Last Mile Cafe opened its first storefront in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in December 2022—the next step in making a dream reality for Arick Davis '15 and his fiancée, Sarah Laman.
Last Mile offers a technology-intensive coffee experience. And to Davis and Laman, it also means good coffee done with sustainability and philanthropy in mind. The cafe strives to reduce waste through the use of 100 percent compostable packaging. It also donates 10 percent of all revenue to causes like environmental justice, clean drinking water, and criminal justice reform.
But exactly how did Davis become his own boss as the founder of a coffee business? "Sarah was doing marketing. I was doing IT," he explained. "Both of us were doing jobs we weren't excited about. We decided to start the company we wanted to work for."
Davis took an atypical path to Michigan Tech and small business ownership. A Grand Rapids native, he applied to Tech coming out of high school, but was not accepted. He enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College and proved his academic ability. He then had his choice between the University of Michigan and MTU. He chose Tech.
"I visited both UM and MTU. Michigan Tech felt like home, and it was the best decision I could've made," he said.
Davis earned a degree in electrical engineering, or EE, studying abroad in Portugal. His experiences include working for Fortune 500 companies Dematic, Western Digital, and Goldman Sachs. He credits Tech with preparing him. "Michigan Tech teaches you how to think—how to solve problems. It's really applicable in engineering, but also in management.
"I found that companies trusted me more because I went to Tech. Coworkers from other schools didn't have the freedom that I had."
In 2017, Davis created We Inspire, a tech startup focused on building individual education plans for students and connecting them to professionals. He also founded Empathy Tech, a technology consulting firm for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
"If you don't feel like you're living your full potential, you can create something for yourself. I literally created a job that fully utilizes my skills and taps into my passions."
Last Mile Cafe is the culmination of Davis's experiences. His love for coffee started "far too young" thanks to his grandmother. In keeping with his tech background, Davis hopes to infuse Last Mile with technology, setting up a customer reward system with NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
Davis is quick to point out the great team behind Last Mile. "We have eight employees and others who have worked to make Last Mile a reality," he said. Among them is fellow Husky Adam Weber '18 as a technology advisor.
Davis has stayed connected to the University in many ways. He currently serves on the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors and the University's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging Alumni Advisory Board. Davis has also served as an alumni recruiter for MTU, helping prospective students figure out if Tech is right for them.
Asked whether he had any advice to share, Davis said anyone can do what he has done. "This is just an idea we had for a business," he said. "Anyone can do that. If you don't feel like you're living your full potential, you can create something for yourself. I literally created a job that fully utilizes my skills and taps into my passions."
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.