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Coffee Talk: The Power of Partnerships

Murray Moore is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He started his first business as a 7-year-old. By age 10, he had three employees. So it’s safe to assume he has a deep appreciation for understanding business from an early age. After spending many years in the corporate world, Murray decided he was ready for a change. “For me, teaching was this opportunity to do something meaningful. In entrepreneurism especially, I get to let young people chase their dreams.” 

He’s been teaching at Topeka High School, in Kansas, for over 17 years.  

That’s where he met Madison Jacques, a student in his YE class whom Murray describes as a “math whiz” and “the type of student who if she sees something as useful, she can be very good at it.” What that meant for Murray was that he could run an idea by her, one he knew she would be able to take on. 

Madison, then a junior, was enrolled in Murray’s entrepreneurship class, but she didn’t plan to stick around for the second semester of the course. “I never saw myself as someone who would benefit from this class,” she said. “But Mr. Moore helped me realize how the lessons of the class transfer to the real world. Finding something I could actually do, finding a business I could structure is what motivated me to keep going.”  

In years past, an idea to open a coffee shop within the high school had been brewing. But with a change in school leadership, the idea went cold. With the support of a new principal, Murray knew Madison could give it the steam it needed to forge ahead. So he pitched the idea to her and then, he let her run with it. 

And run she did. 

After agreeing to take the second semester of his class, Madison fine-tuned her business plan, attended several meetings and made an impressive case for the coffee shop to all the right people. After all her hard work, and with the support of Mr. Moore, Trojan Cup Coffee Shop is set to open inside Topeka High School after Thanksgiving break. Madison will be at the helm. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations including the hiring of staff. The shop is a 100% student-run business, where “employees” can receive compensation in the form of extra credit and can even apply for scholarships based on essays they complete about their work experience. 

For Madison, the entire process has been an incredible learning experience. “I think the most important thing I have learned so far is that the key is partnerships, you can only do so much,” she said. “People are often a big part of what you are waiting on, but once you have all the right people in place, you can get it done.” 

And Murray agrees. He knows a thing or two about partnerships. As a Rotarian, he does a lot of work in the community and he believes wholeheartedly in the power of working together. “Oh gosh, it’s all about recognizing the opportunity to partner. I tell my students that every day,” he said. “I invite people in the community to present to the class, the kids love that, and in turn, people know to come to me because I am going to send them the right kids.” 

For Trojan Cup Coffee Shop, Madison was the right kid.

Both she and Murray credit YE’s Foundational Values with helping make this particular partnership happen with area businesses such as PT’s Coffee and Stevenson Co. They especially focus on opportunity and responsibility as drivers. 

As the coffee shop gets set to officially open, Madison reflects on the experience saying it has given her the “ability to become a more effective communicator.” That’s something she knows she will need in her future as she one day hopes to become an Aeronautical engineer. 

For Murray, he has no doubt she’ll do whatever she sets her mind to. “When I first encountered Maddie, she was one of those kids that wanted to do everything totally by herself,” he said. “Now through this experience, I think she’s figured out how important it is to do things together. I think that will serve her well no matter what she goes on to do after this.”