While many of this year’s college-bound class of 2020 may have spent their summer months enjoying a bit of down time in hopes of leaving in the fall for their respective schools, Edina native and 2020 graduate of Minnetonka High School (MHS) Annika Van Nest had other plans.
In May, Van Nest opened Prickly Pear Coffee Bar, her first business venture—a mobile coffee bar. She characterizes its beginning as something of a whirlwind, stemming from her dream of opening a brick and mortar coffee shop that serves more than just coffee––tripling as a yoga studio and ministry center. “It will have constant exercise classes, serve unique drinks and host Bible studies, kids’ camps and fundraisers,” Van Nest says.
The idea for the coffee bar was set in motion when Van Nest was trying to find a caterer for her graduation party. As she looked over her options, she realized there was a lack of coffee catering businesses. “My boyfriend casually mentioned that a mobile coffee bar … could be a stepping stone toward my dream. I took what he said farther than he expected … Before I knew it, all the equipment was showing up on my doorstep, and I was starting a business,” Van Nest says.
While the idea was initially a whim, it was backed by Van Nest's education in classes and clubs and job experience as a barista at the 318 Café in Excelsior. Van Nest credits the VANTAGE global business program at MHS as a main source of her business and economics awareness. “I loved the way the program was set up because it was so hands-on and all about experiential learning,” she says.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow Van Nest to establish a regular event setting, she quickly adjusted, developing solutions to ensure that her fledgling business came out of the crisis even stronger. “We had our first event at Style Hunt in Excelsior on May 9 and adjusted to do curbside pickup and social distancing. The store wasn’t open yet for customers, but they had things spaced out on the sidewalk, perfect for Mother’s Day shopping,” Van Nest says.
As she anticipates her next step, studying ministry and social entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville this fall, Van Nest doesn’t plan to call it quits on her business and will take Prickly Pear Coffee Bar on the road. “We already have a few events lined up [in Nashville], including farmers markets and pop ups with local boutiques. Belmont is amazing with supporting and connecting their students, so I am excited for the potential to grow through them, as well,” Van Nest says.
Prickly Pear Coffee Bar will be back in Minnesota next summer when Van Nest returns and is set to feature new specialty beverages, as well as fan-favorites, including the honey lavender lattes and raspberry ginger limeade.