How A Coffee Shop Made First Tech’s New Campus Feel Like Home

While designing its new Oregon-based regional campus, the credit union jumped at the chance to open a coffee shop staffed and run entirely by high school students.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • As one part of its amenity package, First Tech partnered with the Hillsboro School Foundation to create a full-service coffee shop within its new Oregon-based campus.
  • Furnished by local partnerships, the coffee shop is open five mornings a week, and keeps both credit union leadership and local businesspeople well caffeinated.


First Tech FCU
Data as of 03.31.19

HQ: San Jose, CA
ASSETS: $12.6B
MEMBERS: 567,217
ROA: 0.90%

In July 2018,First Tech Federal Credit Union ($12.6B, San Jose, CA) opened a new corporate campus in Hillsboro, OR. Before then, the credit union operated a leased space on the west side of Portland. But the credit union had outgrown the space and, as its lease ended, it became apparent building a new campus was in the best interest of First Tech.

We had to think about the long-term needs of the organization, our employees, and our members, says Monique Little, First Tech’s chief people and administrative officer.

Hillsboro, the state’s fifth-largest city, is some 15 miles west of Portland. It sits firmly within Oregon’s Silicon Forest, a nickname for the high-tech industrial corridor in northwest Oregon, and offers a workplace environment all its own. For First Tech, because the new campus would open in a less-dense region with fewer walkable amenities, it needed to provide its own.

As one part of its amenity package, First Tech partnered with the Hillsboro School Foundation to create a full-service coffee shop within its new campus. Here, Little discusses the coffee shop’s origins, its operations, and its successes in nearly one year of business.

When building a campus, what considerations are you making when it comes to designs or amenities?

4 Questions To Ask Employees Before A Move

As it prepared to design a new space, First Tech asked the following questions of its employees:

  • What’s working and not working about your current work environment?
  • What do you hope to see in a new space?
  • What specific experiences do you hope to have?
  • What are the conditions in which you do your best work?

Monique Little: I was the executive sponsor for the project, so as we assembled a group of senior leaders to act as our steering committee, we really started by asking ourselves what our vision for the new campus was. People First became our North Star.

This is not a temporary move into a leased space. We’re going to be here forever, and we looked to design a facility that took advantage of the beautiful natural landscape which surrounds the campus, while considering how to create a great working environment for our employees. We wanted a building that allowed employees to do three things: connect with one another, collaborate to a high degree, and provide flexibility for working differently over time.

Because amenities are not walkable from First Tech’s new Oregon campus, the credit union brought what it could on-site, including a student-run coffee shop.

How did your on-campus coffee shop come about?

ML: The Hillsboro School Foundation approached us. We’d heard from our employees that they wanted the benefit of easy access to food, coffee, those types of things. Well, we’re in a place where you can’t walk to Starbucks or a sandwich shop so how were we going to solve for that?

We already had a relationship with the Hillsboro School District because we have members and employees who’ve lived here, and as we were thinking about providing benefits to our employees, they were thinking about creating new opportunities for their students to expand learning outside of the classroom.

How far were you into the construction phase?

ML: We were early into the construction phase. We had plans to create common areas already, and on the mezzanine floor we’d envisioned a collaboration space with chairs, couches, and tables. We wanted a place where employees could come together for a quick meeting, to eat lunch, to share a cup of coffee, and it was so much more appealing to have a coffee shop instead of a smaller coffee bar. We were able to quickly solidify a plan with the school district to make it happen.

What were the necessary logistics behind this?

ML: The building was set to open in the summer, and we wanted to introduce amenities as quickly as possible. The school district was able to quickly put a plan together to select students and build a curriculum for the experience, which allowed the shop to open in late summer, just before the school year started. Our role was to construct the facility to support the needs of the program. We secured donations which helped fund the necessary equipment and we were able to partner with a local coffee producer to provide the coffee, at a discount price, and pastries.

The eight students who work at the coffee shop take a work-study approach: They take a class, through their high school, centered around building business and marketing skills including the basics of running a business and apply that schooling to this work experience.

Can you give me an example?

ML: Our first group of students was tasked with naming the coffee shop, which they called Ground Up. They had to decide on the branding and signage and understand how to advertise their wares from drinks to pastries. Then, they’re doing everything from ordering to keeping the books.

Customer service is a huge part of the experience of working at the coffee shop, as well. How do you engage with the customer and create an experience that keeps them coming back? Building relationships and providing great experiences is what we do as a credit union, so we’re able to help with that training and development just by engaging with these students on the day-to-day. In fact, our CEO buys coffee from them every morning.

Eight high school students take turns working morning shifts at the credit union’s new coffee shop during the school week only.

What lessons have you learned since opening this coffee shop?

ML: We’ve learned this model works and have seen the power of partnerships in the communities we serve. We’re a highly engaged institution in our community, working with non-profit partners, and education is a point of focus for us. However we can support education, and the next generation of leaders makes the opportunity a great fit for us. We never would have envisioned this opportunity a few years ago, but it’s opened our minds to other ways we can make a local impact and get involved in education.

Have you found the coffee shop has lived up to your expectations?

ML: Even though we’re close to our prior location, we’re in a new community, a new city. And I think having this partnership has accelerated our ability to put down roots. One thing we didn’t anticipate, because the coffee shop is in a public space in our building, it’s accessible to those who work nearby including Hillsboro School District’s main office, a library, and a few of our technology partners. It’s helped our students do more business, but also offers us the opportunity to meet with community members. That’s not something we planned for, but it’s been a great benefit.


June 12, 2019

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