Ryan Clifford ’17 and Jack Antico ’17 share some commonalities. Both are seniors heading off to business school in the fall, Bentley and Boston College, respectively. Both had the urge to start their own business this year, but unsure as to the type of business. Clifford had an espresso maker and a passion for coffee. Antico recently visited his brother at Georgetown where he noted the cool coffee places on campus. Equipped with an idea, they decided to give it a go.
Eight employees later, from limited open hours to now all day, every day, the addition of homemade baked good and even a delivery service that brings coffee to you anywhere on campus, On the Grind has taken off…and fast. These business owners are running on more than just caffeine.
After the initial idea, the first step was writing a business plan to take to the KO administration. While very supportive of the idea, they asked the boys to garner more information then come back to them. Rather than view this as a setback, Clifford and Antico reworked the plan, researched the industry, and surveyed the faculty and students to see how much they spent on coffee. Antico and Clifford brought the bolstered plan back to the administration, negotiated the rental cost for the space in the cafeteria, and their idea was given the green light.
In the less than a month, the business is already profitable. Recently, they started working with a supplier to improve on the beans they roast, which they said has made a huge difference. “The amount of time the beans sit is a big deal,” said Clifford. “A lot of the larger coffee chains have beans that could sit for weeks. Ours are incredibly fresh, and you taste it in the quality of our coffee.”
Renting space. Milk costs. Profit margin on baked goods. Training employees. And, in true savvy business fashion, the two have already taken their plan back to the administration to renegotiate the numbers. “This is preparing me for business, and I am able to dip my toes in the water," said Clifford. “There are a lot of things we don’t have to worry about like permits, insurance, and regulations that I know other owners do. But, it has opened our eyes to what running a business looks like. Having employees, setting up systems, expansion. It can be overwhelming. But I have learned a lot, and it has reassured me that I want to go into business.”
At $2.50 for a large iced coffee and $1.00 for a brownie, On the Grind prices are incredibly reasonable, and less costly than other establishments. Plus, you can skip the long lines. They average about a minute to make an iced coffee, and two for a latte. If you're a student cramming for an exam and can’t make it to the cafeteria, for an extra .50 cents their delivery service will come to you. The feedback from customers has been incredibly positive. One faculty member said as she sipped a coffee, “This is definitely one of the best lattes I have ever had. It tastes so fresh.”
The entrepreneurs are discussing plans for On the Grind after graduation. They are training two rising sophomores who will likely take On the Grind over and keep it running. “We want the business to grow and succeed,” said Antico. “There's lots of potential.”
If nothing else, this experience has given both boys’ insight into what it takes to get a business off the ground, grow it, and sustain it.
“I came to KO with a work ethic,” said Clifford. "This business took my work ethic and increased it even more. I have had to pull late nights where I have had to crunch numbers; either you get it done or you fail. I have always liked Economics class and thank goodness because I have never used more of it!”
Antico said, “I am thankful to KO for giving us this opportunity. It is much easier to launch a business in such a nurturing environment where we have had so much support from teachers and students. I just wish we had started it earlier!”
America might run on Dunkin' for now, but if On the Grind keeps growing, there is no telling where it's headed down the road.