He was attracted to the business, he says, by “the energy and ambiance of cafes.”
His “aha” moment came while visiting a friend’s coffee shop and witnessing “people from all walks of life—old, young, rich, poor—enjoying this shared space. I immediately fell in love with it,” he says. After learning all he could about the industry, he quit his job as a management consultant and set out to create a company “about people and culture.”
Today—with more than 30 cafes across the country and a newfound appreciation for four-shot iced Americanos—Nick shares his journey through the School of Hotel Administration (SHA) Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship Entrepreneurs in Residence program.
His first piece of advice to students: Write a business plan. “I didn’t, and I struggled for the first few years as a result,” he says.
“That, and follow your passion.”
Through the Entrepreneurs in Residence program, ten entrepreneurs spend a few days on campus each semester, giving guest lectures and providing personal direction to students so that they can conceive, launch, and manage their own companies.
Because the entrepreneurs provide industry-relevant advice, the program draws participation from students across Cornell.
When Nick returned to campus September 8, it marked the start of his fifth year with the program. He also plans to be in residence October 1 and November 12.
Among the dozens of students he has mentored is Chris Kirby ’15, founder and CEO of Ithaca Hummus. Chris’s company was just an idea when he first met with Nick; today, Ithaca Hummus is available in more than 70 outlets, including Wegmans and Whole Foods, and the company is growing rapidly.
Other students mentored by Nick have joined Saxbys as interns and full-time employees.
Kristan Baker, CALS ’15, who studied entrepreneurship through SHA, had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and create something for herself. Her sights were set on marketing before she developed an interest in franchising and met with Nick the fall of her senior year.