Saxbys opens location in Big Idea Center


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

Becca Segal, a chemistry graduate student and CEO of FlowCellutions, explains her product, FlowCells, to two Pitt students at the Big Idea Center.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

Maggie Yu experienced something few college students get the chance to — opening her own cafe. Yu, a student CEO for Saxbys Coffee, is spending this semester running the new Big Idea Center location.

“It’s a shock,” Yu, a sophomore marketing and finance major, said. “It’s like ‘Wow, I’m really running a cafe at 20 years old.’ It’s been a really crazy and interesting process. There are so many little details that go into running a successful cafe. A month ago, it was empty. We didn’t have shelves or an espresso machine.”

The Big Idea Center opened up the third Saxbys location on the corner of Forbes and Meyran Ave. at the start of the fall semester. Nick Bayer, CEO of Saxbys, said Pitt is the first university to have three Saxbys cafes on campus. Saxbys opened its locations in the Hillman Library and the Cathedral of Learning last September.

Saxbys is a hospitality and coffee company designed for and run by college students. Students enjoy beverages from a student-run cafe while receiving guidance on business ideas. 

Rhonda Schuldt, director of the Big Idea Center, said the center gives students who want to understand the ins and outs of starting and running a business like Saxbys. She also said the center prepares students to enter competitions like the Rice Business Plan Competition.

“I want all students to know that when you come into this place, this is a place for you to explore your possibilities,” Schuldt said. “When you step into the world of innovation or entrepreneurship, even if you don’t know what that means, and you try to experience it or learn about it, you are going to start to see the world in a different way.”

Bayer said student CEOs are entirely responsible for the management and operation of the cafes. 

“This business, just like the one in the Cathedral of Learning and Hillman Library, is run 24/7/365 by undergraduate students,” Bayer said. “They get full academic credit and wages. They have full autonomy over the profit loss and gain. It is the opportunity to use good theory in the classroom.”

Yu said her first week as a student CEO was a struggle because she had to learn everything gradually. Her success is determined by her profit and loss statement, making every decision critical for her.

“I’m getting used to the things I have to do every day,” Yu said. “One of my main tasks is ordering inventory for our cafe and delegating tasks to team members. But every week is a little different. Sometimes there is someone who calls in sick, so I’ve had to learn to adjust things around or pick up shifts myself.”

Charlize George, team member at Saxbys Big Idea Center, said Saxbys provides a fun working environment compared to other adult-run cafes that she’s worked at.

“In my previous jobs, I worked with a lot of adults,” George said. “But I really like working with students, especially having a student leader as my boss. It is very freeing. They’re really understanding and create a very flexible schedule. It’s just a fun environment.”