During the last 15 minutes of her eight-hour road trip back from Big Bend National Park Sept. 20, Henna McRae got a $336 speeding ticket. Unsure of how she would pay off the ticket, McRae started brainstorming.
The international business sophomore decided to combine her love of coffee with concepts she learned in her business classes to create “The McRae Cafe,” a coffee business run from her West Campus apartment.
“I had very few people that thought it would actually work,” McRae said. “But I had an espresso machine here that I use every day for myself. I know this coffee is better than what other people are drinking.”
After buying disposable coffee cups, syrups and more espresso grounds, McRae set up an Instagram, @TheMcRaeCafe, and began advertising her coffee shop.
Because the cafe doesn’t function like a brick and mortar shop, orders are sent via text and are picked up at the door of her apartment, during which both she and the customer wear masks.
“She was making 20 lattes all the time,” McRae’s roommate Macy McFarlin said. “She was just running around like a chicken with her head cut off.”
McRae said she makes just about every type of coffee drink, from pumpkin spice lattes to espressos and iced coffees. She calculated that it would take about 112 drink sales to meet her goal of $336.
Neuroscience sophomore Robert Scott Wheeler said he found out about McRae’s Cafe when he saw fliers around the apartment building advertising the business. Since then, Wheeler said he has ordered from McRae’s numerous times.
“My go-to order at the cafe is definitely the salted caramel latte,” Wheeler said. “It’s by far my favorite.”
For eight days straight, McRae made and sold coffees from 8 a.m. to noon to reach her sales goal and pay off her ticket.
“I think I made a good cup of coffee, but I paid that off in eight days because of how incredible my community is,” McRae said. “They really showed up for me, all these people I'd never expect from buying coffee.”
Each night, McRae’s roommates sat around the apartment coffee table to write and draw funny jokes and images on the coffee sleeves for the next day’s cups.
“I'm not a barista,” said McFarlin, a human development and family science sophomore. “I can't make coffee. But I can write some jokes. So my roommates and I googled different Halloween jokes and made up random things.”
Although McRae doesn't plan on going into business in the future, she said this experience helped her learn more about customer service and accounting. She said it even helped her practice for her accounting test.
“But then I started practicing accounting by tracking my inventory and doing journal entries for the McRae Cafe,” McRae said. “This is the very first time I've ever felt like what I'm learning is actually applicable to real life.”
McRae hopes to one day turn the cafe into an opportunity to raise money for charity. She plans on participating in Texas 4000, an organization that hosts a 4,000+ mile bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska to raise money for cancer research.
McFarlin said she isn’t surprised to see how much success McRae has had so far.
“She paid off the whole thing, which was so cool,” McFarlin said. “I was surprised, yes. But also, seeing her working on it all week and the support from our friends and roommates, I knew it was gonna get done fast. She's so loved and just so supportive, which is so sweet to see.”