Every Saturday morning, Palm Beach Atlantic University juniors Allan Voiron and Ben Colabella are up before sunrise, preparing to bring a taste of authentic French culture to downtown West Palm Beach.
By 6 a.m., the two business students arrive at the city’s popular waterfront GreenMarket, where they set up a mobile food kiosk. There they supervise a team of student employees who take orders and prepare fresh crêpes.
Le Coin à Crêpe, or the Crêpe Corner, offers a variety of sweet crêpes, the most popular of which at the moment combines strawberries, bananas and Nutella as toppings, the duo said.
Palm Beach Atlantic University students (from left) Allan Voiron, Ben Colabella and Bryan Paul welcome guests to Voiron and Colabella's mobile crêpe kiosk at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket.
The crêperie officially opened for business at the GreenMarket in October. The businessmen recently added savory crêpes to their menu.
The sweet crêpes start at $6 and include a bottle of water or iced tea. The savory crêpes plus a beverage run between $7 and $10.
In addition to West Palm Beach, the company is also at the Palm Beach Gardens GreenMarket on Sundays, with plans to grow in the future. “We want to come up with new ideas and ways to expand, while keeping out identity and authenticity,” Voiron said.
Voiron had been a fan of the West Palm Beach GreenMarket for some time but missed the crêpes of his native France. He also had been hoping since freshman year to start his own business.
“I started to think of ideas about how French culture could impact American culture,” said Voiron, who is majoring in international business at PBA.
Colabella, an accounting major from New Jersey who already runs an internet marketing company, came on board as Voiron’s partner, devoting nearly all of his free time to helping the startup.
Once the GreenMarket gave the students the green light to operate, the students had to locate a commissary. Hamburger Heaven owner Cynthia Rosa welcomed them into her kitchen, they said. “She did not hesitate,” Colabella said.
Voiron and Colabella also brought in another PBA student, Bryan Paul, to train the staff. Paul is chef de brigade at The Breakers in Palm Beach. He also outfitted the staff with uniforms. Le Coin à Crêpe presently employs five students on a part-time basis.
“He definitely helped us to get started,” Colabella said.
Over the past few weeks, West Palm Beach GreenMarket custormers have offered positive feedback about the business, said Katrina Resch, the city's event coordinator. "We are thrilled to have them participate at the event," she said.
Voiron and Colabella are already working to give back to the community that has supported them from the beginning. This month the young entrepreneurs organized an on-campus fundraiser for the critically ill 16-year-old daughter of Rinker School of Business faculty member Scott Spell. The two raised more than $1,000 for Jenny Spell’s treatment by preparing crêpes for faculty, staff and students for donations.
The budding entrepreneurs said they owe a great deal to Spell. “He inspired both of us,” Colabella said.
The students said they hope someday to become an inspiration to others. Voiron in particular wants to let young people his age know that the American dream isn’t dead.
“This is the only country where you can do something like this and have the help and backup you need,” he said.