BIZNOTE: Entrepreneur bringing her ‘alternative’ dream to life with Animated Café

A coffee stand opens next Friday at 35th/Barton. And this little stand has a big backstory.

(Photo courtesy Animated Café)

In the photo is Melanie Robbins, a West Seattle resident who is opening Animated Café in the Tony’s Market lot on the northeast corner of the intersection. She wants other young people to know you can chart your own path. She dropped out of high school just before the pandemic and went into training to be a barista (eventually getting her GED). Instead of going to work for somebody else’s coffee shop, she’s launching her own. She says a year and a half of online studies inspired many of her peers to “carve their own path in the world” too. In email before we spoke by phone, she wrote:

…I’ve watched nearly every one of my friends pursue an alternative lifestyle in order to feel less stuck in a world that seems to have forgotten about them. That means getting a job and fast-tracking their adult lives. The world that has historically valued school as the primary way of learning, and that has been disrupted. We are inspired by social media, do our research on Google, and learn how to make things on YouTube. School was day care for most kids prior to COVID. It turned into a joke during the pandemic instead of being the educational resource it is promised to be

I dropped out of high school 4 months before the pandemic started. Counter to social norms and expectations I felt extremely fortunate because this gave me a massive head start. While getting my GED I joined a program called Fare Start which taught me how to be a barista. At 16, when the pandemic started, I already had my high school equivalency, a job, and was enrolling in college all while my peers were facing the harsh reality of loneliness, fear, & a complete loss of structure. For the first time I felt like an outsider looking in. I had a clear mission, “Save as much money as possible, start a business, and take control of my life.” This seemed different from everyone else I knew at school, but I hope I can be a model for this generation of high-school students who feel stuck in time.

While in lockdown I fortified my love for everything animated. Disney+ just came out, and Hulu and Netflix had a deep library of anime. I always loved this genre of entertainment, and its popularity seemed to spike during the pandemic since people have been stuck at home looking for new shows to watch and mangas to read. 2 years later I have put every dime I earned toward that goal of taking control of my life in a world that seems so out of control. On February 4th Animated Cafe will become a reality, and I think more people my age should do the same thing versus waiting for the world to care.

She has advice for other would-be entrepreneurs, too, and it’s all on the Animated Café website. Starting next Friday, she invites you to come see what her hard work and planning has created. The “animated” theme will feature the proprietor serving guests as “Ana,” a costumed (“family-friendly”) character. “It’s going to be fun!” she promises. She’s planning to serve Dillano’s Coffee and pastries and sandwiches from Seattle’s Favorite. Animated Café will be drive-up, ride-up, or walk-up, 5 am to 5 pm for starters, until she sees what makes sense with the customer flow.

36 Replies to "BIZNOTE: Entrepreneur bringing her 'alternative' dream to life with Animated Café"

  • Rose Landberg January 28, 2022 (2:51 pm)

    Good luck!  Love your spirit and attitude.

  • yumyum January 28, 2022 (3:05 pm)

    Good luck! Appreciate hearing your backstory and motivation for opening your own place.  I plan to stop by sometime soon to check it out. 

  • NT January 28, 2022 (3:14 pm)

    I love that you are open at 5am!!! I can never find a coffee shop that opens before 6am. Can’t wait to stop by.

  • heartless January 28, 2022 (3:49 pm)

    Yikes on bikes.

    Perhaps one should be wary of jinxing themselves by touting the unnecessariness of school before having succeeded at life?

    Don’t get me wrong, many a dropout has succeeded–Steve Jobs (albeit he fled college, rather than high school) being one prominent example.  But something about this person’s message rubs me the wrong way (insert grumpy old man noises).  

    I wish you good luck, though.

    • groovy January 28, 2022 (6:18 pm)

      Success by definition is accomplishing ones aim or purpose. We aren’t all meant to be like Steve Jobs. Some are meant to endeavor creative coffee business offerings, and thank goodness for this.

      Impressed with this young ladys determination, positive attitude, and accomplishments, coming out of such a difficult time in the world, where let’s be honest, adults have been unsuccessful at handling covid and all the politics, and supporting our youth well through all of this, it’s shameful.

      Don’t listen to the grumpy old men, good for you.

    • Scrappy January 28, 2022 (7:20 pm)

      Jerk! I admire her ability to think outside of the box! Melanie… you are already successful and the world is your oyster. The community will support you, because that’s how we roll! Best to you.

    • Pelicans January 29, 2022 (3:15 am)

      Heartless, I get your point, but I can understand Miss Robbins’ situation, too.She and her cohorts, mostly those coming up after her, are living in a much diferent world than we did. She’s kind of taking the bull by the horns, and taking control of her post-school future in a most unorthodox way, and I admire her ingenuity. The present state of schooling for our children is unprecedented. The parents I know are totally burned out trying to hold down jobs, some working remotely,  while trying to supervise children learning remotely or home schooling. Not to even mention single parents doing this. This young woman may be setting a precedent, or creating a template for others to emulate or build upon. These are not ordinary times, and Covid is not done disrupting our society.

      • miws January 29, 2022 (10:31 am)

        Pelicans, thank you for saying it so perfectly. Presuming this is the regular WSB commenter “Heartless”, I admit to being surprised at their post. I have found them to usually be the total opposite of their username.  Because of that, I’m going to give Heartless the benefit of the doubt and guess that the comment may have been an initial reaction to Melanie’s story, before giving the whole thing much thought. Melanie, your story, ambitions, and spirit are inspiring. Keep reaching for your dreams, and adding to your story. If I were able-bodied enough and loved closer by, I’d definitely come visit. Best of luck to you! —Mike 

    • Justin January 29, 2022 (5:28 am)

      Just because you failed at life doesn’t mean you comment stupidity on someone’s life story. I know her personally. But here is the funny thing heartless. I also dropped out of school and didn’t even finish 9th grade, it’s way over rated, I am very intelligent, you don’t need school to be you need life lessons. Apparently you need more still. My salary is 300k plus (Insert young man laughs) keep your negative comments to yourself. Mel good luck and you’ll succeed, you got this!!!!

    • Math Teacher January 29, 2022 (7:54 am)

      Getting a GED before enrolling in college is not an anti-education message. 

      • heartless January 29, 2022 (10:37 am)

        No, Math Teacher, getting a GED and enrolling in college is not an anti-education message. 

        But I do feel that encouraging 15-year-olds to drop out of school might be the wrong message (e.g., this from her website, where she talks about having dropped out and then says “…I think more people my age should do the same thing…”)  

    • waikikigirl January 29, 2022 (10:30 am)

      Melanie don’t listen to the negativity in some of these comments, you go for your dreams and you will accomplish happiness in your life(time).

    • George January 29, 2022 (12:24 pm)

      We’re each unique. Some people leave comments online about superstitious beliefs like jinx’s. Other people get free publicity by telling an engaging story about their actual life. 

    • Melanie January 29, 2022 (3:09 pm)

      Thanks for the message Heartless! I know what you’re trying to say, and I appreciate it. I think if you were a part of my generation and saw what I have seen in my peer groups the past two years you’re opinion might be a bit different. Read the full post I did on my website. I think you’ll appreciate the full story a bit more. I know there’s more people out there that feel the same way as you do, and I think it’s super motivating. A lot of people have doubted me the last two years, and I’m confident I can prove them wrong. I’m so close with the grand opening happening in less than a week. Self-confidence has gotten me this far, and I’m thankful for the people who have believed in me. I hope over time I can gain your confidence too . -Melanie aka “Ana”

      • heartless January 29, 2022 (3:35 pm)

        Cheers, I appreciate the dialogue.  I’ll swing by for a coffee and to wish you luck (as I absolutely do wish you luck and hope that you succeed).

    • Steve January 29, 2022 (8:19 pm)

      Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. When you’re ready to begin your life’s journey, why wait? High school often holds back smart and motivated people anyway. 

  • Rick January 28, 2022 (3:55 pm)

    Grew up on 40th and Barton, worked on 3 of the four corners during high school (this being the only I didn’t) and after the military during the early 70’s so definitely will be by. Just because. Best wishes.

  • KT January 28, 2022 (5:11 pm)

    As a long time supporter of Fare Start, I am happy to read about another success story.  We look forward to stopping by for our caffeine hits!

    • AnimatedCafe January 29, 2022 (3:12 pm)

      Great program! I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little bit of help getting on their feet. Super impactful on my life, and I know it has been for many others too.  -Melanie aka “Ana”

  • Richard January 28, 2022 (5:23 pm)

    So proud of you! Richard

  • Stacey Lyn January 28, 2022 (5:33 pm)

    I am so proud of you. You have faced many challenges and overcome them all. Keep moving forward. I love and admire you for following your dream.

  • Lisa January 28, 2022 (5:36 pm)

    You are an inspiration! What a creative, happy and fun concept… exactly what we all need today!

  • sbre January 28, 2022 (6:49 pm)

    I’m sure looking forward to tasting her ‘Dust Cloud Latte’!

    • animatedcafe January 29, 2022 (3:13 pm)

      That and the Ube Cloud Latte are my favorites!

  • CarDriver January 28, 2022 (6:53 pm)

    Hopefully she’s also taking security seriously. 

  • BW January 28, 2022 (8:06 pm)

    Good luck, grab the bull by the horns!

  • Greg January 29, 2022 (7:42 am)

    I wish you good fortune.  I too started a business when young, and the life lessons I learned then bolster me in times of trouble.  We will walk to you and be good customers.

  • Anime latte January 29, 2022 (7:44 am)

    You go girl!! 🎉

  • Coffeeman January 29, 2022 (8:44 am)

    Way to go Melanie! Follow your dreams and don’t ever give up!

  • trickycoolj January 29, 2022 (12:19 pm)

    Two of the three types of high school tracks in Germany involve finishing at grade 9 or 10 and going into apprenticeship or vocational classes with part time work in that vocation. Sounds like this young woman was able to carve a similar vocational path. Looking back at my high school experience 20 years ago and how much I paid to attend UW to be an Excel jockey in a cubicle, I could have easily gained the same skills through vocational training in grade 11 and 12. My dad went though the German school system, his customers request him for service calls from his company because they know he’s so knowledgeable at what he does that their operations won’t be impacted for more than a day or two unlike the other service engineers that don’t have any practical knowledge in electronics or mechanics. Look at all the middle aged millennials saddled in debt for jobs that could easily be achieved with vocational training! I’m glad the younger generation is learning from the mistakes made with pushing my generation towards unnecessary and prohibitively expensive college degrees. Looking forward to a delicious cup of coffee!

  • AnimatedCafe January 29, 2022 (3:20 pm)

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments! I can’t wait to meet you all in person and show you what I’m all about. Sign up for my newsletter on my website and I’ll give you all $2 off your first purchase as a thank you for being so welcoming! – Melanie aka “Ana”

  • Youngstown Coffee January 29, 2022 (3:41 pm)

    Congrats Melanie!! We’re super excited for you and are always here to help you with whatever you need! Looking forward to coming by and trying the Strawberry Cloud Latte.  

  • Jillian Next Door January 29, 2022 (7:13 pm)

    Can’t wait to stop by with the little guy next weekend! We’re wishing you all the best!

  • K.K. Dodger January 30, 2022 (12:25 am)

    I am so incredibly proud of you, Melanie!! This is a moment you have been working so hard towards.   Kiki and I are very excited to visit you next week.  Sojiro CoffeeDad would be so proud !! We love you, neighbor!!  ٩(ˊᗜˋ*)و   ⅽ[ː̠̈ː̠̈ː̠̈] ͌

  • Melissa January 30, 2022 (7:37 am)

    I’m so excited for your opening and can’t wait to come.💕Good luck on you journey. I find this post very inspirational. 😉☺️-Melissa

  • Susan January 30, 2022 (9:58 am)

    Congratulations on achieving your dream, Melanie! I love your story and can’t wait to support your business.

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