While Senior Management Major Jon Schmidt has been predominantly involved on campus in his previous three years and one semester at Gustavus, his participation and presence here this semester has been largely abated.
Among Jon’s activities at Gustavus, he has played basketball, club volleyball, club ultimate Frisbee, co-founded the Gustavus Disc Golf Club, played drums in the Proclaim band, acted in a one-act play last spring, went to India on the Social Justice Peace and Development trip and, as of last year, has been devoted to ceramics and making pottery to sell. “I enjoy how Gustavus gives you the chance to do so many different things,” Jon said. “I have done a lot of different and unique things at Gustavus athletically, musically, artsy and studying abroad.”
Jon’s friends have characterized him as passionate, hardworking, friendly and thoughtful, and that passion has recently led to another new endeavor—owning a business. “My mom took me through this coffee shop, Mocha Monkey, to show me the pottery after I had given her a piece of pottery for Mother’s Day. I really liked the atmosphere and thought it would be cool to one day own a place like this and do pottery. I got a job there in July to learn more about it, and eventually, found out from the previous owners that they were looking to sell,” Jon said. “It went from there, and I eventually took over sole ownership on Jan. 1, 2011.”
In fact, Jon even credits his semester-long study abroad in India, which was the “highlight of his life,” as the beginning stages of wanting to own a restaurant. “I had an idea for an Indian fast casual restaurant. I wrote a business plan in India and rewrote it in more detail in my entrepreneurship class. Then, I got super into pottery and wanted to combine my passion for pottery, interest in the restaurant industry and being socially just and environmentally sustainable,” Jon said.
Jon’s girlfriend and Art Education Major Elise Biewen has observed this zealous and almost obsessive personality trait. “Whenever he puts his mind to something, he gets it done. He has been passionate about so many things from drums and guitar to basketball, golf, football and volleyball, to wakeboarding and snowboarding, to ceramics and now Mocha Monkey,” Biewen said. “He puts everything he has into that one activity and can’t stop thinking about it when he is not doing it.”
Due to Jon’s involvement with Mocha Monkey, he is currently a part-time student with a reduced load of classes, including a Productions and Operations Management course by arrangement with Assistant Professor of Economics and Management Kristian Braekkan. “Jon sees his education as not only a quest for a diploma, but as a part of a learning experience that will continue when he leaves Gustavus,” Braekkan said. “Being a small business owner, Jon is exceptionally motivated to soak in as much learning as he can while in college and is balancing many obligations during his senior year.”
Jon has also had the advantage to incorporate one of his recent hobbies into his business by continuing to make pottery and sell at Mocha Monkey. After taking a wheel-thrown ceramics class last spring, Jon’s love for pottery evolved and blossomed into a business venture and future goal. “I love doing pottery, and it is really fun for me to have somewhere that I can show and sell my pottery,” Jon said.
Someday I would like to take some time and totally focus on pottery, doing it for eight to ten hours a day and really see what I can do. It’s nice to be a business major and also be able to make something that I can sell and that people actually want to buy.”
Despite owning Mocha Monkey for just a little over two months, it has already presented Jon with significant gratifications. “Being in a situation like this, where I own my own business, every day I learn more. Right when I think I know something, I realize that I have so much more to learn and this is just the beginning,” Jon said.
Yet, along with the gratifications, Jon has encountered many challenges both at Mocha Monkey and at Gustavus. “The biggest challenge for me is facing so many things that I have never faced before,” Jon said.
“He is balancing out his career and education at the same time, putting all he has into both,” Biewen said. “Even though he is only a part-time student this semester, he is still taking difficult classes that require a lot of studying. On top of that, he has to be at Mocha Monkey all day whenever he isn’t on campus, and still finds time to go into the ceramics studio on campus and throw pots for Mocha Monkey.”
Although Jon misses hanging out with his friends and seeing people on a regular basis at Gustavus, he is excited about what the future has in store. “I enjoy the unbelievable opportunities for the future. There are so many different things that Mocha Monkey can be used for, and we have already held some private parties, live music, and hopefully will host LineUs in April,” Jon said. “I am constantly thinking about things we could do in the future, which is something I really enjoy.”
Jon encourages his fellow Gusties to check out Mocha Monkey in Waconia and experience the great atmosphere to study, read a book, drink coffee or just hang out. You can find Mocha Monkey on Facebook or check out their website.