Students Gain Business Experience

Posted on Nov 20, 2014

Peterson speaks to Columbia Basin Skill CenterStudents at the Columbia Basin Skills Center are getting real-life hands-on experience in innovation, product development, market entry strategies, logistics, and international business. Student in the Culinary Arts, Pre-Engineering, Advanced Manufacturing, and Entrepreneurship programs have teamed up to design, prototype, test and market innovative food safety products and food items.

Their work and products have the caught the attention of Spokane Based Zaycon Foods, a national retailer of farm fresh food products with strong sales in all 48 contiguous states. The company is now looking at international markets and has been working with Allan Peterson and Vern Jenkins, Certified Global Business Professionals with the Washington State University Small Business Development Center.

Peterson’s office is at the Grant County Economic Development Council and he was the connection between Zaycon and the Skills Center project. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to see what is happening here since day one,” said Peterson. “They have a great ecosystem of innovation that has naturally emerged from having all these programs housed under one roof.”

When Peterson saw that the students were collaborating to create new products, test them, modify them, and bring them to market he realized there was a real world application for their work.

“They were going through the business development process already,” explained Peterson. “By connecting them with businesses in the area they can get feedback and support from professionals who have careers in the very fields they are interested in. They also get to work on some amazing projects that have the potential to be international in scale.”

Matt Kunz, Product and Market Development for Spokane based Zaycon Foods, visited the Skills Center with Jenkins and Peterson and answered student’s questions about how businesses take products into new markets.

Kunz recently attended trade missions in Asia and met with companies that are anxious to import US products. Kunz said that U.S. food brands automatically have a reputation for being high quality in Asia because of the strict safety standards and requirements that are set by the Food and Drug Administration. One company he met with was looking for a US company to provide them with cookie dough for a very unique oatmeal cookie that meets Asian tastes.

“When I heard about the cookie dough request I thought there’s no reason the culinary students couldn’t develop this recipe,” Peterson said. He approached the Skills Center with the idea and they ran with it.

In addition to the culinary students involvement the entrepreneur students are learning about market entry and exporting while the Pre-Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing students are tackling product packaging and inventing a special knife that can cut four cookies from the dough at a time.

“Everyone is getting a chance to work on a real world business project,” said Vance Frost, Entrepreneurship Instructor for the Skills Center. “What a fantastic learning opportunity this is and just think how it’s going to look on their resume a few years from now when they can say ‘yeah, I’ve helped design and deliver a real product to an international market.’”