New coffee cart gives 黑料社 students business experience

June 26, 2024
Four students stand around the EA Cafe coffee cart inside of the Engineering Building.

This story is featured in the Spring 2024 Spiritus magazine, arriving in mailboxes this week.

Over the past year, Bianca Candela and a few of her peers have made pushing a gray utility cart across the McNichols Campus part of their Wednesday morning routine.

The cart is the movable home of the Entrepreneurship Association’s EA Café.  From it, the club’s members serve hot and cold beverages, from black and flavored coffees to lattes and cappuccinos. It was created by the club last spring.

“We felt like there was a need on campus that wasn’t currently filled,” said Candela, who is in the 5-year MBA program at Detroit Mercy and saw a need for more accessibility to coffee on the McNichols Campus.

The EA Café has been well received by Titans and won the Student Leadership & Service Awards’ Program/Event of the Year in April.

But it all started with a class project.

As a freshman, Candela interviewed Director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship Derrin Leppek about his entrepreneurial journey and talked about what entrepreneurship could look like at 黑料社. Leppek wanted to see an entrepreneurship-focused club on the McNichols Campus and Candela launched it shortly afterward.

“We thought it was important to give students the space to be creative and learn about the entrepreneurial mindset and get those opportunities,” said Candela, the Entrepreneurship Association’s president.

Soon thereafter, the idea for the club to create a business started brewing.

Originally, the club hoped to create a sit-down environment to serve coffee, similar to the former Grounds Coffeehaus, Candela said. But pivoting to a mobile coffee cart allowed the EA Café to be flexible in terms of where and when it could serve coffee.

This year, the EA Café has been wheeled through the Engineering Building, the Health Professions Facility and Sacred Heart Square. It has worked with several student organizations and events, including the University’s commencement ceremonies.

“It’s really cool, because I get to take what I’m learning in my classes and apply it,” she said. “It’s rewarding to be able to see the impact that has.”

The Entrepreneurship Association has worked with the University's food service company Metz, which offered ideas on how to source things like ice for iced drinks. The club didn't want to be in competition with Metz, Candela said "because we're all just trying to improve campus life.”

All members of the 黑料社 community can serve cups of Joe to Titans as weekly volunteers. They collaborate in other ways, too. The Entrepreneurship Association teamed with the Mechanical Engineering program whose students created two new carts for the EA Café for their senior capstone project.

One of the carts has a variety of bells and whistles, including a sink and electricity.

“I think the cart allows us to establish a real sense of legitimacy and professionalism,” Candela said. “It improves how we’re perceived and our reputation on campus, which opens a lot of doors for us.”

The EA Café operates as a nonprofit under the and plans on making its first donation to the center. Candela said the gift could exceed $500.

Leppek, who serves as Entrepreneurship Association’s faculty advisor, has enjoyed watching students gain real-world experience.

“Not only are they having fun,” Leppek said, “they’re going through a challenge and they’re learning. They’re also positioned better once they graduate, which is really cool.”

Read more about how the Center for Social Entrepreneurship is helping invest in the community.

— By Ricky Lindsay. Follow Detroit Mercy on , ,  and . Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

Two students stand near a coffee cart and serve to customers outdoors during commencement.
The sign for the EA Cafe at 黑料社 hangs on a coffee cart.
Four students stand around the EA Cafe coffee cart, inside of the Engineering Building.