In the Carlson School building, there is a lexicon of breakout and conference rooms, but no commercial kitchen. That was something the student startup 6 Desserts would have to find for itself—just another necessity to succeed in not only the Entre in Action class it was a part of, but in the real consumer market.
6 Desserts was inspired by the natural, vegan, wholesome foods that Laura Hyypio, ‘16 BSB, found while studying abroad in Copenhagen, and her passion and business rationale won over six other students in the 25-person class.
As 6 Desserts developed, the team dove head first into the complexities of the food industry, learning how to navigate the food regulations from places as local as Hennepin County to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A commercial kitchen and nutritional information were just two of the requirements in addition to the budget, operations, and marketing tasks that come with any other industry business.
Every decision was made by the students, but they knew who they could turn to for guidance.
John Stavig, ’86 BSB and director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, and Roy Wetterstrom, ’86 BSB and the undergraduate director for the center, instructed the class and offered up their experiences, resources, and networks.
By the end of the school year, 6 Desserts had created two desserts for four retail partners. One dessert was a chocolate coconut sunbutter cup, and the other was a chocolate peanut butter cup, both six ingredients or less to follow the mission statement in the business’ name.
Although 6 Desserts disbanded two months after the class ended, the students accomplished the goal of the class: to understand the commitment and passion startups need to get off the ground and to experience all of the bumps along the way.
“Case studies marginally help compared to the feeling of making mistakes and getting great successes on your own,” says Hyypio. “6 Desserts could write a textbook about the experience of a dessert startup, but it would still be very different than someone else’s.”
Carlson School senior Madeline Malone and junior Abbey Burtis are taking different paths with their majors. Burtis is in marketing and entrepreneurial studies and Malone is studying management information systems. What brings them together is their choice of minor: agricultural and food business management.
“My passion is in food. I love to bake and cook. I also knew I wanted to be in the food industry after I graduated,” Malone says. Her passion and interest in the industry led her to take a food science class her freshman year to meet a physical science requirement. “I loved the class so much that I began looking around the CFANS [College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences] website for potential minors in food science or something else food related.” That’s when she found the agricultural and food business management course work.
Burtis’ goal in choosing a minor was to enhance her learning from the Carlson School, and experience more of what the University has to offer. “This minor combines two of my deepest passions: food and business, so it was an easy sell, as I could both differentiate my learning and obtain industry-specific knowledge,” she says.
However, she wasn’t only attracted to the minor simply because of the courses. “When researching the minor, the faculty and staff of CFANS were incredibly supportive,” she says. “Instructors were responsive and knowledgeable, helping to guide me to the right courses based on what I hoped to gain from the minor.”
To complete the minor, students are required to fulfill between 13 and 16 credits, four of them fulfilled by a required introductory microeconomics course. From there, students choose three or more of the 17 minor courses offered, ranging from agribusiness finance to food marketing economics. “I took a commodities marketing class and retail marketing this past year and am wrapping up the minor with an introduction to the food system class,” Malone says.
Malone was fortunate enough to utilize both her major and minor this summer through an internship with Land O’Lakes. “I’m looking forward to furthering my education in agriculture and ways agriculture can leverage technology through my full-time job in IT with Land O’Lakes.”
Burtis doesn’t know what her future path may bring, but she is driven by a desire to leverage her strengths and knowledge to help others achieve healthy, sustainable lifestyles. “I don’t know exactly what that will entail, but I do know I will do everything I can to make it happen,” she says. “In the meantime, I will be seeking opportunities that align with this goal and expanding my knowledge through education and experience.”
She also has a message to other undergraduate students: explore beyond the realm of your major. “Even if you don’t have the time to fully complete a minor, enroll in a few classes on a subject that has always interested you,” she says. “The University of Minnesota is a knowledge gold mine—the people and research that emerge from the institution constantly amaze me. Take advantage of the resources around you—you truly have nothing to lose!”
Last spring, students in the management class An Introduction to Global Entrepreneurship traveled to Cuba to learn more about that emerging market. As part of the class, students visited an organic farm in Havana that provides meat, dairy, and vegetables for a local restaurant.
“Farmers have to be very resourceful in Cuba since they can’t afford to buy fertilizers and pesticides,” says Senior Lecturer Steve Spruth, who teaches the management class. “Consequently, they have a very advanced system of organic farming. Likewise, restaurants have to be very resourceful obtaining the food ingredients that they need for their dishes.”
One of the students in the class was Clyde Carver, a management information systems junior majoring in international business. “The premise was we were going to get to know industries within Cuba and what entrepreneurs are bringing to those industries,” he says. “Cuba is Communist, but it’s growing its private sector, partially fostered by the government and partially in spite of the government.”
Carver found it interesting the way farmers work with the government. It isn’t feasible for the government to completely control the agricultural sector, but it does control the prices. “The government names a quote and the farm doesn’t have a choice with what it gets,” Carver says. “It’s an interesting dynamic you don’t see in the United States. Most crop prices are determined by the free market.”
The farmer Carver met seemed generally content with the exchange he was getting, however. “He felt like he worked for himself. He ran the farm and has a lot of people that work for him. It’s his operation, it’s his place, his house, his family lives there, the guy definitely ran the show,” Carver says. “Could the government by law theoretically take it all? Possibly. That’s kind of the scary thing about Communism.”
Carver found the farm site beautiful, almost like a resort in some areas. And it was large and expansive. “I couldn’t see the borders necessarily from any particular spot,” Carver says. The farmer was raising several kinds of animals, including goats, pigs, and varieties of poultry. “We got to see entrepreneurial things they did on a farm. The farmer was actually growing a Chinese plant that is a super-efficient animal feed,” Carver says. “He made the feed for his animals from his own crops in the most efficient way possible. There were levels of self-sustenance I couldn’t have foreseen.”
As part of the class, students were assigned a product on which to make entrepreneurial recommendations. Carver was assigned the tobacco plant. Unfortunately, the farm he visited did not grow tobacco, so he did not see it in its native state. However, he did come up with a solid plan. “We said they should use tobacco as a biofuel, for a number of reasons,” he says. “For one thing, it’s not a food item, which is beneficial because biofuels tend to compete with the food supply from time to time. Also, Cuba has a competitive edge from its location on the Earth. It grows nice tobacco and lots of it.”
The Cuban government actually manufactures the tobacco seed. It has labs that test the seeds each year and distributes them to the farmers. “They have extensive knowledge of growing tobacco,” Carver says.
It’s not certain whether the Cuban government will follow Carver’s recommendation, but it is certain that Carver will never forget Cuba. “It was a really cool experience,” he says. “Of all the site visits, it was the most memorable to me.”