The Center for Franchise Development in the Steven L. Craig School of Business and Technology at Missouri Western State University will partner with Auntie Anne’s, the pretzel franchise, to allow Missouri Western students and alumni to compete in a class this spring to own and operate their own business.

“During the Applied Business Ownership class each spring, 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.”

The class is offered to graduating seniors and alumni. At the end of the semester, students can choose to 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.

Heather Neary, president of Auntie Anne’s, came to St. Joseph to participate in the announcement.

“Auntie Anne’s is celebrating our thirtieth birthday this year, and as we reflect on our past of entrepreneurship – Anne herself was an incredible entrepreneur – 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,” Neary said.

The Center for Franchise Development grew out of a unique partnership between Missouri Western; Craig, who is CEO of Craig Realty Group and benefactor of the Craig School of Business and Technology; and various franchisors.

“I’m just delighted that we’ve forged this partnership,” Craig said. “It’s a next critical step for our program. For me it’s especially nice because I’ve been an Auntie Anne’s franchisee for many, many years, so I knew the type of products, service and the leadership they have in their group would be a great fit for us.”

Although this is the first time an Auntie Anne’s franchise will be the focus of the class from start to finish, it won’t be the first store in the program. Allie Canaday, a 2011 graduate, opened an Auntie Anne’s in Lehi, Utah with husband Matt in 2014. Canaday’s first franchise was a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Additional Auntie Anne’s locations in the program include Castle Rock, Colorado, and East Hills Mall in St. Joseph.

Since 2009, 28 graduates of the Franchise Development Center have opened or purchased more than 40 stores across the country.

Missouri Western State University is a comprehensive regional university providing a blend of traditional liberal arts and professional degree programs. The university offers student-centered, high quality instruction that focuses on experience-based learning, community service, and state-of-the-art technology. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit