A student organization called Enactus has partnered with Aramark dining services to offer a new dining option planned for a two-week trial period after spring break.
The empty building across from the Harvey Lake deck will be the location for Eagle’s Nest, a small convenience store that will be open five days a week.
The two-week trial period is the culmination of more than two years of project development lead by Enactus.
“Enactus is an organization that is rooted in business practices, so their goal is to really help their members to really get some hands-on experience,” Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Ona Tolliver said. “Typically, student organizations come in and say (they) would like to do this (run a business) on campus and part of my job is to address university policy with students.”
The location previously has been used for a student dining option but has been unsuccessful.
“Walking past it every day and seeing it closed is really what got my interest,” project chairman Samuel Marshall said. “I walk past the empty Harvey’s building every single day and it’s a missed opportunity. All it’s doing is sitting there, collecting dust, costing the school money. Why not utilize it?”
Despite the business’ lack of prior success, Enactus is reopening the facility with an original business plan and offering new products.
Having been a part of the effort for almost two years, Enactus President Steven Goad brought Marshall on to the project and encouraged him to take charge. At the start of the fall semester, Marshall started with the initial steps to having the new dining option open for the University community.
Marshall first had to define what Enactus’ goal was for the project and meet all the University’s standards and regulations.
“Obstacles had to be overcome every step of the journey as is sometimes the nature of state government,” Goad said. “Just from the end of last semester and the beginning of this semester have we gotten it where everyone is on the same page. We are all finally on the same page and can finally move forward. I don’t know how to describe the anxiety.”
First, Marshall met with Tolliver to sort out the details involved in the project.
Because the building is University property and Aramark is the University’s dining vender, Enactus had to compromise with both state regulations and business interests.
One of the biggest decisions for the project managers to decide was who would receive the profit obtained from the sales. Because Enactus is a student organization, it cannot profit from a fundraiser more than once a month.
Due to the location’s previous failures, Aramark is not interested in trying to generate a profit from Eagle’s Nest and wants to focus on the benefits it will provide the students, Food Services Director Shannon Mariani said.
“(For) Aramark, there will be no profit (from Eagle’s Nest). I think the main objective is how we can help students start a business,” Mariani said. “We would like to see this become part of the curriculum, and if they could do that, then we would support them fully. We are not just trying to feed people while they are on campus, but if we can do anything that helps them in their careers beyond their time here on campus at UT Tyler, that’s great. It’s a win for us.”
However, just because Aramark does not want the profit does not mean that it automatically falls to Enactus. Because of the regulations set by the Charitable Enabling Act, organizations are limited with their fundraising to a certain amount and one day a month to avoid having to pay taxes, Tolliver said.
“The way the law is written is that student organizations can only fundraise to a certain degree,” she said.
To avoid the fundraising restrictions, Aramark is going to collect the profit made from the two weeks of operation and deposit it into a fund that will be donated to Enactus at the end of the semester, Mariani said.
“Where Harvey’s came is the perfect storm for bad business, but a great business teaching area and I think we may have just lucked into that,” Mariani said. “Aramark is a for-profit company, but the vision I have seen in Aramark is we are really more about creating partnerships on the campuses where we are.”
After receiving approval from the University and agreeing to partnership terms with Aramark, the next step was to evaluate what the students wanted their menu choices to be.
During the Student Organization Showcase on Feb. 14, Enactus members passed out short-form surveys to the student body to obtain feedback and data on the students’ menu opinions and raise awareness of the currently vacant Harvey’s café. They have collected about 200 student surveys and will analyze the data this week.
They also sent out a questionnaire via student email.
“Once we get all that data, we can tell pretty much exactly what the students and professors on campus want,” Marshall said. “Whatever they want is what they are going to provide. If they don’t want it, they are not going to go buy it. It’s as simple as that.”
Based on the data collected and organized this week, Enactus will continue to move forward with the plan and begin making the final decisions on the specific menu choices to be offered.
“What I have seen so far from what data we have collected is some of the people don’t know about Harvey’s, or they might have heard rumors about it,” Marshall said. “Students want to go slightly toward the healthy side and that’s something that really isn’t offered on campus.”
All food products that Enactus plans to sell are provided by Aramark. Because of health code regulations, the staff will be volunteers without food handling licenses. They only will be serving Aramark produced and prepackaged food that is not temperature controlled.
During the two-week period that Enactus is running Eagle’s Nest, the hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
After the trial two weeks, Enactus is going to be analyzing their results and preparing a project to be presented at their regional competition from April 9 to 11.
“Those two weeks are kind of like a beta test or a projection type thing to see what would really work,” Marshall said. “The biggest thing about this competition is the results. They want to know facts, facts, facts, numbers, numbers, numbers, and … if you can’t show the results, then they don’t want to know about it.”
Eagle’s Nest, a service management, hospitality and marketing project, will be one of three projects Enactus is presenting at the competition in Dallas.
“I am very confident that we will make it past regionals and through nationals,” Goad said. “We have great projects and this one will just be an absolute highlight. Completion is always great if you can say you generated your own revenue. You’ve managed a business and you’ve made money at it is always a good thing in competition for an organization like Enactus that is all about entrepreneurship and free enterprise.”
Enactus’ mission statement is to progress in the pursuit of entrepreneurial action. The student organization is a community of students, as well as academic and business leaders, who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world, according to their website.