Kaladi Brothers and Anchorage Schools: A Winning Partnership

A coffee/drink shop in a school? It is possible, and even a reality in four Anchorage schools thanks to the mentorship provided by Kaladi Brothers Coffee Company.

It started nine years ago, when a partnership was formed between Kaladi Brothers and Polaris K-12. Kaladi Brothers worked with students in business and economics classes, and donated a professional grade coffee machine to the school store. Students attended the company’s Barista Academy, and before long a student-run coffee/drink shop was open at Polaris. Kaladi employees support the store by maintaining the equipment, providing supplies at wholesale cost, and troubleshooting. They also visit the Polaris SBP classes to give presentations about customer service.

This year Kaladi Brothers hosted an “Art Throw Down” contest, and the winning design was reproduced on coffee cups. A Polaris student won the Anchorage area contest, so Kaladi’s provided the entire school–over 350 people–free drinks! They can also be counted on to support the school’s community events, donate to fundraising projects, and hire Polaris students.

The close proximity of Polaris K-12 and Kaladi Brothers further facilitates the partnership. Polaris students are encouraged to use Kaladi’s as a safe place to do their homework while waiting for rides after school. Student Andrew Sellen said, “Kaladi’s is integral to the Polaris social scene. We go to Kaladi’s to hang out, coffee and warm drinks encourage conversation, and Kaladi’s brings that spirit back to Polaris when they support our café or come to provide drinks in honor of student art work.”

East High Partners Club Cafe
East High was the second school to open a drink shop with the help of Kaladi Brothers employees. In the past few years, over 60 East High students have been trained in basic and/or advanced espresso drink making. The coffee/drink shop at East benefits the school’s Partner’s Club, a group that facilitates relationships between students who have disabilities and those who do not. Thanks to funds raised at the school drink shop, the Partner’s Club has had many more recreational, athletic, and social opportunities.

Two years ago, Begich Middle School decided to open a drink shop as well. The school’s SBP class teachers decided to take students to the next level: instead of merely talking about professionalism and job-readiness skills, they wanted the students to experience it. Kaladi Brothers Coffee was only too pleased to get involved. The Begich SPB class officially opened The Spot Café in January 2010, and now provides refreshments to staff and students before and after school every day. Before the shop opened, Kaladi experts provided on-site training through their Barista Academy, which teaches the essentials of making good coffee and running a business. Even after the training, Kaladi employees are always on hand to answer questions from the Begich students and staff, and they generously offer all products at wholesale prices. Kaladi employees even hosted a field trip, giving students a tour of the company’s local roasting facility, so they could learn more about the product they sell.

Student Baristas in Begich's Spot Cafe
Goldenview Middle School also operates their Sun Café with the help of Kaladi Brothers. Once again student training is an integral part of the partnership, but so is providing products for a holiday bean drive in which students sold coffee and the proceeds were used for the Little Red Wagon Foundation. Kaladi Brothers personnel participated in career fairs, mock job interviews, and resumé and interview performance feedback.

Kaladi has a mission to be a “Catalyst for Community.” In pursuing this mission, they were happy that Goldenview students donated their time to one of their community fundraising events at UAA’s Haunted Halloween Fun Night, a charity effort for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Goldenview students worked in the Kaladi Event Cart to make free coffee drinks for those attending the carnival. In the 20 years they have staffed this donation cart, this was the first time they paired with a school business partner and were very pleased with the joint efforts.

Kaladi Brothers began a new partnerships with Steller Secondary School and West High School and the SBP program anticipates they will be more in a series of successful partnerships.

It is hard to know who benefits most from these partnerships, as Kaladi Brothers is pleased to guide the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs, and students gain the experience of what it takes to be part of a successful business. Parents gush about the skills their students are learning, such as customer service, sales, accounting, and the responsibility of holding a job. The entire school benefits from the partnerships too, because the money earned at the student-run cafés goes back to the school to help pay for special programs. These partnerships are clearly a win-win!

“We found several students who would make fantastic employees for our company, and hopefully they’ll apply when they are ready to enter the job market.” Kaladi Brothers rep.

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Anchorage School Business Partnership started in 1991 and has since grown to over 540 partnerships with an economic value of over $2.5 million. They range from a one person business to large organizations such as BP and FedEx. The organization is supported by both the Anchorage School District and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.


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