The Treetop Young Barista Project: How TTIS Teaches Students The Key to Entrepreneurship

Business studies can be a confusing subject to secondary school students. 

Before entering secondary school, these students were children who learnt BODMAS, chased each other around the school field, and played Roblox on their screens. 

Many secondary students don’t have any experiences in their daily lives that relate to business and entrepreneurship. So when they take up IGCSE Enterprise as a school subject, most students don’t have a point of reference to understand the relevance and purpose of business studies. 

How can students make an account statement without knowing how people set up bank accounts?

Reading up on case studies, volunteer work, and school events can help students apply their business knowledge to the real world. However, these learning experiences are bread crumbs compared to the daily workings of the corporate world.

Secondary students need working experience in a corporate setting to understand business studies.

How can your child get fruitful working experiences?

Our students in Tree Top International School gain their working experience by setting up and running their own cafe on our school campus!

The Tree Top Young Barista Project

Since 2019, TTIS year 8 students have been running their café before and after school. They would collect orders from their parents and teachers, brew decadent cups of coffee, and deliver them to their customers. 

During IGCSE Enterprise classes, students learnt the basics of business studies from our teachers. They also learnt from industry experts the ins and outs of the coffee industry, how coffee is planted and harvested, and how people run cafes.

We want our children to master the most in-demand working skills and knowledge to excel in the working world.

Therefore, the Tree Top Young Barista Project is designed to be a practical, hands-on and ongoing learning experience to help secondary students develop a keen business sense and apply their business knowledge to real-life business scenarios.

With this business exposure alongside their theory classes, our students:

  • Link and apply their knowledge of business studies to their café. 
  • Understand the planning and effort needed to set up and manage an enterprise.
  • Learn the practical skills of running a business, such as: interacting with different stakeholders, organising logistics and staffing, managing operations, operating cash flow, evaluating risks etc.

How did TTIS Year 8 Students set up their café?

When TTIS first introduced this project-based assignment, we wanted to help students build an authentic enterprise, not a temporary school project. 

To achieve this, we collaborated with the founder of MyEspresso Cafe, Mr. Chan Kok Fai, to help us spearhead this project.

MyEspresso is an F&B business located in Subang Jaya specialises in helping other cafes set up their businesses. Apart from operating a commercial café, MyEspresso also supplies espresso machines and coffee beans, and provides professional barista training.

Thanks to MyEspresso, our students could get Highlander Quattro beans from Singapore, one of the highest quality coffee beans you can get. We also got an espresso machine!

Mr Chan Kok Fai himself mentored our students in the art of coffee brewing and business enterprise.

Under his guidance, students were exposed to the rigours of making a basic cafe latte from the coffee bean grinding, coffee brewing, milk steaming, and machine cleaning to create a perfect cup of cafe latte. 

Coffee brewing is not as easy as it sounds. Students have to deal with boiling water, steam and hot surfaces with their bare hands like Starbucks baristas. While it may have been scary at first, our students were determined and excited to become professional baristas.

By practising safety measures under the guidance of our teachers, our students came to master their barista skills.

Going Out of the Classroom

On top of their industry-related classes and practical classes, our students got the rare opportunity to visit MyEpresso Café, go behind the counter and experience what it is like to work as a barista handling commercial grade equipment. 

It was amazing to observe professional baristas behind the scenes. 

We also get to enjoy their delicious cakes and pastries!

At the end of our trip, the students interviewed Mr Chan himself to learn how he went on his entrepreneurial journey.

The Student Café Today

Our students were put to the test during our Mid-Autumn Festival Event in 2019. For this occasion, Mr Chan was not present, and our teachers stepped back. So the students were running the pop-up café fully by themselves.

On that day, the students got more than 20 cups from the supportive parents of TTIS. Then, the parents flocked around the cafeteria, observing their children working hard on the café, something beyond their age or ability.

By the end of the night, our students had successfully run their café and made a profit. These proceeds were channelled back to the enterprise project to replenish supplies like coffee beans and milk.

Since our students started their project, they have been getting daily coffee orders from the TTIS staff members and parents. Thanks to the project’s success, we started training our year 7 students in 2020 to operate the espresso machine.

While this project is currently on hold during the pandemic, we will be reopening our café once our students resume their face-to-face classes.

If you do visit us in the early morning, be sure to request a cup of rich coffee from our students!

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