An app created by undergraduate student Luke Bogus and a team at UNL’s Raikes School is aimed at helping local restaurants and small shops feeling the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Click to hear more episodes of our "Leading Nebraska" podcast
NARRATOR: A few pumps of espresso and some steamed milk is a latte for a customer at Crescent Moon Coffee Shop. For more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Amanda Martinson kept serving customers from her take-out window.
MARTINSON: It's been hard, weird and strange. Like everyone else, I never could have imagined that we'd be in a situation like this. The beginning was really difficult because there's not a playbook for what you should do as a business owner in a time like this. Crescent Moon just rolled with the punches.
NARRATOR: A tool that helped their business was Brim¬—an online ordering application that allows customers to browse the menu, order and pay—developed by students from the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Luke Bogus says he and his fellow students wanted to give small shops the same advantage enjoyed by coffee behemoths like Starbucks.
BOGUS: We found that niche of easy-to-use, fast-to-integrate, and easy for customers to help local coffee shops.
NARRATOR: In this edition of Leading Nebraska, find out how a team of students started a business product…and then gave it away for free.
On many fall mornings, Luke Bogus could be found rehearsing with the Cornhusker Marching Band. He played the cymbals.
BOGUS: Starting at 6:30 AM every day. I have fond memories of waking up at Kaufmann at 6:15 in the morning. From there, it’s making the walk to Memorial Stadium. That's was one of the coolest things because we always practiced in Memorial Stadium. I got to see the sunrise every single morning of undergrad while standing on the 50-yard line.
NARRATOR: Jarrod Aerts played hoops with an intramural basketball team he started. He found time for his hobby of fashioning spoons and cutting boards from blocks of wood.
AERTS: I’ve always been passionate about building and woodworking. It’s been another outlet that I find to be a really good way to de-stress.
NARRATOR: Both Aerts and Bogus found time for fun while balancing a tough class load in the prestigious Raikes School. The program is nationally competitive and demanding. Students study an interdisciplinary curriculum while living and learning in the Kauffman Center—located in the heart of campus. But Raikes students are driven and passionate about they do. That’s why Aerts, Bogus and Jacob Peddicord decided to start their own business of building an ordering app for coffee shops. During the winter of 2019, Luke Bogus remembers late nights working together in dorm rooms and study areas.
BOGUS: We were trying to figure out what the business model would look like. How can we build a product to actually begin a little startup? We're passionate about entrepreneurship and we were super excited about the idea. We had started to collaborate with one or two shops around the time of March when we officially launched our beta product.
And one week after we launched our beta, the university announced that they were shutting down.
NARRATOR: And one week after we launched our beta, the university announced that they were shutting down.
In spite of the pandemic, Luke and his fellow students decided to push ahead. But instead of developing a for-profit business, they’d give the app away for free.
BOGUS: We had a stable platform and we huddled together as a team. Jared, Jacob and I figured this was a really unique opportunity to give back to the community and try to make it free in perpetuity. At the time, a lot of these places didn’t have dine-in options. If it could help transact a few orders per day and a few $100 per week for the shops—especially in the times where shops are closed—the app would give a safe and secure option for the shops to actually stay afloat.
NARRATOR: The Brim app was a big help for Amanda Martinson at Crescent Moon.
MARTINSON: It helped us keep things organized a little bit more. Now that we're doing takeout only, the lines are a little bit less. Our regulars have been so happy to be able to conveniently order on the app, pick the time that they're going to come down, and see what new features we have without having to actually come into the space. It’s been tremendously helpful.
NARRATOR: Brim was a success at solving a business challenge, in part because the Raikes School prepares students to do just that. The interdisciplinary curriculum is combined with real-world experience. For example, in the Design Studio, student teams develop innovative software products and technology solutions for industry clients. Bogus says the Raikes approach teaches innovation, teamwork, and problem-solving…skills that came in handy with the Brim app.
BOGUS: Most importantly, the Raikes School gave us the confidence to actually take what we learn in the classroom and turn it into something that can really help the community. Obviously, we have an awesome interdisciplinary curriculum every semester. We combined those classes and actually did an interdisciplinary project.
Most importantly, the Raikes School gave us the confidence to actually take what we learn in the classroom and turn it into something that can really help the community. Obviously, we have an awesome interdisciplinary curriculum every semester. We combined those classes and actually did an interdisciplinary project.
NARRATOR: The Kauffman Center, where students live and go to class creates a unique environment that helps students help each other. According to Aerts, that’s the secret sauce.
AERTS: You’re only ever a few doors away from someone who's an expert. The people here really helped me to grow my knowledge that prepared me to start and help build out Brim. Through that process, when there was a problem, I knew people there that I could go to in order to get help or to bounce ideas off. Everyone's so willing to help and so able to help. I think that alongside the classes, which are very important, the people are really what Raikes did to help me prepare for a project like this.
NARRATOR: Both Aerts and Bogus have graduated and are now working for Microsoft. Aerts works remotely from Nebraska and Bogus moved to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. Both UNL grads would eventually like to return to their hometowns. Aerts grew up on a farm near between David City and Brainard, Nebraska. Bogus is a native of Columbus.
BOGUS: I know that I wouldn't be where I'm about to be professionally or personally without the values and education I gained in Nebraska. I think it was right for me to give back. And I believe the best way I can give back is moving here and really impacting the business and tech sector here someday.
AERTS: I know that I wouldn't be where I'm about to be professionally or personally without the values and education I gained in Nebraska. I think it was right for me to give back. And I believe the best way I can give back is moving here and really impacting the business and tech sector here someday.
NARRATOR: As for Crescent Moon…the coffee shop is once again open and alive with customers. Brim is still available for customers to use and Amanda Martinson is grateful.
MARTINSON: I've learned that we can make it through anything. Just keep going and take it day by day. Adapt as much as you can and reach out to people—reach out to your support system and they'll be there for you as they have been.
NOTE: This podcast is a production of the University of Nebraska. The opinions expressed in this
podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Nebraska.
It was created using excerpts from the actual interview and is representative of the entire conversation.
Interviewees are given the transcript prior to airing to ensure technical accuracy. Some edits may reflect
grammatical and syntax adjustments for transcription purposes.
The podcast is released under a Creative Commons license that allows for non-commercial, no derivative usage with