January 31, 2020

Winterim Business Innovation Lab Presents Food Trailer Business Plan

Business students present their plan to investors at Wheaton Academy

Innovation in learning is the fuel behind Winterim at Wheaton Academy. As students have the opportunity to pursue subjects they are passionate about—in a creative learning environment—future careers are confirmed and students often learn first-hand what will be required of them in a field of study. This was evident in the Business Innovation Lab during Winterim 2020.

“The Shack”

In “Business Innovation Lab” with Mr. Strzalka, after learning business innovation principles and touring businesses such as Google, Harvest Food Group and the Starbucks Roastery in Chicago, entrepreneurial students developed a business plan for a Wheaton Academy food trailer called “The Shack.” In class, teams of students researched and developed plans to address different aspects of the business, investigating everything from food safety to vehicle options and branding. At the end of the course, students presented a business proposal to school administration and to a group of five potential investors—Shark Tank-style.

“Essential to business innovation and success is an ability to collaboratively embrace a diversity of ideas and perspectives and make decisions. I was struck by the creativity, energy and passion of the students which grew as the class progressed, each brought their unique God-given talents and openly contributed them to the team to build a great business plan and final presentation,” said Mr. Strzalka.

Developing a Plan

Every good business solution starts with identifying a problem – a job to be done. At Wheaton Academy, students go off campus for beverages and food or order out via Uber Eats when they’re bored with the options at the cafeteria. A food trailer would provide an exciting new experience-   serving beverages, desserts, and a rotating healthy food menu. During the school day, customers would place their orders via a mobile app (the “Shack App”), and the Shack would service students from a parked location. In the evenings, it would appear at home games and at fine arts events. The Shack would also fulfill a marketing purpose, increasing brand recognition for Wheaton Academy at non-school events on campus and local festivals or sports tournaments.

At their presentation to investors, students pointed out that that the Shack would be a competitive business because it is both accessible and convenient to students. “I don’t know about you guys, but when I walk outside, I don’t see a Starbucks in our parking lot,” shared Noah Taritas.

Not shying away from the hard aspects of a business start-up, these students even tackled the financial realities of the Shack. During the financial presentation, Evan Eckert shared, “Every great company starts with a great spreadsheet.” Then, Evan, Josh Strzalka, Davis Schneider and Nathan Hong asked investors to open their financial packets—complete with graphs, spreadsheets, profit and loss statements—so that the financial team could walk them through their assumptions and financial analysis.

Planning for Ongoing Educational Value

In their presentation, students argued that while the Shack has lucrative business potential, it could also serve an ongoing educational purpose. Students interested in business would have many opportunities for experiential learning through the process of testing culinary products, maintaining the Shack App, and studying sales, marketing, finance and other business principles. There would be possibilities for collaboration with extra-curricular clubs, for example, by hosting art shows, improv nights and concerts on the lawn. It would offer something new to the local community. The students determined that 10% of the profits would go to charity and the remainder toward funding future Business Innovation Lab start-ups.

“This class has changed the way we view business and it has given us the platform to create our very own business,” shared freshman Isaac LoCascio.

The Winterim 2020 Business Innovation Lab exposed Wheaton Academy students to what a real business start-up would go through to have a successful launch. Overall, the Sharks were impressed. We’ll see if any of them take a bite on the business plan.