Alyssa Bennett Reflects on Six Life-Changing Months as SCEO
After the last six months, Alyssa Bennett is ready for anything her budding career might throw her way. She learned people management. She learned community outreach. She learned financial management.
And she did it all in a Saxbys cafe.
Alyssa served as the Student Cafe Executive Officer at our original Drexel University cafe where she was responsible for every aspect of the business — from team development to community leadership to financial management.
The 21-year-old says the experience felt like her business classes came to life. She was forced to think on her feet. No two days were the same. She learned real-life problem-solving skills each time she came to work. In fact, she saw so much in Saxbys (and we saw so much in her) that she’s stayed with the company as a Leadership Training Specialist.
We sat down with Alyssa to learn about her experience, why she loved watching her team grow, and how it prepared her for a future in business management.
How did you build a unique culture in your cafe based on your leadership style?
I like to make connections with every team member, figure out how they learn best and adapt my leadership style based on that. It could change depending on who I’m working with that day. Some people liked a more democratic leadership style. Others needed more support or delegation. I just focused on making the connection and making sure people feel comfortable coming to me if they had any questions.
What is the most rewarding aspect of developing your team?
Watching them grow. I was able to train Margaux Sullivan — who took over for me as SCEO — from the time she started with Saxbys. I onboarded her as a host, helped her complete barista training then saw her all the way through her student CEO training.
What was a major obstacle you had to overcome when it came to developing a team member?
There’s lots of turnover with Drexel students because terms are only 10 weeks. So every 10 weeks, we were losing team members. When I started, I had five new team leads to train but wasn’t fully trained myself. So I started training alongside them and that helped build trust because we were learning together.
Tell us about some community leadership initiatives you did at your cafe?
We worked with Sharing Excess, donating all our extra bagel and pastry waste every night. We also did acoustic nights once or twice a month where people would play guitar or sing. That brought a lot of new faces to the cafe.
How did you work to manage and understand your profit/loss statement?
Coming from a business program, understanding the P&L came very naturally to me. The hardest part was the real-life management of it. I learned that small things affect it in big ways. So I made sure to hone in on correcting mistakes — like ordering too much and wasting product, or not ordering enough and running out.
How did you keep your cafe accountable to the day-to-day responsibilities in order to manage your costs?
We have a waste log. I use it to explain to my team leads that they’re able to affect the P&L by being responsible with waste. It helped them understand how their actions affect the bottom line.
How does this program prepare you for your eventual career in business management?
I did so many different tasks. Financials. Working with the community. Developing a team. Time management is crucial because of all the things happening in the cafe simultaneously. People skills for sure. It’s everything you could possibly do in a business so whatever my career path, I’m going to be prepared for anything because I learned so much within the cafe setting.
Do you have any advice for the incoming SCEO?
Six months will go fast. Take a step back and appreciate how impressive what you’re doing is. That tends to get lost sometimes. It’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing wrong, so appreciate what you're doing right.