May 31, 2024–Caleb Keling, a 2024 graduate of the Craig School of Business at Missouri Western State University, was awarded an Auntie Anne’s franchise in the latest competition sponsored by Missouri Western’s Center for Franchise Development. 

“This has been a goal of mine for quite some time now, junior year in high school to be specific,” Keling said. “I want to thank my family… everyone involved with the Craig School of Business and Missouri Western. Not only for giving me the opportunity to own a business but also giving me the skills to own that business.”

Keling, from St. Joseph, was a student in a senior-level Applied Business Ownership class this spring. Students in the class prepared business plans, and Keling presented his plan to a panel of judges that included Steven L. Craig, creator of the franchise competition, other business leaders and Missouri Western graduates who won franchises in previous years.

Keling graduated earlier this month with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a concentration in human resources. He completed a human resources internship at Clarios last fall. He has also been employed as a dance instructor at The Dance Arts Center, a choreographer at Central High School, a warehouse employee at Schneitter Fireworks and a photographer at DanceOut LLC. At Missouri Western, he was vice president of the Winter Guard and a member of the Honors Program. 

The franchise awarded to Keling is the 35th store to be awarded through the program founded in 2009. Many of the alumni have expanded on their initial business: they currently own a total of 54 stores in 10 states, employing 724 people with annual sales of more than $34 million.

winner Caleb Keling, surrounded by family, MWSU President and staff, and others.  staff

The Center for Franchise Development 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. So far, the donations have totaled approximately $367,000.

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