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New cafe hopes to offer chill vibes, relaxed community

| Tuesday, September 17, 2019

While most students do not have the resources to start their own business until years after graduating from college, senior Amanda Estrada is putting her business savvy to the test early. Using the homey environment and additional space of her single, the Howard Hall resident is starting what she described as a “speakeasy cafe” in the comfort of her dorm room.

Estrada, a marketing major, said she has always wanted to own her own business that reflects her creativity and taste in music and art. Cafes, she said, are particularly conducive to her personality and her interests.

“After [college] I was going to start my own business, but I was like, ‘Why not start now?’ I have the single, I have the space,” Estrada said. “I’ve always tried to make my room really aesthetic and everyone who comes in always mentions it. … People can come in and chill with the aesthetic and the music.”

Estrada plans to sell hot chocolate, coffee and teas from what she has named “Uglé Duckling Cafe.” Customers are welcome to stay and enjoy their drinks in her room, which Estrada has furnished with a table and chairs, or take them to go. Despite the stiff competition from other on-campus locations, Estrada is confident that her cafe will be a success due to its more personal nature.

“It’s all about convenience and a warm, friendly environment. I’m trying to make it so that I have a relationship with all the people [who come in],” Estrada said.

Rather than a hub of activity, as many of the popular cafes around campus are, Estrada aims to have the “Uglé Duckling Cafe” emulate the relaxed vibe of a traditional cafe. With that familiar atmosphere, Estrada hopes to build a feeling of community. A self-described introverted extrovert, Estrada said dorm life in Howard — one of the smallest dorms on campus — is the perfect environment for a place to get a cup of coffee, chat and de-stress.

“I really like how Howard works,” Estrada said. “It’s a nice, kind of cozy feel. I don’t feel like it’s too isolating, and I don’t feel like they’re overbearing with the community, so I think it’s a really casual community.”

Though her opening day was a football Saturday, Estrada said she has been pleasantly surprised by the number of customers she has had and believes she has gained some loyal followers. One of her biggest concerns, she said, is the new policy restricting dorm access to residents only. Estrada remains optimistic and sees her cafe as a way to foster community within her own dorm while being open to any newcomers as well.

“I’m mostly marketing to Howard, but a lot of people know a lot of people so if people know someone from Howard, then they can just come in,” Estrada said. “I want this to be a really inclusive environment for everyone.”

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