‘Class Act Coffee’ run by students, teaches fundamentals of operating a business

GLADSTONE, Mo. – Class Act Coffee is teaching students from North Kansas City School District the fundamentals of owning and operating a business.

Junior and senior students are in charge of running and managing the coffee shop under the supervision of Zachary Johnson, a former business educator at North Kansas City High School. Johnson told The Heartlander the district started the shop to give students real-world experience and opportunities to earn dual credits, college credit and professional food certifications.

The district offers a model for students to choose a career pathway based on their interests – and Johnson says those who are intrigued by the business model would be a perfect fit for Class Act Coffee. Students have the chance to collaborate, receive public feedback, manage finances and develop budgeting and management skills.

Class Act Coffee held its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony Feb. 9 at 6465 N. Prospect Avenue, inside the Prospect Plaza, in Gladstone. 

“There are lots of learning opportunities and bumps and bruises along the way,” Johnson said. “We’re not reading a textbook in class; we’re doing things theoretically where students are starting a business. I give them the analogy, ‘We’re doing the same thing you would do in the real world, except you have a safety net – if you want to try something, this is the perfect time to try it. You’re not financially obligated to pay back any debt.’” 

To determine the necessary equipment and products for the project, students visited The Roasterie in Kansas City and Broadway Cafe and Roasting Company. The students observed the production process, tasted various brews, made their own blends, learned about the global economy and discovered the coffee’s origins. 

“We’ve had several entrepreneurs come in as well, giving their origin story and how they got into business. We’ve had a couple of coffee shop owners come in and talk about how they moved up from being a barista or bussing tables to owning the business and expanding it.”

A partnership has been formed between Class Act Coffee and Broadway Cafe and Roasting Company, which supplies Class Act’s coffee beans and has assisted in training students for their coffee shop experience. Joelle’s Baked With Love provides all baked goods.

Johnson initially struggled to find suitable students for the shop, but now he has 40 applicants eagerly waiting to join the Class Act Coffee crew.

Students were in charge of picking decor, equipment, plants and a paint scheme for Class Act Coffee. The shop also features artwork from various students in the North Kansas City school district. The public will have the opportunity to buy some of the artwork at a later time.

Johnson says multiple groups and individuals have been holding meetings at the coffee shop.

“We’ve gotten tons of support from the community already. There is lots of support from teachers as well. We’ve also gotten tons of great feedback. We have a 4.9 review. The students are doing a fantastic job, and customers are really excited.

“Any profits go back into the shop so we can continue to maintain and update our equipment, also so we can be self-sustaining. The idea is to hopefully, by the end of this year, be completely self-sustaining where we’re buying all of our own products and doing marketing and planning out of our own budget and not pulling from any district funds.”

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