Instead of spending her early fall traveling back to campus and arranging her course schedule, third-year Accounting student Carey Kocur spent it traveling to Italy and arranging the finances of Shake Café—a small, family-owned business in Florence. In the process, she gained valuable cultural perspective and international work experience.
As I walked through the streets of Florence to meet my new boss, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was starting my internship at Shake Café, and I wanted to make a good first impression, but I didn’t know if the owners spoke English or what types of projects I would be undertaking. Fortunately, Cal Poly has shown me how to take on new challenges and get out of my comfort zone, so I felt ready. After meeting Shake Cafe’s owners, Fanny and Cristiano, I was thrilled. They provided me with a list of potential projects and gave me the freedom to add my own creative twist.
I just finished the second week of my internship, and I’ve already learned so much about Italian business. I work directly with the owners on a daily basis. They value health, simplicity, freshness and quickness, and they incorporate these in their business. I am very happy to be working for such a great company that shares my values.
Walk into Shake Café and you’ll instantly notice a bright, friendly environment with multiple indoor and outdoor seating areas. Sit down at a table and you can take in the beautiful green plants lining the walls and the upbeat music playing. You’ll find a strong commitment to a sustainable and health-conscious environment. They use 100% recyclable materials, have multiple labelled trash cans and don’t allow smoking.
Just yesterday, I finalized a thorough overview presentation on the café, detailing how they expanded from one small location in 2013 to three today, each larger than the last. Next week, I’ll start analyzing their finances dating back to 2015, including detailed general ledgers, income statements, and balance sheets for each of their three locations. I’m excited to help determine where the company should allocate their money, so they can continue to expand.
I fell in love with Florence the day I arrived, and I’m still in awe of it: the culture, the food, the fashion, the art, the people, everything. Throughout Florence, there are gelaterias and leather vendors on every street corner. It’s not a large city, but it feels large because it’s made up of many small alley-ways and side streets. And there’s so much to see! I try to visit
museums, churches, or new cafes whenever I have time.
One thing I’ve come to love about Florence is that there is always live music playing in the streets: violinists, guitarists, trumpet players, even drummers banging skillfully on old trash cans. One night, while walking home from dinner, I was captivated by a violinist, so much so that I stood and listened to him for over 30 minutes.
And I always love seeing the architecture here. It’s astonishing. On my daily commute, I pass by the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. Right outside the Palazzo Vecchio there is a replica of the Statue of David and a gallery of statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi. The Uffizi Gallery and the Gucci Museum are in the same area. I pass by the Duomo every day on my walk to work, and I’m amazed by its beauty every time.
I’ve been working at Shake Café for a month and a half now, and I’ve developed a great appreciation for the company and everyone who works there. Every day when I walk in, I’m greeted by all the employees with a smile and a genuine “ciao.” On top of that, I’ve become close friends with Fanny and Cristiano. It’s a family-owned business, and I feel like I’m already part of the Shake Café family.
Their chef, Kuma, prepares each dish like a piece of art, not only delicious, but beautifully presented as well. They use fresh, all-natural ingredients to create wholesome dishes like acai bowls. Fanny gave me the privilege of sharing Kuma’s beautiful creations on social media and, while I have three years of marketing experience, I’m not quite as experienced with social media strategy, so I had to learn on the job. I played around with different strategies and enjoyed using my creative side to share Kuma’s fresh and playful dishes.
As another type of promotion, I thought it would be smart for Shake Café to sell reusable coffee mugs. Made completely from plant fibers, these mugs would not only showcase Shake Café’s commitment to sustainability, but they would also be a great way to market their brand with a logo on the mug’s silicone sleeve. I found a supplier and placed an order, which arrive within a week. This wasn’t a task I was assigned, but I took the initiative because I knew it could benefit the business.
My time abroad has allowed me to look at life with a different lens. The Italian lifestyle moves at a slower pace than what I’m used to. Something that I noticed immediately is that Italians truly love to enjoy their meals. The waiter will not dare bring the check unless you ask for it. No one is in a hurry; whether that is eating or just walking, Italians take their time.
Italians do business at a slower pace than Americans too. There is no doubt that they work hard, but everything just moves a little slower. This frustrated me initially, but it also made me stop and think. Italians value spending time with family and friends, and they don’t have a “go go go” mindset like we do in the U.S. I have a strong work-ethic, so it was a little hard for me to transition to a slower lifestyle, but now I have a deep respect for it. America’s innovation is incredible, but it is hard for us to stop and breathe sometimes, and it’s important for our health, well-being and productivity to take this time out.
Throughout my time in Europe, I have gained a greater appreciation for taking time to relax and spend time with others.
Working in Italy has given me a fresh perspective on business and on life. I’ve made such great memories here, and I’ll be sad to leave. I’ll be especially sad to leave my Shake Café family. But when I get home, I’m excited to apply the lessons I’ve learned to projects, relationships, and my future career.