A business fraternity at a small college in West Virginia had a pioneering idea: a student-run coffee shop to serve the campus and provide hands-on experience for the organization’s members.
Davis & Elkins College’s Phi Beta Lambda chapter set the plan for a cafe in the campus library into motion over a year ago. But the process to open Beta Bean Cafe wasn’t simple.
“There were several obstacles on top of the usual steps,” said Frank Cottrill, Phi Beta Lambda president and manager of the cafe. “I had to work in conjunction with the administration, library staff, the head of dining services on campus, as well as the local health inspector.”
Finally, on Nov. 4, Beta Bean Cafe had its grand opening, and the campus community at the 750-person private college in Elkins, W.V., has responded well.
“Students are loving the cafe being open,” Cottrill said. “I believe students will thoroughly enjoy the presence of the coffee shop during finals week, as we will also be giving back to students through a rather substantially discounted finals menu.”
Though the process wasn’t easy and school leaders required a full business plan to ensure the cafe’s success, those in charge believe the venture was a great idea.
“Response since the opening has been great, and this will be a delightful addition to our campus,” says PBL Advisor and D&E Professor of Economics and Finance Dr. Nadeem Khan.
Additionally, the students who work at Beta Bean Cafe (Phi Beta Lambda members are given priority) receive valuable business experience — an invaluable skill for members of a fraternity focused on business.
“Students in the future will now have the opportunity to get management experience, marketing and accounting,” Cottrill said.
And Davis & Elkins administrators have taken notice of this tiny cafe that sells a full menu of hot, iced and blended espresso drinks.
“It’s all for and about the students,” said D&E Vice President for Student Affairs Scott Goddard. “The students get to work in a real business.”
Cottrill himself had four years of experience working in a bakery cafe, so working in this environment isn’t so much different than his work used to be. But the pressure of a full course-load and trying to open a business was sometimes stressful.
“It has been a very busy semester, but it has been a relief that the cafe is finally open after a long process,” he said. “The opening of the cafe has allowed me to take time to prepare for exams and term papers.”
Beta Bean Cafe hasn’t made a lot of money so far, but once profits start coming in, the chapter hopes to use the funds to finance trips to national conferences. Cottrill hopes the idea will spread to other Phi Beta Lambda chapters as a way to provide real-world experience.
“I believe our chapter of PBL is doing something amazing,” Cottrill said. “We took a student idea and as students opened a student owned and operated business. I would like to challenge other PBL chapters around the country to go to administration and say that they want to open a student enterprise on campus.”