Red Bird of Faith: New coffee cart began with deeper meaning than selling coffee, waffles

In July of 2015, Rachel Smith of Yukon and Jessica Leal of Denton, Texas had just graduated from the University of Oklahoma after going through the Child Welfare Enhancement Program.
They were both working for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in Canadian County when they had a conversation about starting a coffee shop business together based out of Yukon that would employ and mentor at risk youth in the area.
A year would go by after the initial conversation as both Smith and Leal believed the dream of starting their coffee shop wouldn’t be put into action for another 10 or so, but in July of 2016, Smith said she felt the calling to go ahead and pursue their dream. She discussed it with Leal and they both decided it was time to try and start their dream business.
One day after the two young ladies had decided to go ahead with the coffee shop, Smith was sitting on the front porch of her house here in Yukon and she was praying about the business and the process that her and Leal were about to begin together.
As she was praying, a Red Bird appeared under the tree in her front yard and Smith knew then what the name of the new coffee shop was going to be, the Red Bird.
Red Birds had been a special symbol to Smith since she was a sophomore in college at OU. Smith said she was going through some really challenging times and was having a lot of angry prayers with God. As this was going on a Red Bird appeared and gave her peace and since then, every time she is in a state of questioning and is struggling with an issue, a Red Bird has appeared and brought her peace.
The Red Bird has been a symbol of guidance not only in her life in different situations, but it has been the main symbol of Smith’s and Leal’s faith in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that has been the rock throughout the process of starting their own coffee shop business.
“God has opened so many doors throughout this whole process,” Smith said. “There’s no way we could do this on our own. This is definitely a Faith-based business. There’s no other way it could happen.”
After they initially started the process of opening the Red Bird, they said they quickly learned that having it in an actual house, or store front in Yukon wasn’t going to be the best way to start out. They decided to purchase a trailer and get into the food truck business.
They officially registered for their business license on Nov. 23 then they purchased their new trailer shortly following the registration. They quickly started getting the proper equipment and necessary items to make the Red Bird attractive both on the outside and inside.
Most of the items inside the Red Bird were donated. To get their hands on a good-working espresso machine, which is the life blood of a coffee shop, they drove to Manhattan, Kansas and picked one up in a situation, in which neither Smith or Leal were comfortable with, as they drove late into the night.
It ended up working out just fine and they now had an espresso machine. They recently had a dry run with the Red Bird for family and close friends to try and work out as many kinks as possible. They had some kinks that they believe they got squared away but they both said they understand there will be more on the day they officially open.
That day will come this weekend, as the Red Bird will be out on Main Street parked and ready to serve customers for the first time. Smith and Leal said they will start really promoting their new business in May but they want to have several trial runs around the Yukon community before they put the Red Bird out there in a big way.
The Red Bird has already been booked for events in the next several months around the Oklahoma City metro area and they are planning on posting on their Facebook page when and where they will be at certain locations.
Throughout the process of learning how to use an espresso machine at a coffee shop and as they try and develop their own system of how to handle large crowds when that day comes, they said they have had tremendous help from other coffee shops in the area.
“We have been so blessed that other coffee shop businesses in the area have opened their doors to us and let us learn by using their equipment,” Leal said. “It’s been truly amazing the generosity, encouragement and support we have received throughout this whole process. We could not be more thankful.”
The Red Bird is not only selling coffee to its customers, but it will also have waffles available, as Smith and Leal have a good-working waffle maker inside the Red Bird.
In order to park the Red Bird and sell coffee and waffles, Smith and Leal have to get special permits from the cities in which they are going to park and permission from the businesses to park in those specific parking lots.
As of right now, the Red Bird is permitted to park in Canadian County.
Smith and Leal said their goal is to make Yukon apart of the Red Bird.
“We want the Yukon community to be a part of this process,” Smith said. “We want people to feel like this is their coffee shop. We want to be based out of Yukon and stay in this area the majority of the time.”
Their long-term plan is to have an actual coffee shop that will support at-risk youth in the area by employing them and mentoring them but Smith and Leal both said they understand they must get their business sustained in the area first.
Leal said she has been an avid coffee drinker her entire life but she is still new to the espresso coffee world. Smith said she did not start drinking coffee until she was a senior at OU because her parents always had to have their coffee in the mornings and she always said she would not get addicted but once she began to spend time at coffee shops, she quickly fell in love with the culture that came with going to coffee shops and having coffee and meeting new and great people.
Smith and Leal have been working for the state in the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for nearly two years. The two year mark will be May 18 for the two close friends. They said they are going to continue to work for the state even though they are getting into the coffee business.
For now, they will only open the Red Bird on weekends and during special occasions or special events. However, in the future, they both said they are planning to be completely in the coffee business when they are ready to open their own actual shop.
Smith was born and raised in Yukon and graduated from Yukon High School in 2011. She attended the University of Oklahoma where she received her Bachelor’s degree. Leal was born in Iowa but raised in Texas and graduated from Denton High School. Her family moved to Oklahoma six years ago when her husband took a new job in Oklahoma. Leal became an EMT and then received her Associate’s degree from Oklahoma City Community College before transferring to the social work program at OU where she met Smith.
Upon graduation Smith convinced Leal and her family to move out to Canadian County. They said it was a great move for both of them.
“[Smith] told me this place was an amazing place to live and raise a family,” Leal said. “As soon as we got out here, I knew she was right.”
Smith echoed her friend’s comments.
“There is just something special about Yukon and the Yukon community,” Smith said. “Being a part of this community is incredibly special and we want the Red Bird to provide an amazing experience for Yukon and Canadian County.”

2 Comments

  1. Wendy Sternlof on May 18, 2017 at 11:51 am

    What an inspirational story. Thank you ladies . These waffles and coffee are the best.

  2. Jada Cowns on August 14, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you so much Jessica Leal and Rachel Smith.

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