EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
As Marble Falls High School student Irene Ortiz tweaked the latte mix and then a frozen coffee drink, she wrote down the changes on a notebook sitting on the nearby counter.
Off to the side, business and entrepreneurship teacher Tucker Edwards watched. It’s part of the process, he said, of running a business: finding out what works, what doesn’t, and what to adjust. Those things hold true whether coming up with the perfect coffee drink or the right business plan.
On Tuesday, September 3, the Marble Falls business practicum students officially open The Stables, a coffee shop tucked into a concession stand between the school’s gym and cafeteria.
They began planning for this day last year.
“We’re ready,” senior Frank Castillo said. “We’ve been working on this — Mr. Edwards, we started working on this in his class last year. We all started brainstorming about what type of business (we wanted to open). We’ve done a feasibility study, risk management, a business plan.”
The coffee shop is a hands-on project during which students will learn every aspect of starting and running a business.
Initial funding came from a Marble Falls Education Foundation grant and support by the district, but success now rests in the hands of the students.
The idea of a student-run coffee shop began percolating in Edwards’ mind about two years ago when he was a substitute teacher and helping with the Life Skills recycling program. Life Skills students would collect recyclables around the campus, and the amount of coffee cups they picked up astounded Edwards.
“There were hundreds, even thousands of dollars in coffee cups that students were buying from local coffee shops: Numinous, Starbucks, Mojo’s,” he said.
Edwards was glad students were patronizing local businesses, but he also saw an opportunity. What if they ran their own coffee shop?
During the 2018-19 school year, Edwards became a full-time high school staff member, teaching business and entrepreneurship classes. He asked his students what type of business they would create on campus if they could. Without knowledge of Edwards’ idea, they overwhelmingly said a coffee shop.
And so work began.
The students researched campus coffee shops, and Edwards began tailoring the curriculum in one of his classes. Then came feasibility studies, business and marketing plans, and visits to other schools with student-run coffee shops.
In January, Edwards and four students pitched the idea to a roomful of campus and district administration members, who gave the thumbs-up. With that approval, the work began in earnest: getting initial funding through the grant and the district, locating a spot for the shop, and coordinating with other departments to bring it all together.
During the first weeks of the school year, the business practicum students ordered supplies and learned how to craft several coffee drinks. Edwards pointed out that the students learn every facet of running a business: building marketing plans, keeping up with inventory, and developing a point-of-sale system that allows customers to use debit and credit cards as well as cash.
“Building that point-of-sale system, that’s something that will stand out when they are looking for jobs,” Edwards said. “Not too many high school students have that experience.”
The plan is to open the coffee shop from 7:45-815 a.m. on school days, but they’re also looking at operating during special events and maybe after school.
Along with coffee, The Stables will offer some pre-packaged food items. A limited selection will be sold during lunch and adhere to student nutrition requirements.
The market research isn’t done once the shop opens. Students will review sales daily and at regular intervals. Edwards said if they find that one product isn’t selling, students will look at what they’re doing, including how it’s made and how it’s marketed, to improve those numbers.
Those lessons have helped students such as Castillo understand business from a wider viewpoint.
“I have a lot of ideas for businesses, but I didn’t know how to get those ideas out there,” Castillo said. “Now, I know how. I can make them happen.”
Edwards estimates the coffee shop could see a pretty good profit after costs. His plan is to use those funds to offer scholarships to students and make improvements around campus.
“We want it to be something the students see as giving back to them,” he said. “They’ll spend their money here, but they’ll see that it comes back to them, whether it’s with scholarships or fixing up the campus.”
The shop’s name, The Stables, originated from two things, one of which is the high school mascot, the Mustang.
The second thing is something bigger.
“When we presented the idea to (MFISD Superintendent) Dr. (Chris) Allen and the others, we told them one of the reasons we chose a coffee shop was because we wanted to build community,” Edwards said.
He explained the hope is the coffee shop brings students, faculty, and others together. Sure, it’s a place they can get a good cup of coffee, but it’s also where they can gather to talk and get to know each other.
“The community part is one of the best parts about this,” Castillo said. “Coffee brings people together. We can give them a place to get some (coffee) and talk and maybe build that community. (The coffee shop) and everything, this has me amped up, and I’m really excited. Can’t wait.”