Students embrace business learningDebbie Griffin photo “We’re basically flipping the whole store,” said Chippewa Valley Technical College Business Management Instructor Julie Cross. She and 26 students arrived at the 2nd Chances non-profit retail store, 125 N. Main St., Friday morning Oct. 29 ready to clean and re-organize, as well as help prepare for the holiday buying season.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
“We’re basically flipping the whole store,” said Chippewa Valley Technical College Business Management Instructor Julie Cross.
She and 26 students arrived at the 2nd Chances non-profit retail store, 125 N. Main St., Friday morning Oct. 29 ready to clean and re-organize, as well as help prepare for the holiday buying season.
Store Manager Kelly Zillmer said about the students, “They’re amazing! We’ve never had anything like this before.”
Zillmer said the store, proceeds from which benefit the River Falls-based Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence, can always use more volunteer help.
With retirees as many of the store’s helpers, the manager especially values having a crew to do the heavy lifting and cleaning.
The CVTC students not only provided manpower, but also brain power to enhance the business’ success. Zillmer said 2nd Chances normally starts about four months ahead of time to prepare for Christmas. With the students’ help, it took only a day.
They moved all items in the store to make room for holiday merchandise, grouping together like items such as furniture, kids’ toys, linens, sporting equipment and more.
In the big, front window, students arranged a big bookcase with holiday trinkets and erected multiple holiday trees, including lights and decorations.
Cross said, “The students get really excited about these opportunities because they get to apply what they learn.”
They devised the production plan for their four hours of work at 2nd Chances -- who would do what and when. Cross said in the business-management course she teaches, students focus on controlling, leading, organizing and planning projects.
Also for 2nd Chances, the students were producing a store handbook, fundraising plan and volunteerism program, as well as coordinating students’ volunteer efforts.
Though some class hours were spent on the project, Cross confirms that the students also contributed their own time to make it happen.
Their instructor said about the store, “Being a non-profit, they’re really limited in what they can do with their budget.”
People usually take Cross’ class(es) on their way to an associate’s degree in business management. She said she likes to offer them hands-on experience that prepares them for work.
“I want to give them the tools to hit the ground running upon graduation,” said Cross, who recently received a student-nominated excellence-in-teaching award.
In the course of her 16-week project management course, students learn how to design, implement and evaluate projects. That includes managing the project, producing a proposal, using relevant software, working in teams, sequencing tasks, assessing and charting progress, establishing a budget and implementing the plan.
Cross said before finishing the program, students usually work as an intern. She was visiting with Zillmer about that when an idea for the class project arose.
“I thought we could do more for her than providing an intern,” said Cross.
The instructor followed up with a proposal, then 2nd Chances came to talk to the class about its needs. Soon the plan began coming together.
Zillmer said when the project started, “We’re gonna revamp the whole store!”
She said she and the volunteers are very excited to have the students’ help and expertise. Curious customers have taken an interest and asked what’s happening.
Cross said the project not only helps the local business but also gives the students hands-on experience and heightened awareness of the non-profit sector as a business-career path.
Read more on this story in the Nov. 4 print edition of the River Falls Journal.