Morgan Park

Teen entrepreneur operates remarkable coffee shop on Chicago's South Side

“I want my story to be a hope story and one of belief and if you try, you will succeed," she says

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What were you doing when you were 18 years old? That answer will certainly vary, but at the age of 18, Erin Polk is an entrepreneur with her very own coffee shop on Chicago's South Side.

Erin has loved coffee since she was a toddler, but last year, she decided to turn her passion for coffee into a full-fledged business.

She opened Erin’s Cup in the city’s Morgan Park neighborhood during her senior year of high school, at the age of 17.

“Around 16, I started developing the idea of how I wanted my space to look and it just kinda grew and grew,” she said.

Being a business owner runs in Erin’s family. She grew up watching her mom who has her own catering company.

“That is all I saw growing up,” she said. "This is all that I know."

Erin credits a team of people with helping her achieve her dream, including her mom, Heidi, provided startup money. Her business partner Khale Hunter has been working in the coffee business for more than 20 years.

“It is important that we support our youth,” said Heidi Polk, Erin’s mom. “I am a firm believer that if you have the support and love of your family …there is nothing they cannot do.”

“Erin gives me free reign of putting up what I want to put up …and create my own drinks – and that is what I love about working with an 18 year old,” said Hunter.

Erin will be attending Georgia State University in the fall. She plans to major in psychology. While she is away at college, much of the day to day operations will be handled by her team.

Erin hopes teens and adults who see her story commit to a dream and pour their heart and soul into making it happen.

“I want my story to be a hope story and one of belief and if you try, you will succeed,” she said.

Erin’s Cup is located at 1212 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park.

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