Cary Verner is an ambitious 29-year-old who had a passion and love for coffee and business long before the Brew came into his lap. Since then, he has made it his goal to connect with students and grow the Brew into a welcoming place for all.
Verner, the Brew’s manager, sat down for an interview with the Talon to discuss how he arrived at Oklahoma Christian and what the future holds for the campus coffee shop.
How did the Brew come to be, and how did it fall into your lap?
My wife found a posting online whenever we were living in East Texas and kind of looking to see if we could do some more grad school stuff. She looked at the Church of Christ schools, and I had just recently gotten into coffee roasting and had gotten out of debt. I also had started reading a lot of books about small businesses and stuff like that. Whenever we put in for the interview, they told me that I had to turn in everything today because they were already in the interview process so if I was going to have any shot at all I had to get everything turned in by the end of the day. I got it in that day, and they called a week later and set up a time for me to come and interview. It just seemed like a perfect fit. They were looking for a minister —I was working for a church at the time — who had an interest in small business —which I did — and some sort of knowledge about coffee — I was a home coffee roaster a little before that — so, it all just fell perfectly right into my lap.
What do you think has been the biggest challenge of running the Brew?
I think it’s communication. That’s the most challenging for me. How do I communicate to my people who are working for me, that this is what I want you to do, this is how I want you to do it? Because you can train them once, but even then, you have to have something set up. So, not even workers, but say someone sends me an email about an event that they want to have. Trying to make myself remember to put that into the calendar and remind myself to get everything set up. That for me has been the biggest challenge, the logistics and communication of wants and needs.
What has been your favorite part about seeing the Brew grow and being a part of that process?
I feel like it was a goal that was set and achieved, and that’s cool. When I went here as a freshman, I didn’t feel like there was a great space for a lot of people regardless of classification could meet up consistently. Sometimes people met in the Student Center, but you know not that many people wanted to play pool or Ping Pong all the time. So, I feel like when they said let’s bring in the Brew and have it be a focus on bringing people together. To get to go train with people and tell them that this is what we’re trying to do with this. We’re not trying to be the greatest coffee shop in the world; we’re trying to provide a place of camaraderie, like you said. And, if we make good coffee, great; but it’s so secondary to our purpose. To watch that succeed has been fun.
What have been some goals you set out yourself for the Brew for the future?
I would really like to get a roaster involved. To get to where we’re roasting our own coffee, to hire more students, and I don’t know what that looks like apart from the day to day operation stuff because it is legitimately investing in a new business. Even though they’re linked, they’re separate. But I love the idea because it would allow me to hire more students. Between the different operations we have, I would like to have 40 students employed. So, if you’re a little more outgoing they can work in the Brew, and if they’re more introverted they can work in the roasting process. And honestly we make the school more profitable in a sector that is pretty cool.
Do you think the Brew has changed you?
Yes, for sure.
First and foremost, I think it has really helped with my empathy for people, particularly my workers and trying to understand them, and if they do mess up by missing a shift or whatever, trying to understand what’s going on in their lives. That’s been big. It’s been a lot of fun, too. It’s been very rewarding to be an important part of their lives. When I was in college, I had a few certain people that I went to when I had questions, whether my faith was lacking or whatever. And getting to kind of pay it forward is very rewarding. Also, my biggest struggle, as I said earlier, with communication and also planning ordering and kind of the smaller details, I’ve gotten a lot better at. To see that I’ve kind of achieved some things and seen some growth in my own life, it’s rewarding to feel like you’re capable.