The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.
Michael Evans is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Michael Evans, and I am a co-founder and CFO of 321 Coffee. 321 Coffee is a nonprofit coffee shop that aims to provide meaningful work experience to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization operates out of the State Farmers Market Thursday - Sunday (1202 Agriculture St. Slot 48).
My role in 321 Coffee is as the Chief Financial Officer. I create projections and budgets, manage our payroll, work with donors, manage inventory, etc. I also run the organization's social media. Since we're a small company, we all end up doing stuff all over the place. Most recently, my role has involved getting everyone set on the payroll and getting the organization ready to launch a $250K campaign to raise money for a storefront.
Outside of 321 Coffee, I'm a junior Park Scholar at NC State University studying statistics and economics.
What did it take and how did you get started?
We started off two years ago as a student organization at NC State. The student organization would do "pop-up" events in the local community to get the name out about 321. We'd accept donations at these events and always put the donations towards making our next step. After a year of doing pop-up events, we moved to the State Farmers Market in an outdoor stall. We'd run extension cords to our coffee machine and set up on plastic folding tables. It wasn't easy, but we made it work and continued to get our name out.
Six months after starting outside at the State Farmers Market, we were offered a permanent stall inside the Market Shops. Though we were originally unsure of if it would be a good fit for us, it has proven to be extremely successful. Weekends often find a line forming at 321 Coffee, and we've had tremendous support from the community at our new spot. That support has allowed us to recently hire twenty-one adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities as the first paid baristas of 321 Coffee. This was a huge step for our organization, as these individuals do not have a lot of paid opportunities available to them. Prior to being hired, our baristas had all worked as volunteers. Their hard work as volunteers helped us build a model that could sustain paid employees.
What does the future look like for you and your hustle?
Beginning a donor campaign to raise money for a storefront that we hope to launch in the coming year. We hope to raise $250K by December and begin work on a storefront in the winter with a launch in late spring/early summer.
Hopefully finding a way to do this full-time after graduation in one form or another. Maybe it isn't necessarily with just a coffee shop, but working to integrate these individuals into the workforce in meaningful ways.
What drives / motivates you?
I love seeing the impact that my work is having on people. I have watched so many people light up when they walk into 321 and experience our unique service environment. I loved hearing stories from our employees about how happy they were to become paid employees of 321. What 321 Coffee is doing is changing lives, and it's amazing to see that happen.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
Stop thinking about it and give it a shot. Put out a minimum viable product and see what the reaction is. You have to get feedback to know how to shape your company to what consumers want. The only way to truly do that is to actually put something out there.
What has been the hardest part of the hustle?
Because we are all in college, we often have trouble getting people to take us seriously. We usually have to tell people a lot about what we've been able to do and the impact we've made to get them to take us seriously. Still, some people worry that we're too young, and it has stopped some people from working with us in the past.
What are a few resources (could be books, podcasts, websites etc) that you'd recommend?
The Lean Startup, The 4 Hour Workweek, Quickbooks (has saved us so much time with our finances)
Side or full-time hustle?
Technically a side hustle because I am a full-time student, but often feels like it is reversed.
List the founders
Michael Evans, Lindsay Wrege
# of Employees (part-time and full-time)
3 Directors (20+ hours per week)
6 Part-time managers
21 part-time baristas (individuals with IDD)
When did you start?
How much did it cost to launch?
A couple thousand dollars to get the initial equipment, signage, insurance, etc.
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
We've done two GoFundMe campaigns. First was for $5,000 to launch and the second was for $3,000 to get started at the Farmers Market.
Just shy of $50k
With a storefront in the coming year, hopefully north of $300k