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Gaining real-world business experience at UIC’s Starbucks

9/18/2019, noon | Updated on 9/18/2019, noon
University of Illinois at Chicago business majors Safaa Sarefian, Rosemary Arevalo and Matt Carey are quickly learning that top-shelf brands ...
UIC students Matt Carey (from left), Rosemary Arevalo and Safaa Sarefian at the grand opening of the Starbucks in the Academic and Residential Complex at UIC. Photo Credit: Jenny Fontaine

Gaining real-world business experience at UIC’s Starbucks

University of Illinois at Chicago business majors Safaa Sarefian, Rosemary Arevalo and Matt Carey are quickly learning that top-shelf brands like Starbucks will attract crowds from sunup to sundown — and if any entrepreneur is to succeed, he or she must be ready for them.

The seniors are involved in helping run the new Starbucks store in the Academic and Residential Complex, which opened to students this fall. The Starbucks store, which celebrated its grand opening Sept. 3, is located near the intersection of Harrison and Peoria streets.

Alexandre da Silva, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said he hoped students would take advantage of the opportunity to frequent the coffee shop and that it is a special partnership with the College of Business Administration. He pointed to the role it will have on campus, saying that it represents a “visionary approach” by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J. Rex Tolliver.

“What is really special about this particular store is not only the national brand that we all recognize but the ingredients of having a staff that is, in its vast majority, students of UIC,” da Silva said.

Sarefian, Arevalo and Carey are part of the inaugural group who are working at the coffee shop as part of an independent study program focusing on entrepreneurship. Most of the workers, except for the manager and assistant manager, are students.

As part of their course load this semester, the students in the independent study program were involved in helping set up the store from the very beginning and had a hand in everything from hiring new staff to helping manage the day-to-day operations.

“Every day, from 7 in the morning until 6 at night, it’s just a nonstop line out of the door,” said Carey, a student in information and decision sciences from Aurora.

Charles Farrell, executive director of business development for UIC, said the aim of the endeavor is to provide a “real-life” business situation for students, warts and all. Students were brought in during the spring semester to begin preparing for the opening.

They took part in on-site training in the new store by Starbucks trainers. They also were involved in hiring a full-time manager and assistant manager. The students in the independent study program have and will continue to help the manager and assistant manager train new baristas as they get hired. The students quickly realized that running a store can be difficult — especially with staffing.

“That’s part of management too — you hire someone and you think, ‘That’s wonderful; I’m done,’ and then they quit, and you’re like, ‘Oh no,’” Farrell said. “That’s the whole point of all this, rather than sit in a classroom or being taught in a theoretical way by someone who owns a business, they’re right in there seeing the good, the bad and the ugly of what being an entrepreneur is all about — it’s not easy.”

That’s what appealed to Sarefian, a marketing major from Skokie. Eventually, he wants to start his own business, but he knew the best thing for him before he got to that point was to learn how to start a business from scratch.