A couple of weeks ago Melissa Schwan, from Vinton Unlimited, and I wrote a story and helped the students of the Vinton Popcorn Company create a video to help tell their story. The story has been published in this week’s Iowa’s Creative Corridor Digest as the “Big Story”! Watch the video and read the story below!
The story of Vinton Popcorn is one that details a great deal of community history, mentorship, commitment and creative minds that have led to today’s success.
Vinton Popcorn was started in the 1940s and was sold several times before the end of operation in 1998. Although there were several different owners there were some things that remained consistent: the name Vinton Popcorn; and the reputation of this widely known, tasty treat. Vinton Popcorn was responsible for a number of jobs in the community as well as feeding many Americans a high-quality product that garnered attention from numerous news outlets throughout its years of operation.
It was not until 2011 that several community leaders and the Vinton-Shellsburg School District came together to bring this community staple back to life. It was decided Vinton Popcorn would live on as a project for local students involved in the entrepreneurship course at the Vinton-Shellsburg High School. The beauty of this partnership is the recognition of the strengths of the student body and the ability to transform aspects of our current educational model to focus on hands-on, project-based learning.
The unique advantage of this project is that Vinton Popcorn is completely run by the students. The students are responsible for the accounting, marketing, production, sales, and administration of the company. Having a completely student-run business comes with its challenges and opportunities. One of the most evident challenges is the cycle of human resources the company goes through. There is constant transition with each new trimester and work to get new students acquainted with the company, its practices, and its product. With this challenge, opportunity is quick to follow. Each new student that comes into the company has a different perspective and is another creative mind. These creative minds work together to provide top-quality service and new products. Most recently, the company had a yearning to provide a new variety to their customers. After a community and client survey, they decided to start production of caramel-flavored popcorn. This product hit the shelf in January 2016 and is now their top-selling product.
The enhancement and development of the participating students’ 21st Century skills is undeniable. Each day these students are faced with a number of issues or obstacles they must tackle with their team. They have gained experience managing and facilitating tough conversations with their peers, vendors, board members and clients. They have also gained the knowledge of the many steps it takes to have a compliant business and product, including navigating FDA regulations.
The hard work and dedication of these students does not go unnoticed. The Vinton Popcorn Board, which is entirely made up of business and community leaders, serves as a source of input and an outlet for the students to remain engaged within the community as well as other communities throughout the state. Recently, the board members made the decision to recognize one valuable student employee each year. This has resulted in a small cash award given to a graduating senior on their annual Senior Awards Night. This is a small token for this student to truly understand the direct value they had on the future of the company.
To order your Vinton Popcorn, please visit www.vintonpopcornproject.com.
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