Chamber of Commerce members followed the aroma of coffee for the most recent Member to Member meeting Wednesday April 15th at North Island Secondary School (NISS). The meeting was hosted by 1-11 Roasting, a student operated coffee roasting company.
This innovative program started with a student looking for another block in Doug Abbot’s Learning Assistance classroom. Abbot explains, “I thought we could do more than that so I offered him an entrepreneurial studies block and he build the very first coffee roaster and started roasting coffee. He built a vacuum brewer and started brewing it and selling it to teachers twice a day.” Teachers being a great market for coffee and requests from people wanting to buy bags of coffee led to a successful fundraiser for the girl’s soccer team. The program got more popular, involving more students and it quickly became apparent to Abbot that it was bigger than one student and himself.
His enthusiasm contagious, Abbot is a huge cheerleader for the program and building relationships with other departments and the community. “It’s interesting how many students were connecting to this and feeling positive about it and learning a lot from the experience of running a business.” Abbot continues, “this wasn’t sitting around and talking hypotheticals, we weren’t doing worksheets, we were actually running a business. And this thing could succeed or it could fail. The more real we can make this for our students, the more they engage, the better they’re going to learn, the more fun they’re going to have.”
According to Abbot the first roaster was a brilliant design but something more high quality and safer was required. A team of students and teachers sat down and started designing a new one (shown above). It took about three months and Abbot praises the design as “phenomenal.” Not pretty perhaps but the stainless steel drum inside an aluminum body is hooked up to a computer with thermometers & roaster all talking to each other. Add engineering, woodworking, computer science and electrical experience to an impressive list of skills students are learning.
And with a second hand espresso machine to be plumbed in, the next phase of the project is teaching students barista skills. Abbot points out, “there are world championship barista competitions. This is something we could eventually look forward to – having some really awesome baristas coming out of this school. Some people make a living, a career out of being a barista. There’s a real art that goes along with that. So we’re focusing on all sides of coffee including where the coffee comes from.” Brazil is no longer just a name on a map to students but the place where they buy beans directly from a farmer. Abbot says the students “are learning a lot about social issues and what we can do in Canada to help. We believe the farmers deserve to make enough to survive so we’re learning how through business we can not only make a difference in our community but the world.”
Jay Dixon, Principal of NISS wants to ensure 1-11 Roasting is a legacy for future students and states, “our long term vision is a drive through coffee shop on our property similar to the one in Port Hardy across from Home Hardware and to have that building constructed by our shop students and managed through our entrepreneur students. Have it so that you can drive through to buy a bag of coffee or have students sell you a coffee.” Not waiting for handouts from the provincial government Dixon adds, “we’re going to build programming that’s unique to the North Island and we’re going to be entrepreneurs.”
When students are working on big orders they set up stations in a classroom with students responsible for weighing, labeling, bagging and in charge of quality control of each bag of coffee. Art students designed the company logo and a booth at the Christmas Craft Fair in December gave students invaluable experience dealing with the public while selling more than 80 pounds of coffee. Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures and Strategic Natural Resource Consultants are two local companies using 1-11’s coffee.
To order coffee from 1-11 Roasting visit their website at: 1-eleven.weebly.com
Photo credit – Gaby Wickstrom