Learning to run a business

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For the last two years, business teacher Nic Haug and family & consumer science teacher Courtney Hawkins have worked with other teachers at St. Croix Central High School on a food truck project.

"The first and second years of this project are comparable. Production wise, I think we have had a slightly better end product in regards to the business plan this year. But last year — because it was our first year — there was a lot more fascination with the project from the student body, so they wanted to try everything," Haug said.

Marketing education teacher Tracie Crowley, tech ed teacher Garret Wenzel, band teacher Jason Koele and art teacher Jordee Reimer also collaborated on the project this year.

"We've had a pretty big outreach as far as getting other classes involved in this project," Haug said. "It is nice that way because in the real world you have to work with other people in a lot of different lines of work."

According to Haug, this year's project was slightly different than the year before, but also included more classes from different departments. A total of eight different classes were involved in the project, according to Haug and Hawkins, and involved students in grades 9-12.

"Communication is hard because, in the students' case, the person you need to work with might not always be sitting right next to you in the same class," Haug said. "That is one of the big struggles for these kids in trying to figure out how they would connect with the other students that they don't know very well. They had to leave their own comfort zones in order to make sure the project went well."

This year, the event was held just outside of the school library and food service area, with two "trucks" running on Tuesday, May 2, and another two running on Thursday, May 4. The first time the project was run, the four food trucks all ran on the same day in the same hallway.

"With the structure of the project, the students are the owners of the food trucks. There are three to five kids who are the owners of the business and each one of them brought a fictitious $5,000 to the business," Haug said. "From there, the kids had to figure out how much they were going to spend on everything and factor in the bank. They also had to work with the marketing class that did the billboards and talked with the focus groups to figure out which kinds of foods the kids would like to see."

Haug's students also had to work with students from Hawkins' foods class to figure out and fine tune the menu they would serve during the food truck days. Students from Koele's music classes worked on a jingle for the food trucks, while Wenzel's tech ed students worked on a 3D mock up of the food truck and were responsible for figuring out how much it would cost to build a new truck or to retrofit a used truck. Students in Reimer's art classes worked on the design of the physical menu and the signs for the food trucks.

"We did have a lower turnout this year, but there was definitely a bigger variety in menu options this year, with a lot of kids trying to do more combinations with their menu items than we did before," Hawkins said. "We also had to try to find a way to keep the prices affordable. Of course, you still get some kids saying that they would pay $3 for something, but not all students are going to do that or have the money to do that. They also had to think about the prep of those foods: how long is it going to need to cook, what will you do so that you can sell it when it is fresh and hot and ready to go."

Hawkins' students also had to come up with the costs of the food and how much it would cost to make each item, then work with the business students to figure out how much they could charge for each item.

"It was interesting to see which items sold the best. We thought certain ones would be hot items, but they weren't," Hawkins said. "You never know what the crowd is going to want. It is interesting to see how it changes year to year because you can't really determine what people are going to want to buy."

One of the more interesting things Haug and Hawkins saw students who have taken part in the project adjusting to new jobs and new responsibilities.

"One of the neat things this year — since we have kids who were part of the project last year — is that we have some kids who are in different classes this year working on different parts of the project than they did before," Haug said. "I think there were also a couple kids who were in two different classes that were part of the project this year, so they were even doing two different parts within the same project. They are really getting into some different aspects of the project itself, which is really cool to see."