Partnering for sweet success
by Alex Reich, class of 2016
It is no secret that Northwest Nazarene University is nestled in a wondrous area. One visit to the Boise Valley is all it takes to become infatuated with Idaho’s pristine mountain ranges, vast wildlife and outdoor activities. However, the fine qualities of this location aren’t limited to recreation. Students can also take advantage of many academic, internship and career opportunities that are unique to NNU.
Business major Ben Circeo (’15) of Mill Creek, Washington, found one such opportunity in the franchise venture competition, which tasks students to prepare business plans for a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory confectionery, or a subsidiary, and selects one student to receive his or her own franchise.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory founder and CEO Frank Crail has significant ties to NNU—four of his children graduated from the university, each one having had an excellent experience. Crail selected NNU as one of their choices to produce potential franchisees, and after months of planning, the 2014-15 school year saw the inaugural competition. Students presented their business plans to an eight-judge panel in April 2015, and Ben Circeo was selected the winner.
“WHAT I WAS GIVEN WAS AN OPPORTUNITY THAT IS SECOND-TO-NONE. IT WAS THE CHANCE TO JUMPSTART A CAREER, AND THAT IS SOMETHING I WILL FOREVER BE GRATEFUL FOR.”Ben originally transferred to NNU in order to join the baseball team, not expecting to find himself presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. After being named the winner of the franchise venture competition and awarded his own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop to own and operate in Petaluma, California, he wasted no time committing himself to this new responsibility. “I got busy right after graduation getting everything set up and moved to Petaluma in June,” Ben explained.
Ben opened his shop for business August 1, 2015, and just like that he began managing his own store. Ben grew and learned from experiences that enabled him to achieve success at Rocky Mountain and that will continue to guide him in future endeavors. “What I was given was an opportunity that is second-to-none. It was the chance to jumpstart a career, and that is something I will be forever grateful for,” Ben shares.
From the time he began crafting a business plan for the competition over a year ago to his last day at the shop in Petaluma, Ben knew he had one of the best support systems behind him. “Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and NNU have given me the confidence and direction in a career I can project will have long-term success.”
In March 2016, Ben strategically hired and trained a manager to run the store in Petaluma while he sought an opportunity back in his home state of Washington. These are exciting days for Ben as he continues working toward his goals. He credits his time studying at NNU and operating a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store as major contributors to the path his career will take. “There is so much I learned over the past year that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Just going through the process of building a business plan can help anybody understand many aspects of a business, which is invaluable going into any job interview.”
Ben won’t be the only NNU graduate with ownership of a Rocky Mountain franchise. This year, the franchise venture competition returned to NNU to offer another student the chance at jumpstarting a career.
In April 2016, NNU alumnus Casey Crail who is university program manager and field consultant at Rocky Mountain was on campus to announce the business department’s graduating senior Martin Lira of Nampa, Idaho, the winner of the 2015–16 competition. Crail looks forward to seeing another NNU student take the helm of a shop. “It is exciting to see the franchise venture program at NNU continue to grow and receive more interest from students who have a passion to run their own business venture and to learn more about entrepreneurship.”
NNU and Rocky Mountain anticipate continuing to offer the franchise venture competition for years to come. The success of Ben Circeo and the potential of Martin Lira are perfect examples of the unique opportunities NNU offers to its students.