Lillian Malone | SS21

Brewing up business: The life of a high school entrepreneur

Jayla Ross, a 17-year-old rising senior from Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the few high schoolers who not only has a mind for business, but also used that talent to help run one.

Ross is a key player with One Coffee Circle, a business within Laurel High School which sells whole-bean and ground coffee to students and teachers. She started working for the business her freshman year, and now holds the positions of co-CEO and head graphic designer. 

The One Coffee Circle team works at its grinding facility in 2020. — Photo contributed by Jayla Ross

“We support the Laurel [high school] community with coffee and other sources of energy, because we also sell tea, so that they can go throughout their day with enough energy. If they’re parents, they can go throughout their work day with enough energy. And if they are students, then they can have energy to get through all their classes and not be absolutely tired,” she explained.  

Like any other school club, One Coffee Circle officers meet frequently.  The biggest difference, however, is that instead of sitting in an echoey classroom within their own high school, they travel into the city of Cleveland where they confer with their coffee supplier, the Cleveland Coffee Company. There, they meet with the CEO and make a business plan, determine how much product they are going to need before the start of their next meeting and even spend time grinding the beans and packaging their product on location. Once this process has been completed, they sell the coffee through their website, with proceeds benefiting the school. 

With just a year left in high school, Ross does not have much time to watch the business grow, but she does have dreams and ideas of what it will achieve in the near future. The group hopes to open an in- school coffee shop to sell cups of coffee in addition to bagged product,  as opposed to only being able to sell online. The dean of the school has acknowledged the usefulness of this development, Ross said, but other members of the school board are unsure about the usefulness of the business long term. 

Ross is grateful to be involved with One Coffee Circle and the chance to make major decisions, including switching to a new supplier. 

“We have more students working with us and also because we have gotten more customers over the years and because we have upgraded our supplier. Before we had a smaller…  company that wasn’t as efficient and they weren’t as good as the…  company that we are working with now,” Ross remarked.

Members of One Coffee Circle weigh and pour coffee beans and label bags at the Cleveland Coffee Company. — Photo contributed by Jayla Ross

At the start of her involvement in One Coffee Circle, Ross mostly ground coffee beans and promoted the product. Now, as co-CEO, she does not see herself as a business-focused person in the future, but she does recognize the opportunities that this organization has given her. 

Students who want to do something similar at their schools should have a clear plan from start to finish, she advised. At the end of the day all of the hard work will be worth the benefits. Ross highly recommends having an experience like this at some point in high school. She explained “I think it’s a really good opportunity for people who want to go into business just to kind of test the waters and see what it’s like running a business and trying to grow it… If you make mistakes… learning from that and seeing what you can do to fix it.”

Life outside of the bubble

Many Miami-hopeful students are drawn to the university by its illustrious travel-abroad opportunities.

That was not, however, the case for rising senior Lani Rohrer, a middle childhood education major with a concentration in math and science. For Rohrer, the decision to take advantage of Miami’s study-abroad program came toward the end of her freshman year when she decided to study at its Luxembourg campus, known as MUDEC or the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center.

Lani Rohrer visits the House of Waffles in Brugge, Belgium. — Photo contributed by Lani Rohrer

The next year, she planned to leave the United States in late January and stay at the Luxembourg campus until middle May. Like most things in the world that year, COVID cut short her trip  and she was forced to fly back home on March 15, 2020. This unfortunate turn of events, however, did not take away from all of the lessons that she learned while she was overseas.

At the time of her departure, Rohrer had not ever ventured past the borders of the United States. She was eager to travel overseas, and wanted to get a taste of what the rest of the world was like. 

“I wanted to see how people [overseas] live differently than we do here in America,” she remarked. “Growing up in Ohio, going to school in Ohio, I lived very much in a bubble. You know, as Americans I feel like a lot of people stick to the same vacation spots, go to the same types of schools, live in the same types of neighborhoods. But what I didn’t realize was that there was so much more to the world, and there are so many different people and lifestyles and different foods and everything that you can learn about and make your life better.”

Luxembourg, a small European country known for its surplus of nature parks and medieval architecture, is home to a Miami satellite campus, making travel abroad realistic for most students who attend the college. Rohrer understood how valuable travel experience could be, and wanted to take as many opportunities as she could to make new memories and be exposed to new ideas and cultures. 

“I wanted to do the study-abroad program to get to see Europe, because I had never been out of the country before, as well as to have the opportunity to work in international schools,” she explained. “That was something that was really cool for me as an education major.”

At the Miami campus in Luxembourg, classes are taught in English by Miami professors who share the same credentials as the professors in Oxford. Students complete the same kind of courses on both campuses and pay the same tuition. The largest difference is simply the culture and the ideals that the community and the professors hold. Rohrer explained that she spent parts of her time there in schools throughout the area where she was staying, observing the dynamic of their classrooms and how each of the students were treated in comparison to students in the United States.

She admired the European tradition that every child start learning a second language at a very young age. “They include starting in elementary school multi-language classes. The students there on average speak about three languages,” she said.

On the other hand, she observed that “if you are a student who may need academic help or has a disability or a  learning disability or something like that, there is not as much support for those students as there is here in America.”

Rohrer, originally from Hilliard, Ohio, also remarked that her time overseas has made her want to teach  English abroad for one or two years after college, before returning to Ohio to teach.

Despite her early return from Luxembourg, Rohrer is happy to be among the high percentage of Miami students who travel abroad during their college years. 

Her recommendation: “Don’t be afraid to try something new because you only have one life. You’re only young while you’re young.” 

She added:  “When I was abroad my biggest advice, or my biggest thing that I followed was always say ‘Yes!’ —  obviously within reason —  but say yes to trying new things, say yes to trying new food, meeting new people… You only get this experience once in a lifetime.”

A look at naturalism from the inside out

Beetles pinned to boards. Birds stuffed full as they stand proud and watchful on the countertops. Students sit two to a table in the center of the room. Newspapers lay out before them as they carefully pull the skin of their specimen away from the body, just as is instructed on the board. At the front of the room, a clearly animated Dr. Steve Sullivan lectures to the small group, guiding his students from a place of encouraged curiosity. When the Miami Admissions Office reached out to him asking him to once again teach a lesson to Summer Scholars Program students on naturalism, he responded with only enthusiasm over the idea. He created a program that, over the course of two weeks, would give students the opportunity to go birding, fishing, botanizing, insecting, nature journaling, and even practicing taxidermy on their own specimens. 

A student in the Modern Naturalist module at Miami University’s Summer Scholars Program holds up the wings of a specimen while practicing taxidermy. — Photo by Lillian Malone

There is no doubt that Dr. Sullivan sees the importance of the summer scholars program at Miami University. He explained that his class gives students the chance to explore new career options, taking a look at both the research and the process of the naturalism field. This exposure allows students to further solidify their interest in naturalism, and explore it as a possible college major.  

However passionate he is about helping students to find their major, he is also extremely focused on helping students understand the importance of nature itself.

 “It is vital that students understand the impact that their actions have on the environment and what that could do for future generations,” he stated. 

He enjoys teaching in Summer Scholars, he said, because “the younger the students are, the more curious they seem to be,” and the more curious that they are, the more likely that they are to make a change in their habits for the better. He loves to use this curiosity to his advantage in his classroom, constantly reminding students that natural wonder is what makes humans successful. 

“Using all their senses in the classroom is natural and important. Pointing out weird sounds and good or bad smells that they notice in the classroom is all part of the learning experience,” he remarked.

Dr. Steve Sullivan demonstrates how to remove the skin of a bird in the Modern Naturalism module. — Photo by Lillian Malone

Katie Jachim, a student from Granger, Indiana, tried her hand at taxidermy in Dr. Sullivan’s class. She stated that the specimens they were using were European Starling birds, an invasive species that is commonly used for educational purposes because of its negative effects on the ecosystem. The taxidermy process includes skinning and stuffing a bird. Jachim started at the upper body below the head, and worked her way down, pulling away muscle hanging onto the skin. Jachim signed up for the program to enjoy time outside and try something new over the summer. Her table mate, Mia Embree from West Chester, Ohio, explained the importance of respect for nature and the respect for animals being used in educational settings. “You have to remember to respect the animal as it was once a living thing,” she remarked. “Respect for nature is vital in the naturalism field.” 

Another student, Zoey Cahall, a student from Urbana Ohio, added onto this idea, calling the class “an exploratory one” and stating that “It’s not disrespectful because you are learning from [the animals.]” 

Student Catie Strode from Cincinnati Ohio said Sullivan’s naturalism module was her first choice when applying to Summer Scholars, as she hopes to go into zoology in the future. “I hope to remain as passionate in my career as Dr. Sullivan is when teaching his students., she said. Strode also stated that she may be interested in a career that focuses on the futures of endangered or invasive species.

Overall, this class was powered by a professor who truly believes in his students. One who teaches his class through metaphors and analogies. One who “believes in synergizing the world in our own lives and realizing there is no isolated phenomenon.” And one who believes that there is nothing more powerful than “trying to boil an idea back down to its essence, getting at the root.”

Flipping the switch — from graphic design to visual art

In a society with a growing need for the creative-minded, Adam Edwards hopes to use the artistic skills that he has learned through graphic design to create a career. Edwards became involved in graphic design about a year and a half ago, after taking a digital art class at Centerville High School and found that he had a love and talent for the activity. Edwards is a student actively participating in the studio art module at Miami University’s Summer Scholars Program. This module focuses on the visual arts, an area that Edwards is not well-versed in. He explained the hardest part about the transition from graphic design to visual art as “not being able to just completely undo mistakes,” something that he never has a problem with when he  uses Photoshop. Edwards also detailed what he has learned about framing his art, which he described as the proportions and the layout of the artwork. 

Adam Edwards creates work on commission, such as this social media header. — Photo contributed by Adam Edwards

“When I work on the design stuff I do now, I’ll just be moving from side to side filling space,” he said. “But definitely when you are drawing a person, everything has to be more thought out.” 

Although this art class has positively changed the way that he views his artwork, he solidified his preference for graphic art when he expressed the lack of creative freedom he feels through his visual art class in comparison to the digital art class he has taken. 

Adam Edwards plans to study graphic design. – Photo contributed by Sunaina Adhikari

Edwards enjoys his artwork because of the opportunity that it gives him to be creative and express himself in a unique way. He believes that art is important for everyone because everyone should have the chance to tell their own story. Edwards shared a piece that he did as a commission for a social media header. He described the theme that he was going for as yellow, with a background of chains that tie into the character at the forefront. He enjoys incorporating characters into his artwork, as he has done with the piece included in the article.

Edwards explained that, beyond creating a portfolio for college applications, he doesn’t think he will fully understand the impact that the class has had on him until he is in college or even starting his career. As far as college education and career go, he plans to major in graphic design and minor in photography. After college, Edwards explained that he wants to go into “creating marketing productions, not really commercials, but working on posters and promotional art.” Due to the high demand for artists who have adapted to today’s technological world, he doesn’t believe he will have trouble finding a place for himself in the realm of professional creatives. 

Love and honor

When my parents told me that there was a program at Miami University that would allow me to have a glimpse into the college experience, saying that I got a little excited would be an understatement. I immediately chose the law program as my first pick for modules. I have had a dream of going to law school for a while now, and I was very confident in my ability to get in. 

A group visits Skippers Pub in Uptown Oxford, Ohio. – Photo by Jayla Ross

And so, you can imagine the disappointment that I felt in myself when I opened the article, ecstatic to read that I had been accepted into Summer Scholars, but only was able to get into my second module choice, Media Matters, a course on journalism. At this point in time, I barely even knew what journalism looked like in the setting of a career, and what’s more, I was looking at the summer program purely from an application point of view. I didn’t bother to think of all of the memories that I would make, the people that I would meet, and the attachment that I would have to Miami at the end of it all.

After only the first day of journalism class, I was nearly set on dropping law school entirely. Journalism is everything that I love about law, but minus about half of the student debt, and the stress of having someone’s entire life dependent on you and your persuasion abilities. Journalism would give me the opportunity to write about things that I am passionate about, improve my writing skills for other areas of life, stay connected with my community, and pick an area that I wanted to focus on. I felt that there was more opportunity for me in journalism than in any other career that I had ever considered. 

Media Matters scholars race to the finish line to post their work on the last day of the program. Photo by Lillian Malone

Through the teaching of the wonderful Professor Patricia Gallagher Newberry, and the entourage of speakers that she gave us the chance to meet with, I have noticed a visible change in both my writing skill and the passion that I have for the activity itself. Over the course of just eight class days, she has inspired all of us to go out and do good in the world.

She has taught us about the importance of journalism in the world, despite what some politicians or citizens may say. She showed us tangible evidence of times when journalists, in a way, saved the day. An example of this is when she introduced us to Sharon Coolidge, a powerful and independent woman who covers city hall in Cincinnati. Coolidge showed us what it means to make a difference in the world, as she spoke about everything from convincing the city to repaint and protect the Black Lives Matter mural in front of city hall, to covering the shooting in Cincinnati from inside of a hotel where the cops locked her to keep her off of the scene.

The Summer Scholars program has shown me how different college is going to be from high school. I have met people here who I will never forget, no matter how long we go in between visits or how far we end up living from each other. From California to Illinois to Virginia to New York, there has never been a time in my life where I have gotten so close with a group of people whom I did not even realize initially that I would have anything in common with. I cannot stand the thought of leaving this place. I know that this experience has been one that I will never be able to fully do justice in words.

About the writer

Lillian Malone is a 17-year-old rising senior at Westerville South High School in Westerville, Ohio, just outside of Columbus. She is very active within her school academically and is an IB Diploma candidate in the classroom. She is the vice president and co-founder of the women’s rights club at her school, and enjoys running cross country and track, as well as doing high jump in the spring.

Outside of school, Malone is an avid traveler and has traveled to 10 countries in total. She loves to tell the stories of people all over the world with unique experiences. She is also a competitive sailor and loves to draw in her free time. Malone hopes to double major in journalism and government with a minor in political science, and later go to law school outside of Ohio.