CMU Graduates plan to open Drifter Coffee

For months, Alleah Webb had been working out the plans to to begin her future coffee shop. While scanning through Craiglist one October day, Webb came across a small, 80-square-foot chrome and Tiffany blue trailer. The ad stood out as a shining beacon telling her this was it – her coffee dreams were going to become a reality.

Before she arrived to the location to look at the trailer, she already had her heart set on buying it. This would be the major turning point for her. Despite its frame falling apart and holes in both the ceiling and floor, she loved it.

“I had to have it,” Webb said. “It felt crazy.”

With plans of tearing out the original interior from the ’60s and transforming it into a mobile coffee shop, she would call it “Drifter Coffee.”

After growing up in a family of women entrepreneurs and working for the family business for most of her life, Webb explored Central Michigan University’s campus looking for something different. Nonetheless, with a helpful nudge from a friend to enroll in an entrepreneurship class, Webb’s knack for working in the small business field would soon follow her into her academic career and change everything.

“In the class, we were asked to develop a business plan, and I picked coffee shop,” Webb recalls.

After delving into the assignment, she found that balancing accounting, finance and planning was exciting for her. The more business classes she took, the more it solidified it for her.

“This is what I was meant to do,” Webb said.

After taking an internship at a coffee shop, Webb sought to further expand her knowledge on coffee and business managing. It wasn’t long before she found herself employed at the local coffee shop, Kaya Coffee House.

Webb became emerged in the business, watching the owner, Elly Cotton, closely to learn what kept Kaya running smoothly. Behind-the-counter friendships sparked when Webb became especially close with Chelsea Hohn, who is now her creative partner for Drifter Coffee.

“I never thought I would start a business with anyone else,” Webb said. “Chelsea just balances me out. Both working at Kaya, we know it is all about good vibes. We have it figured out how to be a happy barista in a place that serves all different types of people.”

After earning her degree at CMU, Webb was ready to take her business plan more seriously. As she spread the news about buying the trailer and Drifter Coffee, a swarm of friends, family and community members offered their assistance any way they could.

“Our team is a network of people from CMU,” Hohn said. “We have a lot of people that we are able to talk to and their opinions and reactions are really helpful.”

Webb and Hohn quickly learned there is healthy competition meant to be mutually beneficial between the citizens of Detroit and the small business owners. People buy locally, others become employed and revenue is generated.

“There is no one that we have encountered that has tried to cut us down because they don’t want us to succeed,” Hohn said. “Everyone is very encouraging.”

Luckily for Webb, there will never be a shortage of coffee as she pushes through to her official opening of Drifter Coffee at the end of May.