Staufs & Wild Tiger Tees Partner Up on Seasonal Mugs

Photos by Susan Post

For the 2019 holiday season, local coffee roaster Stauf’s is sporting some new mug designs. The mugs retail for $12.50 and are available at all Stauf’s coffee shop locations, but there’s more than meets the eye to these vehicles for caffeine.

The mugs are produced in partnership with Star House, a 24/7 drop-in center for local youth age 14-24 that are experiencing homelessness, and Wild Tiger Tees, a social enterprise helping to equip Star House residents with pertinent job skills.

Stauf’s has partnered with Star House on projects in the past, like the previous two years when half of the proceeds from sales of a select roast went to Star House.

“This year we thought we would do something a little different,” says Stauf’s Communications & Marketing Manager Lili Soldaini. “We like to support them as much as we can.”

Soldaini connected with Russ Kinstlinger, director of Star Works at Star House, which looks to create work programs and employment opportunities for the youth that come through the doors. Star House had already been engaging with WTT on an employment program that taught youth screen printing techniques while also focusing on developing soft skills for the workplace.

Star House had dabbled in custom mugs before, but asked WTT to incorporate printing the mugs into their repertoire, allowing the social enterprise to create more job opportunities.

The designs for the mugs come from some of Stauf’s own. The company held a design contest, selecting two winners – Hannah Juzwiak and Helena Balcerzak, both baristas at the Grandview location.

Stauf’s will offer the hand-printed mugs at all six of their Columbus locations throughout the holiday season until they sell out. Instead of donating a portion of the sale as in years past, Stauf’s bought the mugs outright, funneling a portion of the purchase price to Wild Tiger Tees, a portion to the youth’s wages and a portion to Star House. Soldaini says people have been excited to buy a unique mug that directly supports local organizations.

On the production side, WTT has held between 10 and 12 work sessions employing about 30 youth over the last few months. WTT Co-Founder Adam Morris says each session has two main goals – outline the expectations for the shift and provide feedback on four dimensions: communication, punctuality, effort and teamwork.

“We have work that is suitable for the youth to do, that we can explain, but also work that creates an environment where we can have a discussion,” Morris says.

That discussion and feedback is key for the youth working with WTT. Star House found that within the first three months of being at the facility, most youth find a job, but three months later, a very low percentage have kept that position.

It’s a complication of factors that makes it difficult for individuals to maintain stable employment. Not only are there massive barriers like transportation and housing, but many youth are in low-wage positions with little support or growth opportunities. WTT wants to help individuals develop core soft skills that because of their situations, they might not be learning from family members or school scenarios – skills that can ultimately help in maintaining employment.

Morris says they can see the impact in youth they have worked with over a long period of time. He also finds that while they try to foster an environment where its ok to make mistakes and learn, many youth are very focused on making sure they do the work correctly and don’t make mistakes.

WTT will now use the experience making mugs for Stauf’s to expand their product offerings. Morris says it’s something they have been wanting to do and the partnership created the perfect opportunity.

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