A Sandbox Made of Coffee Grounds at
Florida Southern College

By Alexa Estevez
Photography by Daniel Jones

It is a typical Wednesday morning for Florida Southern College (FSC) students Lauren Schreader and Daniel Jones, as they operate FSC’s new student-run coffee cart, Morning Grind. While Schreader makes her favorite beverage, the maple spice latte, for a fellow Moccasin, Daniel is greeting customers and handling transactions at the register. The cart, located on the corner of the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise building, right off of Lake Hollingsworth, is about more than just providing students flavorful caffeine jolts each morning—it’s evidence of a culture that has shifted from students being taught the importance of entrepreneurship and capitalism, to being trained on how to become an entrepreneur and succeed in a capitalist economy.

To oversee this culture shift toward more hands-on business opportunities, FSC hired Justin Heacock as the Director of the Center for Free Enterprise. Having earned a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship in Applied Technology and having worked alongside 450 student-led startup companies, Heacock was the perfect fit.

For the debut of FSC’s student-entrepreneur program, Heacock hosted an on-campus art contest that was won by 2023 FSC graduate Matteo Zampese. His art became the mural for the Barney Barnett School of Business office. The six foot by 20 foot hand illustrated eye-catcher displays graphs, money and coffee, with tree vines growing from the items to express the growth and prosperity of a business student. “It really made the space pop. It represents who we are and it made the business place our own,” Heacock shared.

The office also recognizes alumni who have become entrepreneurs, as well as business students who have won state and local competitions, such as FSC students who attended the Roundtable of Entrepreneurship Educators of Florida (REEF) startup pitch competition in February and won the REEF Governor’s Cup.

“At a high level, what our program does is we focus on providing an education, financials and resources to help students go from a point of ‘Hey, I have a really cool idea,’ into ‘How do I actually make it real and tangible in the world?’” said Heacock.

“It’s been great for us to learn as entrepreneurs, and it’s something that’s going to grow much bigger than we are right now.” — FSC Student Daniel Jones

To enrich students’ abilities in their craft and increase their engagement in the business program, Heacock introduced another experiential program called the learning lab. It’s Heacock’s idea of empowering students to start a business from scratch. “The whole point of the learning lab is we found value in a student’s opinions and their voice and we created a ‘sandbox’ environment where they had the opportunity to flourish,” Heacock said, “It’s what learning should be.”

This past October, Heacock offered eight students their sandbox opportunity when he pitched the idea about an on-campus coffee cart. Among the eight was Schreader, a junior communications major with a concentration in interpersonal organization and a minor in film. “He came into my comm research class and pitched the idea and I was like, wow, coffee. That’s so cool. And that’s what got me into it,” she says, before acknowledging her grandparents passed down their love of coffee to her.

Jones, a junior who is majoring in administration with a minor in business analytics, did not feel the same way. “It’s kind of funny because he came into our class and gave a five-minute pitch. And I was like, ‘That’s stupid. I’m not doing that,’” said Jones, who is not overly fond of coffee. “And then, here I am.” 

Jones became one of the marketing partners for Morning Ground, working alongside Schreader who became the external relations partner. Their first step was to name and brand the cart. With the help of Heacock and by polling FSC students, the name Morning Grind was selected. Jones is credited for designing the logo and for the photography you can find on their Instagram account (@morninggrind_fsc).

After their cart passed inspection in December, Morning Grind officially launched in the Spring of 2024.

Through a partnership with TJ Zimmerman from Lakeland-based Concord Coffee, their roasts have been Colombian but soon will be changed to Guatemalan. Although Schreader has some knowledge about making coffee, she said that Zimmerman has been a huge help in perfecting the flavors.  “TJ had us do a ‘Beat the Joe competition,’ where we each made a cup of coffee and had him try it. Then he would tell us what to improve on, which helped our craft.”

As for Jones, he no longer thinks the concept is “stupid.” He said the cart has helped him learn the proper chain of communication with businesses and FSC Alumni, as well as helped him gain marketing experience. “The most interesting part has been trying to market to real people from around Lakeland, and not just students, as well as learning to secure sponsors for signage and products,” Jones said.

The cart is fully funded by FSC as well as the following local sponsors: Concord Coffee, Catapult, Robert Berganza Furniture and Design and S&B Metal Products. The students attend monthly board meetings with Michael Weber, Dean of the Business Department, and have a high level of support from a variety of FSC staff.

Students are paid $12 an hour and earn additional income from the profit of every cup of coffee, refresher, tea or snack they sell. So far, students have sold around 1,300 cups of coffee, but the operation has lost about 800 dollars per week. Jones and Schreader are hopeful they can help turn the financial picture around, and said it would be a win for Morning Grind if students could begin using their campus food currency, Snake Bites, to purchase items from the cart.

They both also look forward to increasing partnerships with clubs across campus and expanding their catering options for student and staff functions. “It’s been great for us to learn as entrepreneurs, and it’s something that’s going to grow much bigger than we are right now. So we’re not quite in the green yet, but we’re getting there,” Jones said.

Morning Grind Coffee is the first learning lab at FSC and will remain as the foundation of the pathway for student expression and the beginning of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The cart will be closed for the summer but will reopen when the school year begins in August. To learn more, follow Morning Grind on social media (@morninggrind_fsc) or visit MorningGrindFSC.com.

Morning Grind