March 10, 2023–Just a few years ago, Missouri Western State University alum Stephanie Tripp was a classroom teacher who had no idea that entrepreneurship was for her. After entering the world of business ownership through the Craig School of Business Applied Business Ownership class, she operates six franchise locations, including an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and a Cinnabon at the newly opened terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
Being a part of the new $1.5 billion terminal was a lesson in persistence. Tripp said she started trying to secure a location in the airport soon after Kansas City voters approved the project in 2017.
“I cold-called, emailed, visited and met with many different people who were a part of the development of the airport,” she said. “Even though some were more than doubtful, even suggesting I save my efforts, I persisted.”
In 2020, she joined the bid of Vantage Airport Group, which was selected to provide the airport’s concessions. On Feb. 28, when the new terminal opened, Tripp’s Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon were among the food offerings available to travelers.
“Being at the new airport on opening day with her was an amazing experience,” said Pam Klaus ’03, director of the Center for Franchise Development in the Craig School of Business. “As Missouri Western employees, we like to say ‘I help Griffons succeed,’ and watching our graduates’ entrepreneurial journeys really embodies that!”
The Applied Business Ownership class gives senior-level students and alumni the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship and compete for the chance to own and operate their own franchise business. Throughout the semester, students prepare a business plan for a franchise store. At the end of the semester, they present their plans to an interview panel made up of Steve Craig, benefactor of the Craig School of Business; Missouri Western graduates who won franchises in previous years; Missouri Western faculty members; other business leaders; and representatives of franchise companies. The panel then selects a winner or winners.
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 Advisory Council, Craig and each other. Additionally, the owners are expected to donate a portion of their store’s proceeds back to the University.
Tripp graduated from Missouri Western in 2012 with an education degree, and taught in the St. Joseph School District for four years. But she also was helping to run a family-owned lawn-care business, and wanted to learn more, so she enrolled in the class in 2016.
“Seven years ago, I had no idea about business,” she said. “I was a classroom teacher. Before attending the Craig School of Business, I had no idea entrepreneurship was for me. I had no idea the fulfillment I would get out of the entrepreneurship lifestyle.”
Tripp was awarded the opportunity to open a new Auntie Anne’s in St. Joseph’s East Hills Shopping Center. Her portfolio quickly expanded to include locations in Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas; Branson, Missouri; and now, two franchises at KCI. The support she receives from the Craig School of Business and her fellow alumni is invaluable, and she talks to them daily.
“Professional help and other resources are pricey for beginning and even veteran operators, so within our CSB group, we help each other with lease assignments/negotiations, employment retention, tax questions, marketing, payroll services… the list goes on and on,” Tripp said. “The relationships the CSB created are unmatched. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Steven Craig’s Craig School of Business and the CSB alumni.”
Although Tripp’s entrepreneurial journey has been quite a career change, she has no regrets.
“As a teacher, I was making a big impact in my community,” she said. “As an entrepreneur, I am making a big impact in our region.”
Missouri Western State University is a student-centered learning community preparing individuals for lives of excellence through applied learning. 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 missouriwestern.edu.