Student-run cafes give back to USC community

Smiles Café and Dean’s List Eatery & Café are not your average cafes. They were created by a USC student with a vision to change the world.

Jesse Rubio, a junior majoring in international relations global business, is the owner of both Smiles Café and Dean’s List Eatery & Café. Smiles Café, located at the USC Caruso Catholic Center, was his first business, opening in September 2014. Dean’s List Eatery & Café, Rubio’s most recent project, opened last month.

Located on 34th Street under the United University Church, Dean’s List is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends, providing a study space for students.

Smiles Café is located on 32nd Street, one block away from campus. In addition to being places for students to get coffee or a snack while studying, the cafes were created to give back to the community, according to Rubio.

Both cafes participate in the Community Partnership Program, which helps promote organizations through fundraising. Each participating organization has a jar in the cafes, and customers can put their receipts in these jars. Then, a percentage of that sale goes toward the organization.

“Our partnerships can help fund awareness for the missions of these organizations,” Rubio said.

Rubio said he wants to eventually spread this philanthropic mission to other business owners.

“I want to get the word out to understand that, if businesses really want to increase their fundraising efforts, they can,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s efforts to give back to the community do not end here. On Monday and Friday mornings, Dean’s List feeds 30 homeless people and allows them to take showers. On Wednesday nights, the cafe serves free food to USC students. In doing this, Rubio said he intends to feed those who do not have enough money to eat. In addition, on Saturdays, Dean’s List provides food to the 30 to 40 “Peace Kids” who come to USC to get leadership training.

Smiles Cafe’s first two partnerships were with Troy Camp and the USC Helenes. The cafe raised over $1,000  for Troy Camp, and Rubio said this inspired him to become involved with the organization. He said one of his goals is for people to become familiar with the organizations that the cafes partner with.

Rubio said his passion for pursuing his dreams drives the success of his businesses.

“How can a business change the world? How can the way we do business change the world? That’s my key inspiration,” Rubio said.

Each cafe’s environment is another factor that sets it apart. Dean’s List plays a different movie every day and  seeks to provide a home-like atmosphere, and both cafes also have live music for students to enjoy on certain nights.

Rubio said he prides himself on the cafe’s hospitality.

“The employees greet each customer with a smile,” Rubio said. “We want to make every single guest feel appreciated and supported in the goals they pursue.”

Going forward, Rubio said he has wants to connect the impact the Trojan family can have to the world at large.

“My goal for the future of the cafes is to create an environment that welcomes the entire Trojan community,” Rubio said. “We want to be an emblem that supports the amazing changes our USC organizations do in this world.”