A unique program in the Craig School of Business enables business seniors to become entrepreneurs within six months of their graduation from MWSU. Qualified seniors enroll in an applied entrepreneurship class that involves writing and presenting a business plan for a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (RMCF) store. A panel of judges listens to the presentations and selects the
winner(s). Typically, more than one store is awarded each year. After winning the competition, students attend an 8-day intensive training class in Durango, Colorado, at RMCF headquarters and then take ownership of their new store. The winners have five years to repay Steve Craig who acts as their financier and business partner.
The program began in 2009 when Seth Lyons was awarded a store in Silverthorne, Colorado. Since then, 8 more graduates have been awarded stores in Nebraska, Iowa, California and Mississippi. A new store will open in November 2012 in Traverse Mountain, Utah.
Technical support and mentoring are available to the new store owners from several sources:
Volunteers from the School's Advisory Council help the graduates including Dave Shinneman, a former McDonalds franchisee; Carol Burns, Chair of the Advisory Council and business owner; Steve Michaels, business executive and graduate of MWSU.
Carol Roever, interim dean of the Craig School of Business, and CSB faculty are available to provide assistance and answer questions.
Two faculty members are specifically designated to work with the store owners: Mike West, who is a franchisee for an ice cream company, and Rick Zimmer, a CPA with much experience in small business start-ups and operations.
Perhaps most importantly, the MWSU graduates and store owners have their own network which is used to discuss operational as well as strategic issues.
This program is the result of a 3-way public/private partnership among Missouri Western State University; Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Durango, Colorado; and Steven L. Craig, entrepreneur, CEO of Craig Realty Group in Newport Beach, CA, and benefactor of the Craig School of Business at MWSU. The goal of the collaboration is the
"creation" of entrepreneurs - graduates of the MWSU School of Business - who will own and operate RMCF stores.