Scooter’s CEO mentors a local hero
Julian and Brittany Young at their Scooter’s coffeehouse in North Omaha.
The newest Scooter’s Coffee in the brand’s home city of Omaha was conceived and built to help a struggling neighborhood get on its feet. It’s a living, steaming, grinding embodiment of generosity, as Scooter’s built out the new location in a formerly abandoned building and is gifting the franchise free of cost to Julian Young, a friend of CEO Don Eckles and a lifelong North Omaha resident who has dedicated his adult life to helping others find their own success.
Young grew up in a tough part of the city and knew firsthand what it’s like to wander down the wrong path—or several wrong paths. After overcoming his own childhood demons, Young founded The Start Center for Entrepreneurship to connect local entrepreneurs with ambitious young people in an effort to create new opportunities in a place that desperately needs them.
The two first met three years ago when Young cold-called Eckles seeking advice and mentorship. Eckles initially hesitated, but called Young back. They quickly formed a meaningful connection and ended up working together on countless community projects before Eckles asked Young what he was doing for his own family and future.
Wanting to do something significant for a generous man, Scooter’s Coffee paid for the construction of the new coffeehouse and is handing Young and his wife the keys once it’s fully off the ground.
Having his mentor take such a direct and personal interest in his life, Young said, lit a fire under him that changed his and his family’s life in countless ways during the last three years. He never doubted Eckles’ sincerity after the CEO pledged to build him a Scooter’s location in North Omaha, but said it was hard to process that somebody who had found incredible success was willing to do so much to impact his own life. The enormity of it all first hit when Eckles picked Young up in a Scooter’s truck to start scouting potential locations.
“Don said something over and over to me. He said you will amplify the work you’re doing if you get this business open, it’s going to validate and justify,” Young said of his mentor.
“It took a while for that to click, but I’ll tell you, the level of attention, validation and invitations for our nonprofit has skyrocketed.”
Scooter’s CEO Don Eckles mentored Julian Young and helped him open the location in a tough part of the city.
Justifying the significant investment of personal time and company funds, which Eckles estimates is $400,000 to $450,000, he used the analogy of airplane oxygen masks and how the key is to help yourself before you can help others.
“I have always felt like successful businesses and successful people have an obligation to find a way to help others,” Eckles said. “We are in such a rough political climate and have been for the last several years, and we’re not doing as much good as we can do—it’s a challenge.”
Eckles told Young he needed to stop throwing money away on rent and to buy a home. The next task was finding a way for Young and his wife to open their own business, which Eckles said was the key to finding the success he and his foundation deserved.
“All of a sudden a voice is saying, ‘Don, you’ve always been saying if the right opportunity came along, you wanted to make a difference,’” Eckles said. “Well here’s the opportunity, and what are you going to do about it? Are you just a talker or are you actually going to do something?”
He became increasingly convinced his new friend was the “vehicle” he had been searching for to make a significant, positive impact in the world. He proposed banding together to open a location in North Omaha, and then increased the scope of the project by offering to work with Young to design and build the new store, and then turn the location over to Young to own and operate once it was fully off the ground.
After finding the perfect location in North Omaha, Young kept telling Eckles that the new location was going to be a huge hit for the company. Two months after the grand opening this spring, the new coffeehouse is exceeding the company’s projections.
Young said it’s hard to quantify all the little moments behind the scenes as the pair has worked to combine a business mindset with the goal of serving a greater good. He added that Eckles came into his life just after his father died, making their relationship even more meaningful.
“My dad passed away five years ago, so I didn’t have his voice through this process,” Young said. “Don has been like a dad to me—he has his own kids and grandkids so I try not to put that weight on him, but I have to tell you, the heart of this story is the incredible change that he has brought to my life and to my wife’s life.”