Taking classroom lessons to the next level, Columbia Heights High School senior Nathan Sheferaw is celebrating one year of success with his business Shifty’s Food Delivery Service.
With the help of Columbia Heights staff, Sheferaw applied real-world business development skills from class and turned a simple concept into a lucrative company. Shifty’s Food Delivery Service brings food straight to the customer for only 99 cents per mile. A competitively priced and fast-service, Sheferaw’s business has become popular in the north metro area.
First launching in May 2016, Shifty’s Food Delivery covers Columbia Heights, Fridley, Spring Lake Park, and has now recently expanded into Brooklyn Park. Sheferaw’s business is also the official delivery service of local restaurants Hooks Fish and Chicken, El Taco Loco, Mama Ti’s and African Deli.
The 99 cents per mile offers a highly competitive price when compared to other food delivery services like UberEats and Grub Hub. The service also delivers food from any restaurant, including fast food, where competitors only deliver from sit-down restaurants.
The idea first came about when Sheferaw started delivering food to his cousin’s barbershop as a favor to the employees.
“They’d ask me to run to Chipotle and they’d throw in an extra $5,” Sheferaw said. “It started becoming an everyday routine.”
This caused Nathan to think about his favors in a new way.
“If I’m revenuing some type of income from just the barbershop guys, then what would happen if I tried to take it to the next level?” Sheferaw said.
He credits his work seminar class for showing him that the opportunity was there.
The work seminar class offers lessons in entrepreneurial skills, business plans, taxes and other career-focused aspects.
“He was able to take those applied lessons, take the experience from his cousin’s barbershop, and see the opportunity that is entrepreneurship,” Columbia Heights High School Principal Dan Wrobleski said.
Sheferaw said he is immensely appreciative of the help that Wrobleski and business teacher Scott Roehm have provided him, as well as many Columbia Heights teachers.
From what started as a dream soon turned to reality when Sheferaw began to focus on putting together a business plan, logo and relationships with local businesses. He said Wrobleski and other Columbia Heights staff members were there for him every step of the way.
“Mr. Wrobleski really helped me out with a lot of the legal stuff, just being a 17 year old kid, you’re really uninformed with 1099s, taxes, I had a lot of questions,” Sheferaw said. “So I’m very appreciative now that I had someone that I could go to. His door was always open if I needed quick advice or input. Its kind of like, in my eyes, having another business partner who is there for me whenever I need him. I’m very fortunate for Mr. Wrobleski and all of the Columbia Heights staff.”
“One thing that’s big about Nathaniel, he’s not only going to school full time, he’s getting good grades, playing varsity basketball and helping to support his family. He’s very highly driven. It’s really fun to see someone who has that drive,” Wrobleski said.
As a high school student, Wrobleski also ran his own self-started business. He said he sees a lot of himself in Sheferaw.
“I did the school-to-work program too, the exact same thing, and I had to manage my time. So a lot of the experience that I had, I was able to share with Nathaniel, and he just took it and ran with it.”
“There’s a lot of things that I can learn from him. He’s a great example for me to model my work ethic after,” Sheferaw said. “He kind of sculpted my way to a good path.”
Sheferaw also praised other teachers in the school district.
“There have been numerous teachers that go above and beyond their way to support me. They all really go that extra mile,” Sheferaw said.
The Columbia Heights school district focuses on creating college and career-ready graduates and offers programs meant to develop real-world experiences.
By taking the work seminar class as a junior, Sheferaw was able to take the work experience class as a senior, which offers work release for one class period per day. This school-to-work program has shown to be beneficial to many high school students.
Sheferaw said he couldn’t imagine himself being in the position that he is in without the work seminar class.
“It basically teaches you everything when you’re out there by yourself. For a lot of kids that are misfortunate to not have a father figure in their life, it’s able to teach them things that really can be life changing information on the real world that you’re going to have to experience,” he said.
Columbia Heights High School is also partnered with an internship program called Genesys Works, a nonprofit that aims to connect low-income high school students with internships at Fortune 500 companies. Genesys Works provides opportunities for students to develop their career-ready skills before they finish high school, further preparing them for higher education or employment. The organization directly addresses the opportunity gap that exists for disadvantaged students, and puts them ahead by teaching relevant skills and work experience.
“We hope that the program perks students interests to reach their goals,” Wrobleski said. “We’re also placing the students who need the most money, for college and for their families. We want to help them to better position themselves over other candidates through many of our programs.”
Wrobleski said the school-to-work program has really grown over the years. He said students are working anywhere from local restaurants to offices in downtown Minneapolis.
“We have programs that encompass everybody,” Wrobleski said. “Mr. Roehm does a very good job of working individually with our kids and developing a program that works for every one of them.”
By offering many college and career paths, seeking higher education is a goal for many Columbia Heights students. Sheferaw is determined to get his degree with hopes of attending either the University of Minnesota, Augsberg College or Arizona State University this fall. He plans to major in business with a goal of expanding his company to the next level. Rather than just delivering food, Sheferaw envisions the company to transform into a transportation or trucking business and expanding to deliver cargo, medical goods or other supplies.
Sheferaw is also hopeful to expand his business into the Dinkytown and Northeast Minneapolis area this coming fall. Since this area is in close proximity to the grounds that Shifty’s currently covers, he said customers have already been requesting orders in Northeast and the U of M campus area.
Sheferaw said the biggest lesson he has learned so far is that you get what you put in.
“And I thank Mr. Wrobleski and [my basketball] coach telling me that at a young age. You’re not cheating anybody but yourself, you’re only going to get what you put in,” Sheferaw said. “After a year of running this business, I really have seen that first hand.”
Shifty’s Food Delivery Service operates daily from noon to 8 p.m. Keep up with updates from Shifty’s on the company’s Instagram page @Shiftys_Delivery or the Shifty’s Food Delivery Service Facebook page.
Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]