Student Run, Student Loved
With Halloween right around the corner, it might be time for you to start looking for your next candy fix, and there’s no better place on campus to find it than the Bear-y Sweet Shoppe.
Founded by Mary-Brent Brown (BU ’17), Shea Gouldd (BU ’17), Kailey Dreyfus (BU’16), and Jessica Landzberg (BU’17) in January 2015, the Beary Sweet Shoppe was the first food-related student-run business on campus. Brown, Gouldd, Dreyfus, and Landzberg first met their freshman year through the Entrepreneurial Scholars, a scholarship program at WashU. Their first venture together was the WashU Entrepreneurship Club, run through the Olin Business School, but as Brown explains, “It didn’t have the same feeling as owning and operating an actual business.” Luckily, there happened to be an empty storefront on the Gregg Walkway, inspiring the group to come up with their own business—a candy store for the campus.
The Bear-y Sweet Shoppe aims to brighten students’ days by offering an ‘endless combination of quality, affordable treats and snacks’—students can walk into the store anytime between 4 and 10 PM, seven days a week, and choose from over 90 types of candy to fill their bag with. The Shoppe also has a care package program, where parents can sign up for the fall, spring, or full-year package programs and treat their child to a customized candy care package four to eight times a year. “Parents really like the program,” says Flo Murabito, head of Public Outreach. “It gives them a way to give a gift to their kids that they know their child will definitely like because they get to select the candy themselves.”
The Shoppe also represents one of the best entrepreneurial experiences that WashU offers to its students. The Student Entreprenerial Program (StEP) businesses are an interactive, hands-on way to bring learning out of the classroom, and offer students an opportunity to acquire real-world experience in business with the safety net of a university environment. As Kattan says, “Each of our individual roles has given us the opportunity to apply different skills like accounting, supply chain, marketing and business development (outreach) while the work we do together teaches us interpersonal skills. We also have opportunities to see real-world results on different things we try. For example, you can learn a way of marketing in class but within the store you can immediately see the impact of each campaign and initiative and continue to learn by doing.”
Since their grand opening in January 2015, the Sweet Shoppe has grown rapidly. As a student-run business, it will always be owned and operated by undergraduates, so when current owners graduate, their shares are put up for sale. Two of the senior owners, Dreyfus and Landzberg, sold their shares of the Shoppe, allowing younger students to buy in and join the business. New to the team are Ely Kattan (BU’18), Florence Murabito (BU’19), Hannah Paige (BU’19). Kattan, the new head of Finance, says about his decision to buy in: “Candy’s a lot of fun, people get excited about it, and I felt like because this is a new business, there’s more room for it to grow.”
With their expanding workforce, the Shoppe is not only able to stay open for longer hours, but is now also pursuing other programs, such as benefit nights and group event nights—where Greek organizations or student groups can partner with the Shoppe to offer a discount to students between certain hours, or a portion of proceeds to a charity of choice. “We want to encourage people to bring their friends or their floors down to the Sweet Shoppe to hang out,” says Brown. “We’re focusing on making our Shoppe more interactive.”
For more information on the Bear-y Sweet Shoppe, visit their website or their Facebook page. Be to stop by, leave a drawing on their chalkboard walls, and pick up some candy in time for Halloween! To learn more about student-run businesses on campus, check out the Skandalaris website.