Idea Factory "Alpha Cafe" Launch

1 years ago


Of all the programs we run here at Sustainable Startups, we definitely have a big soft spot when it comes to Idea Factory, our youth entrepreneurship program that works with local high school students to launch their very own social enterprise and give them a jumpstart into the world of business development. You can learn more about the program here and our current participants here

On December 4th, our Idea Factory youth entrepreneurs launched their "Alpha-Cafe" at the Sorenson Unity Center. This soft launch allowed them to test their business model, learn from customers, and generate revenue. In fact, they actually turned a small profit on the first day of business! 



The thirty hours leading up to their launch were some of the most stressful and most educational that we've yet to see them experience. We asked the group to reflect on what the experience was like and asked our aspiring author, Isaac, to describe the experience for this blog. Here's what he had to say: 

It is safe to say that the previous week has been by far the busiest, most stressful, and most chaotic that we’ve experienced so far during our time at Idea Factory. Concluding with the alpha run of our café during a gallery-stroll at the Unity center, the week included the most stressful meeting yet, where we rushed to make up for three weeks of work in three hours, our second real engagement with the community, and a chance to give back to the community. At the end of the late night on Friday, speaking for myself, I was exhausted, but at the same time incredibly satisfied and proud of how as a team we accomplished a feat of no small measure.

When we all walked in to our usual meeting on Thursday at the Unity center none of us realized the extent of the challenge we were facing. It took only a few short minutes for that to change and after what could only be considered a heart-to-heart with our mentor Ian, where he expressed his own worry about the event the following night did the extent of what we had to do become clear. When marketing for an event it is not unusual to begin sending out invitations and building excitement some thirty days prior, we had thirty hours. The three hours of that meeting were undoubtedly the most stressful, packed, and challenging that we had faced up to the point. Subcommittees running around, inviting as many people as we could through social media, working in coordination with the city, contacting sponsors across the city. One of the most incredible observations I left that night with is how in a period of three hours you can experience both the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. By ten minutes in many of us felt overwhelmed, as I know I did. How could sixteen teenagers organize a community event that in the moment lacked severely in many fields? It felt as if we were rushing ever faster towards what would end up being our characterizing and colossal failure.

Three hours work completely changed that perspective; by the end of the night we knew what was left to do, what we had done, and what we should have done in the weeks prior. So, in a nights work we moved from a place of utter unpreparedness to having an organized and promising event. Nothing better could represent the roller coaster ride that is being an entrepreneur.

The event happened, taking place over four or so hours at the Sorenson Unity center, I can faithfully and confidently say that it was a success. Over the time we spent working our booth at the gallery stroll we made a profit, engaged extensively with the community, and gained valuable lessons and experience. For me the aspect of the entire experience that stuck with me most of all was that we had proved that no matter the challenge, whether its staring at the peak of a mountain, approaching the academic rigor of high school, or having three hours to throw together an event, that if you take what time you have, dig-deep, and put in everything that there is to give, you will succeed or at least end up having a laugh and serving a muffin or two.


After the event was over, the cafe had leftover supplies that they didn't want to throw out. A few of the youth decided they'd offer it to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to have a warm drink that night. Here's Eduarda's description of what happened. 

After the Idea Factory Cafe alpha testing, we had some left over coffee and muffins, and decided to go and give some to the homeless people downtown as it was a cold night and giving back to the community is one of our core values. As we went downtown, we were a little hesitant to go up to the homeless and give them the coffee, but after a quick pep talk, we stopped the car in front of two guys. They were very grateful for the coffee and muffins, and they even asked for seconds! The most memorable experience of the night had to be when we found a group of people huddled together, and when we asked if they wanted coffee, the look of gratitude on their faces is one that I will never forget. One guy proceeded to tell us that he hadn't been able to feel his toes all night, and that the cup of coffee that we had just given him was the one thing that was going to help him make it through the night. I mean, one simple cup of coffee, which meant nothing to us, meant the world to him. All in all, the coffee that we gave out that night seemed greatly appreciated by the community. 


The cafe will open again next month for another test-run. Stay tuned for details! A heart-felt thank you to Salt Lake City, Youth City and Ally Bank for making this project possible.