This week Laura and Joelle are Today we are joined by Caitlin Botsios co-owner of Helix Chicago located in Andersonville’s north end. Helix offers a full selection of Halfwit coffee and espresso drinks, iced drinks, tea drinks as well as a full breakfast and lunch menu at 6237 N. Clark.
“It’s something we run into a lot – youth not even knowing what is possible. Looking where we (Helix) are in Andersonville, we help youth ask and learn about what it actually means and takes to run a business. Our mission is to expose youth to as many opportunities as possible.”
Listen to Episode 84 with Caitlin Botsios!
Here are some references from Episode 84 that you may want to check out:
- Caitlin grew up in Omaha, NE, never imagining she would be a small business owner. She attended Loyola, with a focus on education, with particular focus on systemic problems and solutions. From there, she moved to rural Mississippi to teach, where she experienced first-hand their need for more teachers. Missing urban life, she moved back to Chicago and taught on the Southwest side. It’s there that she began actively asking questions like, “What are we teaching kids? What learning opportunities exist in the city that youth are exposed to?” She then ventured into coaching teachers, helping them to learn how to leverage community assets available to them.
- During this period, she kept coming back to this recurring idea that “Small businesses can be change agents in education.” With her college roommate Sean, from Loyola Business School – and the Loyola Limited program, they explored what small businesses do well, what they don’t, and how they leverage education. In July 2018 she and Sean partnered together and opened Helix Chicago, a place that hires and develops Chicago youth, aiming to be an asset to the community.
- More about the Loyola Limited Program. Students identify a business need on campus, develop it, and open it. Sean was part of this program, and opened a pizza shop on Broadway during his college years. Other friends opened a hotel, a bar, bike shops, etc. The businesses are completely student run and employed. Eventually, they program expanded to partner with After School Matters, helping to employ and mentor high school age students. It’s from there that Caitlin and Sean began to discuss the needs of high school students and employment.
- From idea to opening Helix Chicago, Sean and Caitlin began by finding a location, then determined what the business would be – a cafe. Community connections and need brought them back to the Edgewater/Rogers Park/North Andersonville. They opened in North Andersonville, hoping to bring the area together, serve a need, and provide a place for people to go.
- Helix Cafe partners with Halfwit Coffee, as well as their designer. The idea for the name Helix came from how people, small businesses, and schools are the DNA of every neighborhood. They also partnered with the same general contractor who did The Guesthouse. The space is meant to be versatile – serving as work space, a cafe, but also larger event space. It’s warm and inviting, with big windows. They are located by Raven Theatre, and have been really well received by the neighborhood. They’re close to Senn, Northside Catholic, and so much more.
- Speaking of Raven Theatre, beginning this season, Helix is collaborating with them to do a pop-up dinner series, featured on opening nights for shows. They will feature local chefs, and be served supper club style. Look for more info – these begin in November!
- Let’s pretend for a moment: You’re a teenage student looking for employment. What does the process look like when applying with Helix? Believing that everyone should be personally and professionally developed, they understand that each person comes to Helix in a different space. Helix focuses on elements of employment in their cafe, and 3 hours of each employee’s day is dedicated to learning business skills. They include punctuality, cash handling, and customer service, to name a few. From there, they will begin to help focus on helping each employee define their path – what they might like to do with their professional life going forward, and what that could look like. They talk about foundational skills, like planning for success, conflict management, and working through differences, etc. They have one-on-one and group sessions. Marketing, operations and finance are three areas where the youth then become more involved – identifying problems, and coming up with solutions. The arc for Helix is: learn your job, develop foundational skills, decide what your pathway for the future is, and get support through real world, team experience.
- Helix has a couple of full-time employees who help with management and programming, alongside Sean and Caitlin. They hope to grow and offer mentoring from the youth who “graduate,” to be able to help newcomers. They have great customers too, who have stepped in to share their experiences with youth and support the Helix mission.
- The range of ages in the youth program at Helix are 16-24. At the peak, there were 13 youth. This past summer they had a partnership with CPS, as well as an ongoing partnership with After School Matters and internship. The map of youths ranges far throughout the city, some traveling in over an hour to get there.
- Since May 10 Helix has had 56 community events! One of them is: Intercambio (Mondays at the Cafe from 6-8PM) is a collaboration between Helix and Centro Romero, is an interactive language exchange and open to anyone. It’s all ages! More upcoming events are: Civic Saturday – Prescription Drug Pricing, Sustaining Healthy Habits workshop, and Local Mompreneurs Mini-Expo & Meetup.
- Helix Cafe’s menu changes for the cold weather season include soups, warm sandwiches, a new spin on a pumpkin latte, and a collaboration with Twidley Bits to offer vegan lattes featuring apple butter and brown sugar, pralines, and candy bar drinks for Halloween. Helix also now offers catering! One of their youth employees was recently promoted to Director of Catering. Offerings include: breakfast – pastries, coffee, tea, breakfast tacos, as well as lunch and dinner featuring sandwiches, wraps, and veggie platters. Need to book? Check out Catering on their website!
- If she could switch places for a day with any other Andersonville business, it would be hands down Women & Children First – she’d just read books all day. Also RAYGUN, since she’s from Nebraska and always would drive through Des Moines, she’s excited there’s one here in Andersonville representing Midwest pride.
This episode is brought to you by Meeting House Tavern, located at Clark and Winnemac where you can enjoy free pool, darts, skeeball and more. Or, play one of the dozens of board games. They have daily specials to quench all thirst, plus Thursday night karaoke and the Sunday Social Variety Show. Never a cover! Find out more on Facebook.