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Clarkson Students Partner with Scoopuccinos, St. Lawrence Chocolates to Bring Gourmet Desserts to Cheel
Freshmen enrolled in Clarkson University's School of Business class in entrepreneurship have learned and applied the concept of "innovative adaptation" in the launch of their new business, Piece of Cake. Three months after their grand opening in Clarkson's Cheel Arena complex, Piece of Cake broke even from the sale of gourmet desserts, specialty coffees, teas and drinks, as well as other delectable sweets. The business is open during the evening hours and saw significant business during hockey games. The company has also developed an on-campus delivery service and delivers gift baskets on campus.
Innovative product line; not necessarily, but the fact these students have partnered with local Potsdam businesses, including Scoopuccinos and the new St. Lawrence Chocolates, is a unique approach to the course requirement to launch a student-run business during their first year at Clarkson.
In their company's presentation to an investment panel of esteemed Clarkson alumni business practitioners and venture capitalists, Piece of Cake's management team described how they have and would continue to leverage their partnership with local businesses to analyze market research on the gourmet foods niche, while tapping the expertise and experience of Clarkson alum, successful entrepreneur and Scoopuccinos owner Michelle Sheehan.
"We really couldn't have developed our business concept without Michelle's help," said Clarkson student Lisa Gorczyca of Manlius, New York, the creative momentum for the student-run company. "We started out making warm fruit smoothies in a blender in an instructor's kitchen as part of our early market research and a chance meeting with Michelle over coffee at Scoopuccinos led to an expanded concept to include offering an array of gourmet dessert items," says Gorczyca of the new business.
"This partnership allows for cross-branding and marketing; Scoopuccinos advertises Piece of Cake in its Market Street establishment and Piece of Cake, in turn, advertises for Scoopuccinos in its Cheel location," notes Pomerville of the arrangement. The company utilizes the expertise of their business partners, including ordering food items wholesale, training in spoilage and inventory control, and obtaining advice on equipment purchases. The student-run company also carries handmade candies from the recently-established St. Lawrence Chocolates, owned and operated by Ellen Nesbitt.
The support of the university and businesses in the community, as well as a solid business plan presentation, resulted in the investment panel awarding more money to Piece of Cake than the company had requested. In rendering its decision, panelist Michael Woods, Clarkson alumni and VP of Finance for the Watertown-based Northern Federal Credit Union, advised students to invest the additional funding to explore delivery service options that would compensate for limited storefront hours. Says Pomerville of the challenge, "it gives us additional opportunities to generate profit," which the company will donate, over and above loan repayment, to CampTa-Kum-Ta, a week-long residence camp in Vermont for the region's children who have had or currently have cancer.