UNI student Savannah Warren launches coffee, acai shop in downtown Waterloo

UNI student Savannah Warren launches coffee, acai shop in downtown Waterloo

Savannah Warren at Savvy Bean

Savannah Warren (Management, ‘23) has always been someone who likes to pave her own way, going so far as to call herself a little bit rebellious. She also isn’t one to sit idle when she has free time.

“So why not build something?” she said with a laugh.

These two traits have fueled her desire to become an entrepreneur, even as a 20-year-old, full-time college student at the Wilson College of Business. Warren opened a retail coffee bar and acai bowl spot in downtown Waterloo this spring, called the Savvy Bean. It’s the second business she’s launched. Her first was called Sav’s Syrups, which specialized in hand-crafted and health-conscious flavored syrups. Warren recently sold the company but still uses some of the syrups in her coffee creations.

She first became interested in coffee after working as a barista in high school. She infuses curiosity into her menu items. Located at 218 E. Fourth St., the Savvy Bean features all kinds of coffee concoctions and acai bowls. One is called the Ube Latte, which uses sweet potato flavoring and a touch of vanilla to make a sweet-tasting, bright-purple drink. Another is whiskey amaretto, modeled after the popular cocktail.

“Our goal is to just kind of change things and breathe some new life into downtown Waterloo and change the way people think about coffee and acai bowls,” Warren said. “Coffee isn’t just one single thing. It can be so many different creations.”

UNI and the John Pappajohn Entreprenurial Center have been integral parts of the process. Warren said JPEC staff have been particularly helpful in solving some of the little things, like taxes, keeping track of paperwork and bookkeeping. When Warren launched Sav’s Syrups, the JPEC helped her find solutions for packaging, leveraging vacuum-sealed pouches, a more sustainable choice that locks in flavor.

“The professors at UNI really change the way you think about business,” Warren said. “And the JPEC really helps. It gives you a space to talk with other entrepreneurs and bounce ideas off. I also can participate in pitch competitions that get me out of my comfort zone.”


Savannah Warren at order pick-up window at Savvy Bean
Photos by Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Warren added: “It’s crazy to think that I started with just an idea for a business, and then the
JPEC helped me bring it to fruition, then grow that company enough to sell and start another one.”

Warren said it’s been so far, so good for the Savvy Bean. There’s been an adjustment period to working in retail. Previously Warren could work on the business whenever she had time, but now there are set, consistent hours. In the first few months after opening, she worked most days. She’s now leaning more on her employees. The community has embraced the business and the crazy flavor creations.

“Waterloo is amazing, and it has really exceeded my expectations,” Warren said.

For those thinking of launching a business in college, Warren said go for it, and embrace the help from the JPEC. The staff can give you the tools you need to find success.

“I feel like it’s exciting to be a college student and an entrepreneur,” Warren said. “UNI gives you
the opportunities to meet people and opens doors for you.”