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SAO official to start coffee shop for charitable causes

Boston University Associate Director of Student Activities Raul Fernandez has partnered with Austin Ashe to develop a concept for a coffee shop that will donate its profits to charitable causes.

The shop, which will be called The Grind, will function as a community-gathering place where charitable-minded young people, particularly college students, can support social justice activities, according to Fernandez.

“There’s the concept of social business that we’re trying to get out there,” Fernandez said. “We [he and Austin] both worked with non-profits and have been working on social justice activities for a while too, and one of the things we think is that social business has the possibility of being able to support nonprofits in a really different way.”

Fernandez said the profits garnered from the coffee shop would be reinvested into the shop’s community in order to benefit the customers and the community they live in.

“A social business doesn’t work if it’s not profitable,” Fernandez said. “… The big difference [between a regular business and social business] is what happens with the money that’s on the top and what happens with the profits … What we’re saying is that’s money that we’re not going to put in our pockets … That’s the money that we’re going to reinvest into the community.”

The Grind will support various fundraising ideas presented by regular customers who feel passionate about particular charitable organizations, Fernandez said.

“We’re going to be working with partners on these sort of fundraising initiatives that are going to get more and more people into the space,” he said. “We expect that it’s going to be even more profitable than a traditional coffee shop and again those profits are going to be reinvested right into the community.”

Although the location has not yet been determined, Fernandez said he and Ashe intend to place it near a university, potentially BU.

“Obviously I would love to be somewhere close to BU,” Fernandez said. “Right now the stage we’re in is being able to build our community. Things we’ll consider is a strong active student population … We’d love to hear from students if that’s something that they think they want, for The Grind to be near their university.”

Besides being a source of charitable donation, The Grind will provide university students with an outlet for internships, said Raul’s partner Ashe, a First Year Experience advisor at Boston College.

“We’re going to need a team of students that are not only going to help us run this coffee shop, but basically help us get the word out about other amazing things that are going on around Boston,” Ashe said.

Ashe said he hopes The Grind will provide students with internships pertaining to a variety of disciplines.

“What I’d like to do is make sure that those internships reflect credit-wise and time-wise what a student wants to get professionally out of the experience, so those internships can be anything from helping us manage the place to helping us with social media strategy,” he said.

Because Ashe and Fernandez both have backgrounds working with college students, Ashe said he hopes The Grind will provide them with a place to exchange ideas and knowledge in a comfortable setting.

“I’m hoping to provide is a space where people can connect and have vigorous discussions about a multitude of issues … in a space that conducive to having those kinds of difficult conversations,” Ashe said. “… What I want to specifically provide for students is an education outside of the classroom. My hope is wherever we end up, we’ll be able to take pieces from the institution.”

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