By Scott Diekema, Morehead-Cain Scholar from the Class of 2019
A few weeks into my freshman year, Keegan McBride (Class of 2017) approached me with a radical idea – opening an entirely student-run café in the Campus Y, UNC’s Center for Social Justice. The concept was not novel; I soon learned that students had been toying with the idea for almost seven years. The reoccurring issue, however, was that each time a business plan was developed, the student team would graduate before they could bring it to fruition. With four years ahead of me, I, alongside Keegan and Lauren Eaves (Class of 2018), was in a position to make this vision a reality.
For the remainder of the fall semester last year, our team conducted market research and began putting together a business plan for The Meantime Coffee Company, an entirely student-run, non-profit coffee shop. Our first big break came at the start of the spring semester, when we were selected to be a CUBE venture. The CUBE is UNC’s Social Innovation Initiative, and as a participant in its social incubator, each venture receives mentorship and training from local entrepreneurs as well as $5,000 in seed capital. The CUBE lifted us out of the planning stage and guided us in taking concrete steps towards executing on our idea.
Lauren Eaves and I stayed in Chapel Hill this past summer to bring the project to life. We first met with campus administrators to secure the physical location in the Campus Y lobby and then began designing and building the space. Next came our legal identity; for this task, we partnered with the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce, which offers pro-bono legal and financial advice for local non-profits in an effort to promote social entrepreneurship in greater Chapel Hill. On a quest for the highest-quality beans, we chose Carrboro Coffee Roasters as our wholesale supplier, a mission-oriented roastery just down the road. In addition to supplying beans, they helped us build out our product plan and find all the necessary equipment. The last task of our summer was securing additional funding; we were very fortunate to receive grants from the Campus Y as well as the Food For All Steering Committee, the governing body of UNC’s current academic theme.
The Meantime opened on September 12 and took off like we never could have imagined. The line of customers stretched out the door, and within days we were going through more volume than almost any other coffee shop in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. This was a hectic but rewarding time for our team, as we worked to keep up with the overwhelming demand. There were many pivots in that first month, for we learned that The Meantime had to operate on an entirely different scale than what we had expected. Eleven weeks after our launch, we’re ready to look ahead and reassess how The Meantime can maximize its positive impact on UNC’s campus. All of The Meantime’s residual profits are reinvested back into UNC students in the form of scholarships and grants, and we expect to announce our first major grant within the next few months.
As an Economics and Asian Studies double major with a minor in Entrepreneurship, I have found The Meantime to be an in-depth, practical application of what I’m learning in the classroom. I can speak on behalf of my team when I say that this has been an incredibly rewarding experience for all of us, and I cannot wait to see future Meantime employees benefit in the same way. While UNC students built The Meantime from the ground up, it would not have been possible without the incredible resources afforded to us by UNC-Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle community. This University is working within the Triangle’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem to position itself as a hub of student innovation nationwide. As a student entrepreneur, there is no place I’d rather be.
Meet alumna Chelsea Barnes, graduate of the Class of 2015 and current J.D. candidate in the UNC School of Law.
As a current law student and former undergraduate, I am what we affectionately call a “Double Tar Heel.”
I find a sense of pride in saying this now, but if you had asked me if I would be here five years ago there is a strong possibility I would have told you, “I don’t know.”
I am a citizen of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and grew up in a small town about 30 minutes outside of my tribal community. Though I excelled in high school, I still had those pre-application jitters that many of you may be all too familiar with. As I look back on my senior year of high school, I remember being nervous about whether or not I would get into Carolina and if I did, what it would be like when I got there. Very few people where I was from went to college and of those that did, few went to schools like Carolina. In some ways, it felt out of reach.
When I got my acceptance letter, I was ecstatic. I entered my first year at Carolina hopeful about what the future would bring. Once I got there, however, I soon realized that I would need to find a support system. I floundered (to say the least) during my first semester and questioned whether or not I really belonged. My initial support system was Alpha Pi Omega, a Native American interest sorority. During my first months at Carolina, the women within the sorority reached out to me and ensured me that I was welcome and supported. When I later joined the sorority during my sophomore year, I learned that its very purpose was to serve as a support for college women in today’s society.
Though I had grown up outside of my tribal community, I was beginning to find my home at Carolina. Becoming a sister of the sorority led me to other opportunities, including becoming more involved with the Carolina Indian Circle (CIC), UNC’s undergraduate Native student group. I had the pleasure of serving as the president of CIC for two years. In the process, I learned so much about myself, my culture, and how to be a leader.
My involvement in these organizations led me to a myriad of other opportunities during my time as an undergraduate. I had the opportunity to work as an intern for Congressman Tom Cole through the Udall Foundation and was an honorable mention for the Udall Scholarship. I had the opportunity to serve on committees and work with university officials to plan events. I got to know other leaders of student organizations and work with them in efforts to make Carolina a place that would seek to embrace diversity wholeheartedly. Though I worked hard to earn these opportunities, I wouldn’t have gotten there without the support system I established within the Native community at Carolina.
Despite my initial academic struggles and issues I faced during my first year at Carolina, my support system within the Native community enabled me to excel both personally and academically. The network I created provided me with the support I needed to apply to law school and the confidence to do so. In some ways, not much has changed. I am currently serving as the president of the Native American Law Students’ Association and working with other members of our organization to think of ways we can increase enrollment of Native students at the law school.
As I think back to my experience as an undergraduate, I am humbled by the opportunities I was given. As a Native American female from a small town in eastern North Carolina, there are many (including myself) who wouldn’t have predicted that I would be where I am today. All of this goes to show that with lots of hard work, finding your support system, and a little bit of fate, things happen exactly as they are supposed to. My name is Chelsea Barnes, and I am a (double) Tar Heel.