The story of OCA Mocha begins with a question Gib Mason, professor and executive director of the Center for Leadership & Innovation, had for his Entrepreneurship 340 class: how could Arbutus become more of a college town?
“We were just given a challenge and were told: run free with it, and we just figured it out on our own,” said Krishna Gohel, a senior biological sciences major and entrepreneurship and innovation minor working on OCA Mocha. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are really grateful for that. Because we have been able to grow through this experience so much more because we weren’t told what to do.”
After a month of filling up whiteboards with ideas, the students came up with the idea of OCA Mocha. A coffee shop with a community space that also houses the headquarters of the Office of Community Affairs, a new organization designed by the students of ENTR 340. Its goal is to increase communication between UMBC and neighboring communities.
“Community members expressed to us … an interest in how could businesses in Arbutus attract more UMBC students, faculty and staff into the area for entertainment, for services, for dining and so forth,” said Lisa Akchin, Assistant to the President and Associate Vice President for Engagement.
Another goal of the Office of Community Affairs is to connect students to service opportunities in the local community.
“If they just want to get involved in community and anything. That’s eventually going to be the place to go,” said Madison Koenig, a senior working on OCA Mocha and an interdisciplinary studies major in innovative business management, minoring in entrepreneurship and innovation. “Plus they can come study if they want to [or] perform if they have any artistic skills. We are looking for people to perform there and display their artwork there.”
OCA Mocha also includes a community space which will be the first UMBC space located off-campus. This space is open for students to host events, club meetings and performances. The space is also available to members of the community for events unaffiliated with UMBC.
“What surprised me very pleasantly [is] that the students have focused not only on the space as a place for students but a place for community members as well,” said Akchin.
After ENTR 340 concluded in the spring of 2017, work on OCA Mocha continued in Mason’s fall semester class, FYS 102. The team worked on raising funding and expanding transportation options that fall. In partnership with the UMBC Transit Department, students working on OCA Mocha upgraded UMBC’s bike-sharing program with more bikes. Also, the team reworked UMBC’s transit routes to include a stop in front of OCA Mocha.
OCA Mocha hopes to open in September and will be on East Drive in Arbutus, less than a mile from campus. The business hopes to attract both UMBC students and members of the community. By doing so, OCA Mocha hopes to accomplish its initial goal of making Arbutus more of a college town.
“I think you could say our challenge is that we are just students who have never started a business before,” said Koenig. “So, it’s been a big learning curve, but I think with all of us working on it … it’s been coming along.”