5 Questions With… Lindsay Wrege, 321 Coffee

Lindsay Wrege is a superstar student—she’s a junior at N.C. State, a Park scholar and the founder of 321 Coffee, a coffee shop run by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also spoke at our last WINi event, a celebration of women in business geared toward a younger generation. Now, she’s working on a new storefront in addition to maintaining the space at the State Farmers Market. We caught up with Wrege on what’s next for the young entrepreneur. 

We last saw you at WINi, where you spoke to us about the process opening 321 Coffee. What’s changed since then? 

The biggest thing that has changed since speaking at WINi is that we now have paid employees! For the past two years, everyone volunteered with 321 Coffee. This allowed us to grow and develop operations. However, the baristas work hard and they deserve to be compensated. Since opening six months ago at the Farmers Market, we have developed a solid revenue stream that allowed us to hire 21 paid employees! We are proud to be creating jobs for adults in this community.

What have you been surprised by in starting this business?

I continued to be overjoyed by the community’s support for 321 Coffee. The support comes from all over: customers, baristas, students, families and business advisors. It’s a great mission, and people are anxious to support it however they can. Customers say that they drive over 45 minutes to get a cup of coffee. Students give their time to growing and developing the organization. Local business advisers offer their guidance and mentorship.


What is the most rewarding piece to this entire project?

The most rewarding part of 321 Coffee is everyone’s pride in what they contribute. The baristas work week after week, they’re operating a complex espresso machine, they’re running the point of sale terminal. They work very hard, they do a good job, and they are proud of their roles within the workplace. 321 Coffee is completely student run. There are a number of NC State students giving multiple hours of their time day-after-day, while also attending class full-time. Students are running marketing campaigns, planning special events, and constantly improving the space. Students can see the direct outputs of their efforts, and they are proud. Michael Evans, Liam Dao and myself—all NC State students—serve as directors for the nonprofit. It is incredible to see all that this team gives to driving the growth of 321. This team is the reason 321 Coffee is what it is. 


What have you been up to outside of 321 Coffee?

Outside of 321 Coffee, I spend a lot of time with my friends and family. I love grabbing lunch with my grandmother, going to the opening day of Wegman’s with my friends or tailgating at a NC State Football Game.


What’s next for 321?

Now, 321 Coffee is excited to announce that we are actively pursuing a storefront! We have had tremendous success at our location at the Farmers Market. We have great customers, solid operations and are financially profitable. The only place that our operation at the Farmers Market falls short is the number of work hours that we can provide. With a storefront, our current employees would be able to work an average of 400% more hours. We are currently raising donations to open a sustainable storefront by June of 2020.