The Center for Franchise Development in the Craig School of Business and Technology has partnered with Auntie Anne’s, the pretzel franchise, that allowed Missouri Western students and alumni to compete in a class this spring to own and operate their own business.

The Applied Business Ownership class, offered each spring to graduating seniors and business alumni, students develop the skills and strategies required to own a business by studying a specific franchise opportunity and developing a business plan, said Pam Klaus, director of the Center for Franchise Development.

This year, for the first time, the franchise opportunity will be provided by Auntie Anne’s.

“They’ve been great partners to work with, and we’re very excited to welcome them aboard,” Klaus said.

At the end of the semester, students present their business plans to a panel of judges, who determine if one of them will be awarded the opportunity. The program provides initial capital for the stores, which the alumni pay back over five years. The entrepreneurs also receive ongoing support from faculty members, the Craig School of Business and Technology Advisory Council, Steve Craig and previous winners.

“Auntie Anne’s is celebrating our 30th birthday this year, and as we reflect on our past of entrepreneurship, we’re very excited to partner with Missouri Western to continue that history and bring new franchisees into our system to continue to make Auntie Anne’s the best pretzel brand in the land,” said Heather Neary, president of Auntie Anne’s.

“I’m just delighted that we’ve forged this partnership,” said Steve Craig, benefactor for whom the School of Business and Technology is named. “It’s a next critical step for our program.”

Although this is the first time an Auntie Anne’s franchise will be the focus of the class, it won’t be the first store in the program. Allie Canaday ’11, opened an Auntie Anne’s in Lehi, Utah with husband Matt ’14, and Stephanie Tripp ’12 operates the franchise in East Hills Mall in St. Joseph.

The Center for Franchise Development is celebrating the program’s 10th anniversary this year. Since 2009, 30 graduates have opened or purchased more than 40 stores across the country.