Business buffs

Lenihan XLP students present business projects

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS It was the culmination of months of hard work for 12 Lenihan Intermediate School Extended Learning Program (XLP) students Thursday. They presented their own business projects to local business leaders. Smokin’ G’s restaurant co-owner Jerry Gratopp, center-right, and Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA Health and Wellness Coordinator Heidi Draisey, right, were among the guest judges during the presentations.

Tough and rewarding — that’s what Lenihan Intermediate School Extended Learning Program (XLP) students learned about starting a new business this school year. The dozen sixth-graders paired up to put together restaurants and stores to present to local business owners.

“They’re given a $5,000 budget, and they were to create their own business,” said Lenihan XLP instructor Vanessa Engel of the project-based learning exercise. “They are required to have at least one advertisement, a final product (and) their budget.”

The students researched businesses in the Marshalltown area to get an idea of what direction to go in and had to account for things like rent, utilities, employee pay, insurance, supply expenses, menus and more. The class also surveyed district staff on what types of businesses to look into tackling for the project.

“We decided to make this business mainly because it’s casual,” said student Ryan Schmidt, who helped create Bobcat Subs with partner Brody Lang.

He said the local Sub City restaurant was their main inspiration. Lang said their business model is practical and they even made an Instagram page especially for their project.

“It is really a lot cheaper than a lot of other business ideas we had, yet we could still sell it for a pretty good price and with a pretty good margin,” he said.

Another of the six business projects, called the International Food Museum, was designed by partners Claire Bohan and Desy Sung to bring a cultural and culinary experience to customers.

“Every month, we would have a different culture explained in our exhibit, so that’s where the ‘museum’ part comes in,” Bohan said. “For example, I brought a German cake with us today.”

The other four projects included the Moolicious Creamery, the Frosting Factory, Stewberry’s Toys and Sonitrez.

During last week’s final presentations, the students spoke with representatives from local businesses, who acted as guest judges.

“I think that they have come up with some really great ideas,” said Smokin’ G’s BBQ restaurant co-owner Kim Gratopp. “I think that this really just gives the kids a different, real-life, hands-on look at what starting a business would be.”

Along with her husband and restaurant co-owner Jerry Gratopp, she said she has been involved in the XLP business projects for the past “three or four years.”

Another local business person to visit was Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA Health and Wellness Coordinator Heidi Draisey.

“I was really impressed with the work they put into it,” she said.

As as a former surveyor, she appreciated the students’ effort to get the thoughts of district staff to form business ideas.

“I sure hope to see some of them downtown or in the community,” she said.

Engel said the students began working on the projects at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year and the exercise allows them to think about success at the local level.

“This is just sort of to get them inspired about how to make the best of the community. Their dreams can come true here, in Marshalltown, not just in the big cities,” she said.