When I find a program that really captures what makes MSUE unique, I tend to tell the story of the program, perhaps a few too many times. One of those showcase items I’ve used many times is the story of Cuppa Jo Java, a coffee shop started and operated by 4-Hers in Rapid River, Mich., for more than five years. It’s a great example of youth learning about entrepreneurship, cooperation and many other life skills by doing something that enriches their formal education through 4-H.
Last week as we drove to Escanaba for our town hall meeting on Redesigning MSUE, we made a point of stopping for coffee at Cuppa Jo in Rapid River. I had heard that the shop had moved to US Highway 2, the main street through Rapid River, and did two passes through town before I saw the sign informing us that it was back in its original building, a few blocks off the highway. We found our way back to the original building, went in to order, and found not a 4-H youth, but rather a grown man serving behind the counter (is a male coffee server a baristo or a barista? Who’s an expert on Italian grammar?). It turns out the 4-H club sold Cuppa Jo to a private business.
After getting over the shock and disappointment, I realized that this is still a great story about 4-H. Anyone who goes through the trials and tribulations of a business startup, can operate for six years (with a complete turnover in staff and board of directors) and then turn around and sell the business at no loss is definitely a success. I’m STILL going to use this story in helping people to understand the power of MSU Extension and 4-H.