The Culver Academies students researching the opening of a coffee house on campus got a chance to meet with real-life entrepreneurs over Alumni Reunion Weekend. During two different sessions on May 17 and 18, the Entrepreneurship III students explained their concept, the work done to date, and listened as alumni made suggestions on getting the project successfully started.
The concept for the Rubin Café, which would be located in the foyer of the Roberts Hall of Science/Dicke Hall of Mathematics is being developed as part of The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur curriculum. Students selected to run the café would earn Honors in Entrepreneurship credit.
With The Republic of Tea owner Ron Rubin ’68, who has endowed the entrepreneur school, at both sessions, Maureen Reed ’14 (Lafayette, Ind.) said Saturday while there are several decisions left to be made, “there is no question what brand of tea will be served.”
During the Friday session, the class laid out its plans for Rubin, Paul Much ’68, Ted Jones ’68, Marshall Stocker ’93, and Bill Bundy ’93. During the give-and-take, the businessmen reminded the students to start small and build their business.
Bundy said a “scalable” business is exactly what Starbucks was, starting with only two items on its menu. Possibly using a self-sustaining kiosk would save start-up costs and would not require any renovation to the building foyer.
Rubin added that students should also not to be afraid to drop something from the menu if it doesn’t produce. If muffins are only generating three percent of your revenue but causing “80 percent of your headaches,” he said, don’t be afraid to stop selling muffins.
Bundy, Stocker, and Much said learning from mistakes and failures – especially when starting out – is what entrepreneurs do. Taking calculated risks, learning from those mistakes, and overcoming obstacles are all part of the entrepreneurial process.
The five also gave students some basic advice overall. Rubin and Gift talked about putting yourself first when it came to saving money. Rubin said he got great satisfaction writing a check to himself “every month” that went into his savings account when he first started. Gift said too many people today have failed to save and they don’t have enough for retirement.
Rubin added students should look for mentors. He had “three outstanding mentors” over his 17-year career in the family wine-making and growing business.
Much told the students when he was at college, he made appointments to talk with CEOs of investment companies about their firms. He said he told them he simply wanted to know more about their company, the session would take no more than 30 minutes, and he would not ask for a job at any time during the interview.
He said he did not get turned down once and at the end of each interview, the CEOs told him to contact them when he graduated.
He added maintaining your values was important. Even if it means losing business or clients, sticking to your values is best for the long term for both the business and the individual. “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” he said. “You’ll sleep a lot better at night.”