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Taylor Oilen, right, takes a food order from the school-run company’s president, 16-year-old Marco Buchmayer, left.

Kaitlyn Walsh, Special to the Star Tribune

Tartan students hope wings take off

  • Article by: KAITLYN WALSH
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • November 2, 2012 - 6:02 PM

Just steps from their classrooms, students at Tartan High School in Oakdale have been learning how to start and run their own business.

"It's been very interesting to see it actually happening," said 18-year-old Taylor Oines, vice president of public relations for the student-run company, :D-Spot DECA Wings, which sells chicken wings from a local restaurant at the DECA School Store.

Sales have been slow since the business opened Oct. 9, but students and their teacher said they are hopeful.

"It's been a slow start, but that's typical for any business," said Craig Spreiter, the marketing teacher advising the students. "I want them to experience what it's really like."

Spreiter teamed up with Darin Koch, the chef and owner of :D-Spot Wings when Koch said he wanted to give back to the schools. Last year, Spreiter's advertising class pitched campaigns to Koch. The Maplewood business owner was impressed.

Then, Spreiter had the idea of starting a student-run company at the school to allow students to practice what he teaches with real money and real risk.

"Darin is a good fit for the business-mindedness I want to teach my students," Spreiter said. He said that Koch creates a memorable experience for his customers that he hopes his marketing students can model.

Customers can order six wings for $6 in advance at the school store. Koch drops the wings off and they are stored in a heating oven until customers pick up their orders during lunch periods. Students also can get their orders after the school day.

Spreiter said the students aim to sell 30 orders a day, but so far they have been averaging about 10.

Koch said he covered all of the costs for them to get started and will pass along the profits.

"I want to give money back to Oakdale," said Koch, whose daughter is in second grade at Oakdale Elementary School. "It just makes you feel good."

The restaurant owner, whose menu includes 389 flavors of wings all made from scratch, said he hopes the partnership will continue after this year.

"Literally, whatever I can do to help," Koch said. "I guarantee I'll be keeping it going while my daughter is in school."

Two of the students who pitched advertising campaigns are now the president and vice president of marketing for the :D-Spot Wings-sponsored business.

Sixteen-year-old Annelise Wackerfuss, a junior, is the vice president of marketing. She said she is getting the word out with locker signs, posters and morning announcements. The students also have a school store Twitter page, #DECAstore, and will run daily promotions there.

"It's real-life knowledge of knowing how to get things started," Wackerfuss said. "And the accomplishment of doing it."

Marco Buchmayer, 16, a junior and the president of the company, said staff and students seem to be enthusiastic about the product. Now the challenge is to get them to buy the wings.

"We're so limited in how we can advertise," Buchmayer said.

"It's about getting them in to follow through with that enthusiasm," Wackerfuss added.

To get started, the students sold shares to students, parents and school staff -- $2 per share and no more than five shares per holder -- that sold out in a few weeks. Spreiter said about 200 of the 550 shareholders are students and more than half are staff and parents.

Spreiter said the business, which cost $1,100 to start, will be liquidated on Jan. 31 and that all of the profits will go back to shareholders. Customers have been pleased, he said, although some have said that $6 is too much money to spend on wings.

Principal Adam Ehrmantraut decided not to buy any stock.

"I wanted the kids to buy the stock and see the profits in their pockets," Ehrmantraut said. "I want them to see the value of investing."

Kaitlyn Walsh is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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