Terre Haute pizzeria owners look to ISU students for advice

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
May 5, 2010

 

A Terre Haute pizzeria that opened for business in April has a plan for how to succeed during its next three years of operation thanks to a group of Indiana State University students.

In January, Zack Wise and Joni Foulkes had done little more than obtain a piece of property and consider a list of potential restaurant names before they began working through the steps of opening the downtown restaurant that is Wise Pies.

Without the experience they needed to open and operate a business, the two turned to ISU's Sycamore Business Advisors - a senior business experience class that operates under the direction of an ISU professor - to develop a business plan.

"When they came to us, they had the building and they were in the process of renovating it," said ISU senior Sallie Rentchler of Grantsburg, the Sycamore Business Advisors' project leader. "They knew they wanted to operate a pizzeria, but as far as how they planned to do that, they thought they'd wing it."

Under the direction of ISU Professor Arthur Sherwood, students organized themselves into teams to address the needs of Wise Pies. Students spent the spring semester analyzing the potential product, the operation, the management of employees and the anticipated customer base.

The ISU students designed menus and newspaper ads. They collected information about competitors' prices and delivery methods. They confirmed for Wise and Foulkes that their plan to serve pizza by the slice topped with fresh and unique ingredients was a good one.

"This is one of the most intense experiences business students will have during their four years in college," Sherwood said. "You can't pick up a book and read something that tells you how to solve the specific problem you're facing. You have to figure it out. And that's one of the best things about this class."

There were additional benefits for students.

Rentchler said having the opportunity to direct a team of nine through the process of getting Wise Pies up and running actually helped her land a job.

The Louisville, Ky. company that has hired her to work as an insurance underwriter was "looking for somebody who wasn't willing to sit back," Rentchler said. "They wanted someone who demonstrated the ability to step up and be a leader, who would get out there and market their name.

"This class helped me show them I could do that," she said.

Along with the start-up support the ISU students provided Wise Pies, the owners feel confident about the future of their business because of the information ISU students gave them.

"They began to help us fill in the holes and understand the gaps we weren't aware of," Foulkes said. "Now, in a bound manual, we can see our vision in a sequential orderly manner. They have given us a plan we can follow for our business, and to us that is invaluable.

"I think the [Sycamore Business Advisors] program is awesome. I was really so impressed with the fact that ISU has this and I would recommend it to anyone," Foulkes said. "It just shows that ISU has a vested interest in growth of economy here in Terre Haute."

This problem-based teaching model is one that Sherwood says speaks for itself. Since he began it at ISU in 2001, business students have been satisfying Wabash Valley clients every semester.

"When students are faced with a set of real problems, the stakes increase dramatically," Sherwood said. "Ask any of them and they will say they have felt more vested in this project than they've ever felt before."

As for the future of Wise Pies, Foulkes said they'll follow the advice of ISU students and work to cultivate downtown employees as their primary customer base before they venture outward toward Terre Haute families and ISU students.

Contact: Arthur Sherwood, associate professor of business, Business Management Organizational Department, Indiana State University at 812-237-2094 or arthur.sherwood@indstate.edu.

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790 or rachel.mcclelland@indstate.edu.