Student manages new cafe in downtown Blacksburg

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Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 26 – A NEW BUSINESS: Foamo opened its doors on February 17 with many customers lining up from the cash register to out the doors in order to try the items offered. Photo: Ricky Lam.

by Ricky Lam–

A new business has surfaced in downtown Blacksburg run completely by an undergraduate student and his brother.

“I was on my way back home and as I’m passing by the Blacksburg roundabout, I see a ‘for rent’ sign. I checked out the place, called my mother and had a serious conversation about potentially opening up a business here. I spent the entire first semester of junior year coming up with a business plan on what I wanted to do,” said Youssef Rhanime.

Rhanime, an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, is the co-owner of Foamo, a cafe that serves coffee, crepes and rolled ice cream. While some may think Rhanime is young to run a business, according to a Forbes article, the best age to start a business depends on the maturity of the industry as well as the stage of one’s maturity. As both a student and business owner, Rhanime spends his time constantly switching between two worlds.

“It’s been tough because obviously double majoring and trying to build a business from scratch means you have no time for other things. But my family is super supportive and my friends are the best so they’ve eased the process,” Rhanime said. “I definitely have a hard time showing up to class, but I do well enough that I can show up for the exams and still do well at the end of the semester.”

Along with Rhanime, his older brother moved from Orlando to Blacksburg in order to help him construct and run the business. Rhanime’s wife, Hafsa Malik Rhanime, also helped develop the marketing plan and branding for the business.

“How I found out was a surprise. He randomly called me because he wanted to show me something one night. It was pretty late and I remember pulling into the parking lot with my best friend and Youssef like, ‘Where are we going? Mill Mountain is closed,’” Malik Rhanime said. “That’s when he walked us into the empty, destructed space — where Foamo would soon be constructed, and shared his whole vision: floor plans everywhere with lots of questions, excitement and surprise. That’s when all the remarks he made in the past about starting a business clicked in my head.”

While Foamo might seem like a regular cafe, Rhanime hopes the business supports his endeavors in giving back to the community. Eventually, Rhanime wants to donate a percentage of his profits to aiding the Roanoke Refugee Partnership. According to a Roanoke Times article, over 800 refugees have been accepted into Roanoke since 2011 where 21 are Syrian.

“I love Blacksburg and I have a passion for service so the goal is to work for the community and those in need to make sure I’m doing everything I can to share the wealth,” Rhanime said. “A huge part of me not wanting a nine-to-five [job] is so that I have the time to work with impoverished populations without the worry of not being financially secure.”