Food Initiatives at AUC: How students have set up their own growing businesses

By Pauline Hageman

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.

Grinding, rolling and baking. This is what some of us at AUC do regularly, but there are only a few that have turned it into a business. Hand ground curry powders by Michiel, freshly rolled sushi from Sushi Time by Jo & Co., and vegan cakes by The Food Patrol. These three student-led operations are run by groups of friends, siblings, and by a single man who all share the same passion: their love for food.

Running a business while studying requires lots of planning. Twenty-two-year-old Michiel Pieter Vriens, a third-year Social Science student, makes his own curry powder since the age of 17, when he got the recipes from his mother’s friend back home in Singapore. He recently started selling it to AUC students to share his love for spices and curry. He aims to sell powders twice a month, but currently limits it to once a month due to his study load. It is the logistical planning that takes the most time, but also grinding the spices takes roughly 30 minutes per batch. Vriens runs the operation on his own in his dorm room, and takes 30 orders at a time.

Sushi Time is operated by the sisters Jo and Erika Kleijn, and their friends Tara Levy and Bee Lydford. Paul Verhagen and Lesi Enriquez originally initiated the idea in their first year at AUC, but Jo Kleijn soon jumped in to help. “We thought it would be a good way to make money on the side and it’s fun,” Jo Kleijn said. After the three graduated, Erika Kleijn followed her older sister’s footsteps together with Levy and Lydford. Jo Kleijn continued Sushi Time after graduating, and is currently leading the administration.

Sushi Time’s entire operation takes a day. Starting at 7 AM with a trip to the Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam, they buy the ingredients ranging from 700 grams of tuna and 1300 grams of salmon to 20 kg of rice. The rest of the day consists of preparing the ingredients and rolling sushi which gets picked up by their customers, other AUC students and sometimes friends from outside AUC, at around 7:30 PM. The four pick a day that fits best with their work and class schedules, but also keep in mind when the best time for selling is. They currently receive orders totaling 170 rolls, but are able to produce 270 rolls in a day. The four enjoy working with friends and earning money which has kept them going for the past four years.

The Food Patrol is smaller than the other two operations, selling four kinds of cakes each with 15-20 pieces. AUC graduate Erika Persson, the former chair of Organic campus and former member of The Food Patrol, recalls stressful times as planning and prioritizing the work became tough. Their operation took two days, switching between three ovens, and Persson sometimes prioritized baking over studying.

The AUC community plays a large role in the startup of food operations. “I know that many people at AUC aren’t used to having curry as part of their palate, but I reckoned that they’d want to give it a try,” Vriens said. He first introduced his idea on the Facebook page of the AUC community back in January, and when he received positive responses, he started his curry operation. Lydford is one of his curry enthusiasts. “It is sooo good,” Lydford said.

Persson calls it a privilege to be able to sell to such an easily accessible community. Before Persson started baking for The Food Patrol, other students had baked and sold cakes, but once they graduated, it was greatly missed by the community. This was the cue to share her love for baking with others. Together with three of her friends, they continued the highly appreciated bake sales that peaked in demand during finals. However, occasionally they wouldn’t sell all the cakes on the same day, but the day after they would be sold. “Stoners are usually late shoppers,” Persson said.

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