HWS students in ENTR 400, the entrepreneurial senior capstone class, got a savory taste of real-world problem solving recently when they were charged with helping to market Geneva’s F.L.X. Fry Bird, an artisanal fried chicken restaurant that is part of the F.L.X. Hospitality group.
“The capstone class is an opportunity for students to participate with real business owners and address real problems,” says their instructor, Margiloff Family Entrepreneurial Fellow Ed Bizari. “It gives them an opportunity to try, fail and adjust throughout the process, which is so much of what entrepreneurship is about.”
Students met Maddie D’Amico, general manager of Fry Bird, at the beginning of the project to discuss the challenges facing the restaurant and came up with a series of questions. “We wanted to know the difference between locals, tourists and students,” says D’Amico. “What are they looking for, what do they want, when do they go out to eat and is the price right?” They also researched various take-out containers to explore ways to reduce those costs.
Over the course of the following four weeks, students broke into groups to address each question, conducted face-to-face customer discovery interviews, analyzed their findings to identify trends and themes and developed recommendations. Finally, they presented their suggestions to D’Amico and Isabel Bogadtke, general manager at F.L.X. Wienery, another restaurant in the F.L.X. group.
Joseph “Willie” Paul ’20, a political science major, was part of the group that looked into the tourist market for the Seneca Lake region. “This project taught me firsthand how important it is to go out and talk to customers to see what they want in a product or company,” he says. “I learned how important it is for you as a ‘consultant’ to buy into a project and really dig deep to find solutions to the company’s problems, because that is their livelihood and business.”
Elisabeth Rowedder ’20 and her team explored solutions for the restaurant’s to-go menu. The high cost of environmentally friendly containers reduces Fry Bird’s profits for take-out meals, she says, so her team advised on options to remain environmentally friendly while decreasing costs. The political science major relished the chance to apply her classroom skills to the task of exploring alternative solutions.
“I was very excited to be working on a plan for a business that could actually be implemented,” she says. “It helped me push past metaphorical processes and into the real world.”