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Checking in on NU’s First Mobile Coffee Shop

It’s been almost three months since BrewBike officially began operation, and like any determined cyclist pedaling toward a goal, business is starting to pick up speed.

The success of BrewBike, Northwestern’s first student-run, cold brew coffee shop on wheels, has been largely dependent on insights from its trial phases. The eight days of Wildcat Welcome offered founders Lucas Phillips and Brammy Geduld the unique opportunity to experiment with location, a perk that only a mobile company like BrewBike could afford.

After setting up shop outside the Rock, the Arch, SPAC and even the Lakefill, the pair of SESP sophomores ultimately decided to station their business outside of Tech for the start of the school year. There, BrewBike could capitalize not only on the consistent congregation of students between classes, but also on a clear and potentially profitable hole in the market for fast, quality coffee.

“People need to be in a routine in order for our business to be at its best,” said Phillips, speaking in regard to another of the valuable insights gleaned from Wildcat Welcome. That’s the reason BrewBike has adopted a fixed schedule of hourly operations: Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Going forward, Phillips expects business to grow past the break-even point, as word-of-mouth begins to spread a notion he and Geduld have confidently held since day one – that BrewBike objectively serves the best coffee on campus. According to Phillips, BrewBike’s keg coffee is cleaner, tastier and more caffeinated, and he guarantees no Sodexo café on campus focuses as much attention on the quality of its product.

In terms of immediate goals, the founders of BrewBike are looking to continue running a tight ship to wrap up the current season, which has been elongated by incredibly fair weather. Once operations shut down, Phillips plans to take the company straight into proposal mode, which he hopes will lead to approval for an indoor pop-up shop, potentially in Annenberg. Menu expansion also may be on the agenda for the mobile coffee shop, as hot coffee is expectedly one of their most requested products. At the moment, Phillips says that it’s too operationally complex for installment in the near future, but as a temporary alternative, students should try BrewBike’s new caffeinated hot chocolate.

For student entrepreneurs interested in growing a company from concept to reality, Phillips had one main point of advice: focus on the value proposition. BrewBike was conceived out of a need for convenient, quality coffee that he and Geduld believed they could fill. Their company started as NU Student Coffee but has gone through dozens of iterations since then.

“Students who want to start a venture have to understand that their idea will definitely change, and that their end goal will not be that idea,” Phillips said. “But they need to stay focused on the problem and if they do that – even if it’s by the time they’re seniors – they will eventually hit that solution.”

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