Graduate class creates business plan for recovery café at Bangor Area Recovery Network

Graduate students in the Master of Science in Human Development program at the University of Maine have created a business plan for a recovery café at the Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN).

BARN is a nonprofit community recovery center that offers support services to people in addiction recovery and others affected by alcohol or drug addiction. The recovery café would be a physical space at the BARN headquarters in Brewer, where members of the BARN community and the general public could grab a bite to eat or something to drink.

“We put together a very simple model for what we thought would work,” says SarahJoy Chaples, one of the students who produced the plan. “The café would be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and serve a limited menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner — sandwiches, hamburgers, some pre-packaged meals, coffee and tea.”

In a traditional business plan, the economic viability of a project — whether it will make money and be able to support itself — is a major, if not the primary, concern. However, Chaples says there were other factors to consider when creating a business plan for a nonprofit. For one thing, they wanted the café to be affordable and convenient for the people served by BARN. Just as important as economic viability, she says, was making sure the proposal supported the organization’s mission to be a sustainable and reliable community recovery center.

“People in recovery have unique needs, and peer support — people who’ve lived through and can relate to their situation — is so important. That’s the philosophy of the BARN, and this would be an extension of that,” she says.

In addition to offering a safe gathering space for people in recovery, the café could help BARN enhance the services it already provides. For example, individuals in recovery could volunteer or work there, gaining valuable job experience. The plan also includes a provision where workers could earn micro-credentials through Eastern Maine Community College, making them more attractive candidates for future employers.

Brian Welsh, instructor for the program planning and evaluation class in which the students created the business plan, is a student navigator at EMCC. The project grew out of collaborative work he’d done previously with the BARN and the community college. Welsh says he’s impressed by the thought the students put into the plan, and excited about the possibility of the recovery café, which he believes would be the first of its kind in Maine.

“This class is project-based, so the students have to come up with an idea and figure out how to execute it,” Welsh says. “I’m very proud of what they put together, and now we’ll see what BARN decides to do with it.”

Chaples recently presented the plan to the BARN board of directors, which invited her to come back in January to discuss it in more detail.