The Motley as Classroom

Motley Coffeehouse

Katie O’Brien ’14 began working at The Motley Coffeehouse her first year at Scripps. When she became financial manager her sophomore year, O’Brien was responsible for making sure the Motley’s money was used responsibly.

O’Brien found a benefit of training at a student-run organization, where profit is not the motivating factor, helped when determining responsible spending; she could focus on the organization’s mission statement.

“Sustainability is a great policy, but it’s not always affordable,” O’Brien said. “Most of our organic products are a little more expensive, so we don’t have as large a profit margin as most businesses in the world outside of our lovely little bubble.”

The Motley stands behind its mission, and others outside of the bubble are noticing. In April 2012, the Motley Coffeehouse was described as “a small business leader in sustainability” in an online article from American Express Open Forum, which spotlights innovative business practices. (To read the article, visit their website at

“The Motley is a nonprofit business that is entirely student run,” says Marian Miller ’13, Motley head manager. “That means Scripps students are learning skills from how to work in a cafe/restaurant setting to how to hire and train employees, how to manage budgets, and how to bring a vision to fruition.”

After the Motley’s employees, vendors, and rent/utilities are paid, all profits go to its sponsorship program. Individuals and groups across the five campuses can apply for personal or group funding for thesis, community-related projects, events, speakers, and more. “By buying our products, customers are not only supporting sustainable supply chains and a communityrun business, but they are giving back to their own community and participating in a space dedicated to social action and progressive change,” Miller adds.

As assistant head manager, O’Brien is responsible for financial aspects of the coffeehouse, such as overseeing employee’s timecards and payment and the Motley sponsorship program. The coffeehouse’s profits are used to sponsor community events, individuals, and theses.

O’Brien has found her time at the Motley rewarding, in more ways than one. “No matter what position you’re in as a manager, it’s really valuable experience,” O’Brien said. “Managing my personal finances is a piece of cake after managing the finances for a business.”

The Motley Coffeehouse is a nonprofit, feminist organization collectively run by the students of Scripps College since 1974. We welcome you to stop by, grab a yummy drink, munch on some snacks, and curl up on our squishy couches!


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