Brewed for Success
Mobile coffee company gives back
By Jessica Laskey
Onit Coffee’s motto is “Impacting lives one cup at a time.”
Founder and owner Shadi Khattab chose the phrase for his business—Sacramento’s first mobile gourmet coffee truck—as a homage to his partnerships with nonprofits and coffee’s integral role in his Middle Eastern upbringing.
“In my culture, we’re very big on quality tea and coffee,” says Khattab, who emigrated from Syria at age 5 with his family so his father could pursue medical studies. “Family and friends sit down together and bond over a cup of coffee. It’s a very big cultural thing for me, so I thought, why not bring aspects of my culture into the business I want to create?”
Khattab has always been entrepreneurial. Growing up, his family didn’t have much, so he would find unique ways to make money—flipping shoes, selling things on Craigslist—to buy himself toys or games. His affinity for business led him to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship at Sacramento State, where his final project before graduating four years ago set the stage for his future brand.
“I’ve always loved the way they do business at Dutch Bros Coffee,” says Khattab, who runs Onit while managing marketing at his father’s Elk Grove medical practice, Precision M.D. Cosmetic Surgery Center. “They greet you at the kiosk, they interact with you. We’re so desensitized by drive-thru screens that it feels unique and different to interact with someone. I decided I wanted to build my own coffee franchise like that—and Onit came to life.”
The 26-year-old hired an East Coast consulting firm to learn from experts and spent almost two years searching for the perfect location for his new business. After being repeatedly outbid by large chains that snapped up prime drive-thru locations, Khattab finally got lucky and landed a lot in Arden-Arcade. Because the permitting and construction process is slow (Khattab expects the drive-thru to be open by next summer), he decided he didn’t want to wait. He put Onit Coffee on wheels.
“We invested in a custom-built truck with a kitchen and top-of-the-line equipment—and the build finished in March right as COVID started,” Khattab says. “My vision to send the truck out to large-scale venues like Sac State to get our name out there went out the window. Luckily, I’m good at adapting.”
Undeterred, Khattab decided to park the Onit truck in the Precision M.D. parking lot and added lighting, outdoor seating and a varied menu to entice customers. Every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Onit serves custom coffee drinks (with a proprietary bean blend made just for them by Old Soul) with vegan milk and sugar-free options, plus protein shakes, fresh-squeezed lemonades, cold brew, energy drinks, ice cream, breakfast, smoothies and milkshakes.
The idea paid off. The truck now serves up to 3,000 people per week, which has helped Khattab realize the other part of his vision for Onit: giving back to the community. Every month, the company partners with a local nonprofit and donates a percentage of the profits. The first campaign in April brought in $1,000 for Sacramento Food Bank, followed by successful campaigns for Street Medicine Sacramento, My Sister’s House and World Relief Sacramento.
“Onit is turning into a movement that’s bigger than me, bigger than coffee,” says Khattab, who mentors his staff of diverse young people with the hope they might one day run their own Onit franchises. “It’s about continuing to serve the city of Sacramento and motivate the youth, minority and immigrant communities by showing them that it’s possible to manifest your dreams.”
For information, visit onitcoffee.com. Onit Coffee is located at 9250 Big Horn Blvd.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.