Stedman’s Café: Business students brew up experience

Photo Courtesy of Twitter
Photo Courtesy of Twitter

Cassie Wade

The grand opening of Stedman’s Café in the College of Business Administration’s Mammel Hall provides University of Nebraska at Omaha students with more than a new place to grab a bite to eat: students will also participate in a learning laboratory and gain real-world business experience.

Stedman’s first opened its doors on Jan. 11 and had its grand opening on Feb. 25. The café serves a wide variety of foods ranging from sandwiches and salads; chips and candy; and smoothies and espresso-based drinks.

While the food options available at Stedman’s are similar to what students can find at other on campus dining locations like Milo Bail or the library, the café’s employment and learning opportunities set it apart: Stedman’s not only employees UNO students; it’s run by them.

According to Heather Holmes, the assistant director of UNO’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising (CIEF), the idea for a student run café was pitched to Louis Pol, the dean of the College of Business Administration, for several years before the project gained momentum.

“The dean wasn’t very excited about it because he didn’t want to get phone calls early in the morning that students weren’t there to open the café,” Holmes said. “After many discussions and a lot of support from different people in the College of Business Administration, it was approved to let CIEF open it (Stedman’s).”

A key component to the Stedman’s Café project is its ability to serve as a learning laboratory for students to see what it takes to run a successful business.

“Currently we’re working with an economics class and marketing to look at margins, procedures and team development,” Holmes said. “It’s really an open book for any class that wants to research and dive into owning a business and running a café.”

Holmes said students often talk about wanting to open a café or restaurant when pitching their business plans, which is why a hands-on-learning experience like Stedman’s Café is an important part of their education.

“How often do you have a business that says, ‘here, come mess with our prices,’” Holmes said. “It gives them that real-world experience while they still have support from their faculty and other students around them.”

The opportunity to gain real-world experience by working at Stedman’s has been a “fantastic opportunity” for students like the café’s manager Zander Thornburg, who is a senior marketing and management major.

Some of Thornburg’s responsibilities include training new employees, checking inventory and meeting with classes participating in the café’s learning lab.

“Working as the manager at Stedman’s has helped me learn so much about people, leading a team, and what it really means to be an entrepreneur,” Thornburg said. “This experience has given me tools I can take with me to future career-oriented endeavors.”

Holmes said Stedman’s provides employment opportunities for students of all majors. The project has proven to be very student oriented with a logo design contest, won by sophomore Connor Brandt, as well as digital signage purchased from a former UNO student, Keith Fix.

The café also pays tribute to its namesake, Bob Stedman, a 1951 graduate of UNO when the school was still called Omaha University.

“Stedman played both football and basketball and at the time, one of his favorite places to hang out was the Snack Shack,” Holmes said. “When the idea of this café came up… there was some funding (from Stedman) to get it started, and we thought how appropriate that it be called Stedman’s café when he had such close ties to UNO.”

Stedman’s jersey, a photograph and his story are hung up in the café.

Stedman’s café is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.