SLC students put business skills to good use at Mimi's Cafe

Posted On January 24, 2015


As lead student supervisor of the campus coffee shop and spirit store, Silver Lake College student Jonathan Billingslea has learned some important lessons outside of the classroom.

When Mimi’s Café, which offers Starbucks beverages, opened in early December, students and staff were clamoring for their coffees and other drinks.

“The opening was during finals week. It was a very busy week. Everybody was excited and wanted to get coffee and buy last-minute Christmas gifts from the store,” said Billingslea, a junior from Detroit majoring in accounting.

“I had to learn how to make all the drinks. From my second day on the job, I was put in the position where I had to make decisions quickly. Some of them were not very easy. I had to go out of my comfort zone and ask a lot of different people for help.”

Chris Foresta of Sodexo Food Service is Billingslea's supervisor and said he's doing a "phenomenal job running the day-to-day operation of the coffee shop.”

“The entire group of work-study students has shown a great emphasis on teamwork, creating a fun and exciting environment at the coffee shop,” Foresta said.

Billingslea, a federal work study program student, worked within that program to become a supervisor by proving to be valuable, said Jan Algozine, Silver Lake College's Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services.

“To me, that proves the worth of the program. He’s applying what he’s learned in his business courses and is getting vital supervisory experience, which will prepare him for the world of work,” Algozine said.

Johniece Gilliam, a sophomore pursuing criminal justice and psychology studies, works at the coffee shop and said that the job has expanded her horizons.

“It’s a new learning experience for me. I enjoy that,” Gilliam said, adding that interacting with customers and training other workers has honed her communication and people skills. Plus, she’s learned how to work quickly.

One day, when she was scheduled behind the counter by herself, she successfully served 10 customers who had come in at one time. “I was so proud of myself,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam is being groomed to become a student supervisor next fall, Foresta said.

“Classroom learning is supplemented when students have the opportunity to gain practical experience in a work setting. This allows them to build and improve their professional, interpersonal and time-management skills,” said Tom Kuenzi, an Assistant Professor of Business at Silver Lake College.

Billingslea found that to be true.

“I had to schedule and train employees, figure out the set-up, handle customer disputes, open and close the registers, take inventory, provide feedback to my superiors and makes calls to service equipment,” he said.

Billingslea has applied what he’s learned about interpersonal skills in his business management courses and puts that knowledge to use as he oversees 10 coffee shop employees.

“Different people require different resources to be successful,” Billingslea said.

He enjoys the challenge of running Mimi’s Café, which is now open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and he believes in the products he sells.

“I love coffee," he said. "I have a small coffeemaker in my room, but it’s been a while since I’ve used it. I wait until I get to work to have my coffee because it’s so good.”