For Gretchen Shuler, Entrepreneurship Is Joy in Action

Gretchen Shuler speaks into a microphone on a stage. Her hands are in motion, and she appears intent

Shuler at the 2023 Purpose Pitch competition

Gretchen Shuler, a junior entrepreneurship student at DePaul, has taken a whirlwind journey from ordinary student to student and entrepreneur. One emotion stands out above the rest.

For Shuler, entrepreneurship is joy.

“Entrepreneurship is enjoying what you do,” she reflects. “Entrepreneurs create companies because they want to do things in a different way. They want to bring their ideas to life and share them with others. That’s such a big part of it.

“Shuler is in the final stages of opening her business: ReBrewed, a fair trade and sustainable mobile coffee cart that will empower foster youth through employment and mentorship. ReBrewed is brewing every cup with a purpose.

The vision for ReBrewed is uniquely Shuler’s own.

As a high school student living in a single-mother household, Shuler relied on her job at a local coffee shop. There, she discovered her passion for coffee and experienced firsthand how flexibility and support at work made it possible to stay engaged in schoolwork and in her community while saving for college.

Supporting foster youth is central to Schuler, whose extended family includes several foster and adopted children. Throughout high school, Shuler also cared for and mentored foster children through an organization that started in Chicago, RePlanted.

The experience gave her an in-depth understanding of the challenges many foster youth face. Many lack access to reliable transportation, making it difficult to participate in extracurriculars, access employment or even attend school regularly. According to the Juvenile Law Center, over 50% of foster youth face incarceration by the age of 17. Children moved to five or more placements are at a 90% risk of being involved in the criminal justice system.

ReBrewed aims to change that.

Shuler envisions a workplace built around the emotional and financial needs of foster youth. Mentorship for employees will be part of that.

“Integrated into the workday, there would be an hour of meeting with your mentor,” she says. “Or you do your homework assignments while you’re at work, rather than when you’re in a home environment that might be chaotic, unsupportive or unsafe.” Shuler’s vision of mentorship is expansive. It’s not only about connecting youth with volunteer mentors, she says; it’s about connecting them to networks of support.

Gretchen Shuler reaches over a table crowded with coffee supplies to hand a student a cup of coffee

Shuler serves up one of ReBrewed’s first cups of coffee at the CEC’s Welcome Back Market

In this way, Shuler’s vision reflects her experiences at DePaul’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (CEC).

“If I had not been mentored throughout this process, I would be so lost,” Shuler says. CEC Program Manager Kathia Hernandez (BUS ’22) guided her through the process of setting up her LLC. The center’s mentorship program connected Shuler with Jazmyn Lopez, a Chicago-area growth strategist specializing in marketing and operational solutions. Lopez was instrumental, Shuler says, in supporting Shuler as she established her online presence and her continuing steps in opening ReBrewed.

CEC’s pitch competitions acted as their own form of mentorship. Shuler competed in, and won, the Student Innovation Expo in February 2023. She placed third in the student category of the Purpose Pitch competition later that spring. Over the summer, she was selected as the DePaul student representative for Pitch Madness. She placed fourth in this competitive, regional competition.

A ReBrewed coffee cup. It is medium-sized with a bright, modern logo made up of the letters RB super imposed on brightly colored coffee beans

A ReBrewed cup, designed and sustainably produced in collaboration with Sharath Kalappa (CDM ’24)

Feedback from these competitions helped Shuler refine her business model. It got more streamlined. It became more focused on doing good, not only for the foster youth she’ll employ but also for the environment. She collaborated with Sharath Kalappa, founder of EcoPlate and a student in the M.S. in Business Analytics program at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, to create cups from sustainable materials. She sourced her coffee from Alma Coffee, a sustainable, farm-to-cup operation founded by Leticia Hutchins (BUS ‘16), whose family has been farming coffee in Honduras for five generations.

When Shuler reflects on her entrepreneurial journey, it’s about dualities: a willingness to ask for help paired with the ability to stand your ground. She has figured out how to delegate even as she found herself taking on role after role: founder, accountant, designer, barista.

“Entrepreneurship,” she reflects, “is that sense of holding your own ground, even when people don’t necessarily believe in you or in what you’re doing. It’s collaboration, independence, innovation, iteration – just a whole mosh pit of self-reflection.

“One last thing I’ll say: It’s about never getting comfortable. Never settling. There’s always something you can do better or affect more people. It’s about being open to change.”


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