For Rachel Smith, the decision to leave her job as a full-time social worker was difficult. It’s what she went to school to be — someone to work with children who needed her help.
But in the back of her mind was a desire to step out on her own, to start her own business.
A little more than a year ago, she and business partner Jessica Leal took the first step. They took out a business loan, purchased a food trailer and began serving waffles and coffee.
The Red Bird Coffee Cart was hatched.
The pair began getting the trailer ready in November and held their grand opening in March.
Since then, business has been brewing.
“It’s been a whirlwind. We’re doing weekend things most of the time,” Smith said.
In July, Smith stepped away from her job as a social worker at the Department of Human Services and began focusing on the coffee business with the goal of making it a full-time business.
“I had a coffee dream. I love coffee, and we both have a heart for teenagers,” she said. “Our goal is to mentor teenagers in care, or at-risk teenagers.
“Our hope now, is to make the business sustainable, and pursue that so we can be a long-standing employer for them,” Smith said.
Smith worked for DHS for two years. Leal remains a social worker, helping Canadian County children.
Business has been brisk. The two and their trailer, can be seen at various events on the weekends. They also cater for a number of businesses during the week.
Both Smith and Leal said a teen who was in foster care is one of the reasons they went into business.
“I had worked with a teenager who was a returned adoption. He said he wanted a job so he could have a normal life — a job, a car. It is a challenging thing to employ many of our teenagers because of how transient they are,” Smith said.
“Our goal is for them to be able to have a job so they leave with a job recommendation and some customer service experience and basic life skills. What we would like to do is have them working with a mentor in an area they are interested in,” Leal said.
The idea is to break the cycle, Leal said.
“We want to help prepare the teenagers for life,” she said.
These days, their goal is to generate enough business to be able to move into a permanent location.
“There is risk, but we hope it is a calculated risk. We’ve tried to think of all the ‘what ifs.’ … We are trusting that if this is where we are supposed to be, it will work out,” Smith said.
“The community has been super kind and allowed us to start with no judgment. They have been really supportive,” Leal said.
That support even went into their training. Other coffee shops helped teach them how to run the operation.
“Jess and I had to learn this trade. We love to drink coffee, but we didn’t know anything about the art of coffee. It is a world all in its own,” Smith said.
A coffee shop in Clinton and another in Weatherford help the two women out.
While much of the focus is on coffee, iced, hot and lattes, the Red Bird Coffee Cart also offers gourmet waffles.
“We serve Liege Waffles. It is more like a pastry instead of a waffle. … There is nothing like it in the area that we’ve found,” Smith said.
To find out where you can find the Red Bird Coffee Cart, go to their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/theredbirdcoffee/