Cup o' Moe
Coffee and egg-and-cheese sandwiches—they keep the city ticking. And as every New Yorker knows, there’s no better place to buy them than the silver coffee carts parked on nearly every street corner. Thanks to entrepreneur and NYIT communication and media production student Mohamed “Moe” Madboly, NYIT-Manhattan students have their own local source for caffeine and carbs. Madboly and his coffee cart, which sits in front of 16 West 61st Street, have become a staple of the NYIT community. He recently sat down with The Box to talk about life as a small business owner and student.
So how did you get into the coffee cart business?
I got started in mid-2015. I had already been working for my dad for about two years at his coffee cart. I got good at it. I was working for him during my summer and winter breaks. At that point, I was about 20 years old, and I decided that I was ready to start my own business, since I already had the skills. A friend of mine went to NYIT and told me it would be a good idea to set up a coffee cart here. I came and checked it out and it was great.
When did you decide to go from selling breakfast to the NYIT community to joining it?
I used to go to Marymount Manhattan College. When I started the business, I decided to leave school because I felt like I found what I wanted to do. My business became successful, but people were always telling me, ‘You should still try to go back to school while you’re working.’ Since NYIT is right in front of my job, it was convenient.
Fortunately, I spoke to the right people, and they helped me. I’m in HEOP [Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program], and my director at my old HEOP program at Marymount connected me with Phil Menzies [director of HEOP enrollment] here at NYIT. I applied and I was able to transfer.
What’s it like being a student at NYIT?
At first, it was kind of weird because everybody knew me as the breakfast guy outside and not as a student in the school. Now that people know me and are used to me being in the classroom, it’s been pretty fun. I also feel like I grew a bigger community around the cart because of the students. It’s become a really cool relationship. Sometimes, I finish my shift at the cart and I go play pool a little bit with all the people I just made sandwiches for.
How do you balance managing the business with being in school?
I have a lot of responsibilities as a business owner, and it’s a bit hard to manage to study and go work at the cart. I restock the cart every week by myself. I have to get up early in the morning and [because of the morning rush] I take all my classes in the afternoon. Then, at the end of the day, I wrap up and I take the cart back to the commissary where they wash it so it’s ready for the next morning. I do that every day, five days a week.
It’s been very difficult, but I hired two people. They take two shifts. The first one starts at four in the morning and finishes at 10 a.m. I come to work at 8 a.m. and stay until maybe 1 p.m. And the second person on the second shift goes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. So, I have the cart running 12 hours a day and three people working. I’m the one that’s bouncing on and off!
But, I think I have honestly found what I love doing and what I want to do—which is be in the food business, one way or another.
What’s next for your business?
I’m taking it one step at a time. I started off with a small cart, got a bigger one and renovated it (that’s the one you see now). The next step is to get a bigger cart and more people working. Once I build myself up financially and I have a more established business, the dream is to get a 20-foot food truck like the ones you see on Food Network. It’s going to be a burger shack or something. That’s what I’m saving up for. I can also apply what I’ve learned here at NYIT: how to market my cart or truck, how to run the whole social media thing, how to make websites.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Thanks to everybody for being so welcoming. Everybody’s so nice. I feel like 61st Street is home.
This interview has been edited and condensed.