September 20, 2010

From Cookies to the Corner Office

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Even with all six mini Otis Spunkmeyer cookie ovens blazing, Jenn Scheffer's marketing and business management students can't keep up with demand for the fresh-baked, chocolatey confections that normally drive profits at the Campus Corner well into the black.
“Anyone who's waiting for cookies, you have to wait outside,” said someone whose job it was to monitor the school store capacity. “Seven more minutes till the cookies are ready.”
Several students go back to the cafeteria and form a line – three hot cookies for a buck is a sweet deal worth waiting for, and as long as there is still time on the clock before the next class bell, they will wait.
Inside the store sounds of Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh blast from the sound system, part of a retro funk rotation meant to provide a little aural adrenaline to what is a party atmosphere with all the trimmings.
“We're known for our cookies,” said Scheffer, keeping tabs on students whose hands were full with the non-stop convoy of customers into the store, thanks to a successful grand reopening marketing campaign.
Kyle Vynoriuis, right, is ready to race into the Campus Corner for cookies.
Respecting the 12-student maximum rule and waiting their turn are,
 from left, Ben Reese and Mike Storti,
 seated, Mike Belanger and Alex Suffreti.
“We're also launching a new clothing collection, 'Pinkerton Classic Collection – it's very collegiate and high quality, and it's actually stylish and trendy. Sort of Abercrombie-esque,” said Scheffer, who has spent the past two years working hard to elevate Campus Corner into a gold-standard school store.
Don't let her diminutive exterior fool you. Scheffer's only motivation is giving her students some real-world marketing experience – they call most of the shots, checking in with Scheffer from time to time for guidance.
“Some of the ovens were broken, and I said, 'Why are you telling me? You know what you have to do; just let me know when the ovens have arrived,” said Scheffer. “I wouldn't call it a sink-or-swim attitude, but I want them to be able to run this store like they own it. Solve the problems; make it work.”
Her students pay the bills, decide the price points and which products to carry.
Cookie sales account for approximately half of the weekly $600 in sales, which includes a 25 to 30 percent profit margin, said Scheffer. Her goal is to keep prices reasonable but competitive.
Instructor Jenn Scheffer, NickValentine,
Megan McMahon and Kaitlyn Burke.
Pinkerton's marketing program is full of students who want to become entrepreneurs, or have already made plans for college as marketing and business majors. She has three senior marketing students – Nick Valentine, Megan McMahon and Kaitlyn Burke, who are her management team.
“It's really like extreme real world experience,” said Burke.
“It's like an intensive internship,” said McMahon, who is looking at a future in music or fashion marketing.
Scheffer is proud of the fact that Campus Corner has been recognized as one of 43 high school stores in the country with national certification as a school-based enterprise through DECA – Distributive Education Club of America. They have earned the gold standard two years in a row, and are going for a third.
“Becoming certified includes writing a policy manual and establishing rules for the enterprise, which must meet certain criteria – there is bronze, silver and gold; we're going for the gold again,” Scheffer said.
She is not one to be satisfied with the status quo – Scheffer wants to expand the space currently used to sell everything from Green Mountain coffee and Power Bars to a school-based helium balloon delivery service. She also wants to explore online sales – perhaps using Facebook and Paypal, making it easier for students or alumni to purchase the new and improved official Pinkerton gear directly.
“I treat this like a business. I set high expectations because I want my students to be able to enter the business world and bypass entry level jobs – they are ready for management when they leave,” said Scheffer.
“I give them quite a bit of autonomy, and I have a vision, but I can't do it alone; the transformation of this store comes from the students, and they worked hard for this grand opening – from painting to planning to execution,” Scheffer said.

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