A Single Class Inspires Career for One Recent Graduate

Cameron Waggener and mascot George Washington

Many people can pinpoint the ‘aha’ moment they decide upon a chosen career. For Cameron Waggener, CCAS BA ’17, his moment happened during a class he took as a sophomore at GW. “I began my career by opening the DC area’s first bicycle coffee shop after taking a geography course at GW titled People, Land, Food,” he says. “In that class, we studied how societies and food systems interact and the inherent consequences.” Cam’s curiosity was particularly piqued by the unit on coffee and its global supply chain—so much so, he spent his sophomore-year summer working on a coffee farm in Ecuador.

On the coffee farm, Cam helped manage the planting, weeding, harvesting, de-pulping, drying, and roasting of green coffee beans—on-the-job training that inspired him to explore the bean’s entire journey from plant to cup. Upon his arrival back at GW, he purchased a countertop roaster and experimented with home-roasting, selling his unbranded products in multiple areas, one of which was Kogan Plaza. “As I entered my senior year, I created a business around my passion for freshly roasted quality coffee,” he says. “With rent for commercial space so high, I opted to go mobile and bought a Wheelys Café bike from the fast-expanding Swedish bike café franchise.”

Wheelys Cafe in action

Cam vividly recalls when he first took his bike out for a spin, heading downtown to serve at the 2016 Taste of GW. “I was wheeling down 21st St. and I experienced two separate parts of my life intersect,” he says. He was particularly touched by seeing old friends, shouting out and giving him a thumbs-up. “I remember feeling like a complete and fulfilled version of myself, ready to start a new chapter in my life, but still fondly living my college experience. That made me smile.”

While at the Taste of GW, Cam had a chance encounter with Laura Cruz, Elliot School BA ’92, whose family owns Tierra Bendita, a coffee farm in El Salvador. Cam then had the opportunity to sell Tierra Bendita bags of roasted coffee, deepening his Colonial connections and commitment to specialty coffee beans. “While many aspects of my bicycle café have changed since its inception, one aspect has remained steadfast and strong,” he added. “That is, my commitment to freshly roasting 100% organic and fair-trade green coffee for each cup I serve to the Ballston and Courthouse communities.” He delivers these steaming cups via his bicycle café, Wheelys Café Arlington, which allows him to be mobile, set up, and break down with relative speed. For now, he is committed to this business model, which offers growth opportunity and allows him to be flexible in his location and menu offerings.

You can find Cam (and his delicious coffee) Monday through Friday (7:30AM-1:30PM) at the Ballston Metro Center, Saturday (9AM-1PM) at Courthouse Plaza, and on Sundays (9AM-3PM) at the Georgetown flea market across from the Safeway on Wisconsin Ave.

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