The cocoa grind: one Bearcat's path to becoming a franchisee

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Many students attend Baruch College to gain the skills and knowledge to start their own businesses. Some go on to start their businesses after college, but some start early. Ehab Elshinawy is not your average student: he started his business while getting a college education.

His business, Cocoa Grinder, is a trendy chain of coffee stores across the city with a new location in Brooklyn. Elshinawy’s cousin Abdul Elenani began the business in 2013. Elshinawy helped come up with the concept, menus, branding and marketing for the chain, but did not have the money to open his own franchise. While going to classes, he was raising capital from investors.

Dealing with the pressure of being a student and a business owner has given Elshinawy insight on issues like time management and balance. He is learning entrepreneurship both hands-on and in his classes.

Elshinawy can be seen at his Brooklyn store behind the counter, talking to customers and taking orders. This is the first store that he owns; in the past, he has mainly focused on franchising to others. Elshinawy follows the family business: his father was a franchise owner of a different store. But Elshinawy is paving his own path. With plans to continue growing and expanding throughout the city, Elshinawy sees a bright future for Cocoa Grinder.

Elshinawy described how a balance between school and work is pivotal to his success. “Time was the most valuable asset that I had and I felt that if I learned how to manage my time, I could really maximize my output,” he said an interview with The Ticker.

Currently Elshinawy studies real estate at Baruch and plans to apply what he learns to his business. He will graduate in 2019 and intends to continue his venture.

A major factor in Elshinawy’s choice of major was his desire to learn strategies to improve his business.

His plan is similar to that of McDonald’s: build one solid location and duplicate and franchise it. In 10 years, he believes he will have the franchise model set and be in most of the 50 states, looking to expand internationally.

Cocoa Grinder is currently growing, with Elshinawy’s own franchise store being the most recent addition. They have stores throughout the city, including Brooklyn neighborhoods Bay Ridge, Crown Heights and Midwood. With eyes to the future, Elshinawy sees Cocoa Grinder going beyond the city and eventually international. This is not a stretch. Within five years, they have already opened multiple stores with an eye on expanding beyond New York City.

But Elshinawy has experienced many obstacles in his venture.  “Honestly, I wouldn’t say it’s one big obstacle. I would say there are a lot of micro-obstacles that get in the way,” he said. Overcoming these obstacles and learning to persevere is what gets you to your goals. Through all of his hard work, Elshinawy has found success.

“The biggest success I would say in my career for the business is putting together the business plan and pitching it in front of the investors, something I was very uncomfortable with, insecure about and learning how to get out of my comfort zone.”

Elshinawy also offers insight to students who hope to start businesses of their own: “I would say learn how to work harder on yourself than you do on your job, learn the right skills, learn the right knowledge, meet the right people, shake the right hands, be open-minded and be optimistic.”

Cocoa Grinder’s name comes from an idea of balance, to embrace both the sweetness and the bitterness of life. This suits the business, which has helped Elshinawy find a sweet spot between doing what he loves and the grind of life. This idea of finding balance is applicable to all students who hope to one day have their own business.

With high goals and a good work ethic, he hopes to grow his business and is a shining example of finding balance.