Headshot of Scott Diekema ’19

Scott Diekema ’19 is the co-founder of Meantime Coffee Co. in the UNC Campus Y.

Written by Ria Patel ’25 in collaboration with Sarah Chocron ’25, Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team members and Griatitude Coffee Co. co-founders

Following Griatitude Coffee Co.’s pop-up event during the 2022 Morehead-Cain Discovery Weekend this spring, Sarah Chocron ’25 and I were flooded with inspiration and new ideas about how to grow our company and social impact.

Although we had accumulated a lot of guidance from professors, friends, and well-wishers, we realized our knowledge lacked the advice of someone with experience—in coffee, social entrepreneurship, and building a company from the ground up.

Then, it hit us. We needed to talk to Scott Diekema ’19 about co-founding the Meantime Coffee Co., a cozy coffee spot nestled within the UNC Campus Y, the University’s largest advocacy and public service student organization. The shop supports undergraduate scholarships, campus sustainability efforts, and student professional development.

Bootstrapping to brew

Along with Lauren Eaves ’18 and Keegan McBride (UNC–Chapel Hill ’17), Scott built Meantime from scratch, first establishing relationships with campus organizations, local initiatives such as the Sonder Market, and working at Johnny’s Gone Fishing coffee shop in Carrboro to gain barista experience.

The shop launched in 2016 with $15,000 seed funding, as well as financial support from the Morehead-Cain Foundation through the Lovelace Fund for Discovery and the Professional Experience Venture fund.

For Scott, the greatest challenge of Meantime’s beginning years was “navigating the very human dynamics” of working with others while “cultivating a culture that works.”

Any context in which people are under pressure naturally creates tensions, making it all the more essential to be intentional about the culture you seek to foster, Scott says. Bringing in team members with diverse backgrounds and interests provides any company valuable insights and expertise.

An orchestra of people

Being a part of the Morehead-Cain community, where ideas for self-starter projects are always brewing, Scott emphasized the importance of reaching out to your peers for help.

“If you don’t have the skills, there is certainly someone in your Morehead-Cain class who gets it,” the former Meantime CEO says.

While it may be tempting to launch into projects head-on and independently, a lot can be gained from tapping into local innovation networks at the University and in the greater Triangle region.

“Meantime was an orchestra of people who made it what it was from a strong founding team,” says Scott, now a creative producer for JustJobs Network and an interactive designer for the Reality Recycling Center. “Connect with other like-minded people and soak it all up.”

The entrepreneur pointed to the UNC Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, Launch Chapel Hill (a startup accelerator and co-working space on Franklin Street), and classes through Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship as good resources. The alumnus was an Adams Apprentice through the Kenan-Flagler Entrepreneurship Center in 2018.

Team up

Scott describes himself, in typical Morehead-Cain fashion, as just a small part of a large group of people within the Campus Y’s leadership, Meantime’s management team, and of the original group of head baristas. That teamwork mentality has been crucial to Meantime’s success.

“My biggest advice for self-starters is not doing it all yourself,” the founder says.

Undergraduate students also have a unique advantage in approaching strangers about a business idea, Scott believes, just by being in an educational environment.

“People want to talk to students. That isn’t something you fully realize until you leave college,” he says.

Driving impact, one cup at a time

Meantime has always been about more than good profit margins. Lifting up other ventures, organizations, and people for the greater good is at the core of the company’s mission. In fact, Scott’s favorite part about working in the coffee industry isn’t actually the java.

“I’m not a coffee fanatic. I love coffee for how it brings people together,” he says.

As Griatitude’s co-founder who actually dislikes milk, I can relate. But, what is Scott’s coffee order? His preferred caffeine choice is a lot like his approach to business: use what you have to make the most impact.

“I’m a black cold brew guy. It’s the most caffeine you get out of a coffee.”

Scott graduated from Carolina with degrees in philosophy and Asian studies.

About the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team

The Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team is an extracurricular program and internship run by the Foundation’s marketing and communications team. Scholars of all class years collaborate to produce multimedia content for social media (Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and X), the Catalyze podcast, email newsletters, and the website (www.moreheadcain.org). The team’s audience comprises more than 3,400 scholars and alumni.

The Scholar Media Team is led by Sarah O’Carroll, the content manager for Morehead-Cain. Participation is a semester-long commitment.