If you’re like most Northwestern students, you get your on-campus caffeine fix at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. You swing by the Norris outposts of one of these international chains as you run to class – and you probably don’t think twice about it. But SESP freshmen Lucas Philips and Brammy Geduld want to change the way you drink your coffee.
Enter BrewBike, Northwestern’s first cold brew bike. Yes, you read that right – this student-run startup wants to bring locally sourced cold brew to you, on wheels. I sat down with Lucas and Brammy to chat about entrepreneurship in college, supporting small businesses and their upcoming product launch.
Spoon: Tell me about yourselves.
Lucas: I’m a first-year student at Northwestern in the School of Education and Social Policy studying Learning and Organizational Change. Outside of the classroom, I’m in the EPIC entrepreneurship club, and I’m a resident of The Garage. I came to college with the goal of starting a business of my own – but I never thought it would be something housed at Northwestern.
Brammy: I’m also a first-year studying Learning and Organization Change in SESP, and I’m also in EPIC and a resident of The Garage. I didn’t come to college with the intention of starting a business – I always sort of assumed that once there was an idea that I felt really passionate about, I would run with it. So it wasn’t a similar path [to Lucas’s]. Together, we started BrewBike, which is a coffee shop on wheels that plans to serve cold brew to the Northwestern community.
Spoon: How did BrewBike come to be?
Lucas: This fall, Brammy and I had the idea of starting a student-run coffee shop. The vast majority of our peer institutions have student-run coffee shops and we don’t, but we were a little naïve about how easy it would be. We contacted the director of dining, and he put us in touch with Sodexo. We were cautious about that, because from the very beginning, we had the vision of this being very mom-and-pop, very community-based and small. When we started working with Sodexo, we felt that that could still happen, but the learning we were getting with them was not entrepreneurial learning.
It was intrapreneurial learning, which means that we were learning how to operate within a large organization and not how to start an organization of our own. We decided that we weren’t going to get the kind of learning we were looking for with them, and we decided to scale back and crawl before we could walk. We started refining the idea – from the idea of a coffee tent, to what is now BrewBike.
Spoon: So how did you arrive at the idea of a cold brew tricycle?
Brammy: We were at a dinner for The Garage residents, and our speaker was Matt Matros who owns Protein Bar and is now starting his own coffee company called Limitless High Def. He spoke to us after the dinner and helped us flesh out our idea. He showed us a website where they sold cold brew tricycles and we sort of ran with it. He’s going to be the one who’s providing us with our product.
Spoon: From where are you sourcing your coffee?
Lucas: Initially, we were going to use La Colombe because they’re known for their cold brew, but once Matt Matros came to speak to the residents of The Garage, we switched to his brand. Matt has a really cool vision for Limitless High Def – his coffee is made with a wet-washed bean, and the difference between a wet-washed bean and a regular coffee bean is that it’s washed before the drying process.
Through his experimentation, Matt found that when making coffee with beans that are washed more thoroughly before the drying process, the caffeination period is much clearer, so it’s easier to do work and be clear-minded. We think that’s a really good fit for us as college students, who oftentimes drink coffee to do homework.
Spoon: And where are you getting the bike itself?
Lucas: When we came up with the bike idea, we were going to buy it from Icicle Tricycles, which is a larger manufacturer of these bikes in Portland, but we decided to switch to have it built here in Chicago at Heritage Bicycles. Both of those switches reflect our hope to support more local businesses and connect with Chicago.
Spoon: Do any other college campuses have cold brew tricycles?
Brammy: Not that I know of.
Lucas: I haven’t found any other college campus that does. We’re definitely interested in expanding to other college campuses, once we figure out how to do it right at Northwestern and can find a model that will work on other college campuses.
Spoon: Where can I find a cold brew bike in the real world?
Brammy: It’s not exactly a popular trend, which is why I think it’s a great opportunity to bring to Northwestern – you can get coffee anywhere, but it’s not every day that you can get coffee served from a keg off of a bike. It’s a very unique thing and I think that’s part of our draw.
Lucas: I think there’s a trend towards accessible, quality food – like the food truck trend. We’re definitely hitting that market with the bike. In terms of where you can find them now, Matt [of Limitless High Def]’s partner Craig of Hero Coffee Bar said he had one and he doesn’t use it that often. Heritage Bicycles has two, but they only use them for private events. People have them, but in a very limited way, and I don’t think they’re being used to their fullest.
Brammy: Part of the beauty of being a mobile coffee shop is that we can make it accessible for the students, so, for example, during finals week, parking outside the library is going to be the best thing for the students. We’re trying to find ways to make this the most accommodating for Northwestern students.
Spoon: What’s your pricing going to look like?
Brammy: We’re charging $3.50 for a cup – 16 oz, which is a Starbucks Grande size.
Lucas: And we’ll be accepting only credit, debit, and potentially Venmo – no cash. We’re going for something simple, accessible, and great quality.
Spoon: When will the bike be on campus?
Brammy: We’re doing a 2-day product launch for the cold brew this quarter – at SpoonFest and at Dillo Day. The physical bike will launch by Welcome Week.
Want to help BrewBike get started? Click here to contribute to their Indiegogo crowdfunding page!
Want to try BrewBike’s blend for yourself? Find them at SpoonFest on Deering Meadow on Friday May 20, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.