Students who are a part of Vida Coffee, a student-run business in West Allis, worked tirelessly over the summer to make their first retail coffee shop location a reality. Vida is looking to open officially in the coming months.
“We’re trying to get everything started before we really get into the swing of things,” said Rhea Garbis, a sophomore in the College of Art & Sciences and manager of operations for Vida. “It’s looking really good right now. We’re very excited.”
Vida is part of Blue & Gold Ventures, Inc., the student-run business program on campus. Owen Raisch, the founding associate director and CEO of Blue & Gold Ventures, said Vida is particularly special because it gives students a chance to see the whole supply chain and better allows for the greater community to interact with the program.
“Vida is really important for the student-run business program because it’s a way for the community to understand what we do,” he said. “Vida becoming retail-centric both makes it easier for the community to understand exactly what our students are up to, and it makes it more accessible to students in general.”
Garbis said she thinks what makes Vida unique is the thought and care they put into business interactions with farmers.
“We are trying our best to keep (the business) fair and human and really personal,” Garbis said.
Raisch said Vida’s partners provided a chance to create retail locations at ideal sites. Starbucks had originally made an offer regarding the development of where Vida will be located.
“Starbucks brings a lot of value to a development project, and they’re very trustworthy, but instead they were turned down in favor of our concept,” Raisch said. “That’s an opportunity we had to take advantage of.”
Raisch said Vida in Spanish means “life,” and that is a big part of Vida’s identity. The business wants to tell the stories of the farmers that grow the beans, the students who work in the shop and any other individuals providing products like pastries and artisan goods.
While the original opening date was postponed, Raisch said he is not worried about the delay.
“These projects are frequently delayed by issues including city permitting and negotiations in terms of lease agreements,” Raisch said. “One of the things that we’ve been focused on over the summer is figuring out which of our various opportunities we’ll take advantage of at various points in time.”
He said Vida has also been creating a thorough business plan so that once it launches, Vida can be efficient and successful. It also fundraised to make sure it had the capital to sustain the business and until it is generating a profit. Because fall is the highest traffic season for coffee, Raisch said, it is a great season to launch a coffee business.
Raisch said that when Vida opens, it will be hosting events and inviting students to come see what it’s about.