren Mullins. Putting together an entire business has required much work and attention from the students involved, students that are planning out and researching the logistics and details, including construction outlines, potential partners in local coffee shops, possible roasteries to source from and business plans.

Winegardner’s interest in coffee led her to join the team, and she said she is excited about the atmosphere the coffee shop will create.

“I used to ride the bus [and] I would think, ‘what am I doing at school 30 minutes before the bell rings?’” Winegardner said. “I would walk around the halls and the Learning Commons would just be empty. With the coffee shop, students would have a place where they can just be [themselves] or just talk to classmates, rather than awkwardly sitting in a classroom alone.”
Mullins said that she appreciates having the opportunity to be more involved in the school, and is excited to leave her mark on Mason with the implementation of the coffee shop.

“It feels really good to be included, especially in something that I’m passionate about,” Mullins said. “It’s a new and exciting experience for me.”

Tavernier has been leading the cafe development project for the past two years. He pitched the idea as a sophomore, but the implementation did not work out after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the school year. Tavernier said he is looking forward to seeing this vision become a reality.

“My ultimate dream is for [the cafe] to be a common hub for everything; to be a full, running coffee shop,” Tavernier said. “Students come in the morning and get a cup of coffee from other students, providing that whole coffee shop atmosphere and creating an inclusive environment with a space for all students.”

There are many details to keep track of when designing a coffee shop. The team reached out to other student-run coffee shops nearby when drafting the design of the cafe and are developing the menu to meet nutritional guidelines, as well as purchasing equipment for the cafe. Winegardner said the team is also looking locally to source coffee for the cafe.

“We want to [have] small businesses in Mason [help us source the coffee],” Winegardner said. “I always hear such great things about those places. [We will] bring [them] into the high school, and they get something out of it and we get something out of it.”

Other MHS groups are also working on contributing toward making the cafe a reality. The Computer Science Honor Society is developing an app for the cafe. The Digital Image Design classes are developing a logo. Marketing classes are creating a tagline. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship class are helping create business plans. Comet Zone is creating aprons and hats. These aids are, according to Tavernier, amplifying the voices of the teenagers that are fighting for the cafe’s implementation.

“A lot of people say that as teenagers, our voice doesn’t really matter, but we have a lot [to contribute],” Tavernier said. “[We’re] really getting to use [our] skills and not making teachers and adults do all of the work, but getting us to do it. It’s really powerful.”

The cafe will soon, as is the hope of its production team, be the newest student-run business, bringing coffee and warmth to the Mason High School atmosphere.

“[We’re] going to make it happen,” Winegardner said. “[We’re] fighting for it.”

Illustration by Becca Hunter