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Shirts, slushies and spirit

Business students plan and operate school store

Senior Noe Martinez hoisted up the exterior window screen of the Wolf Den school store at Wyoming High School. 

Moments later, students passing by asked if the store was open. Though Noe was just showing a visitor how the store looks from the outside, it was evident how quickly students line up for slushies, cookies and other items.

Taylor Ross helps keep track of store inventory

The spirit store — the place to get the latest black and purple gear– is an entrepreneurial endeavor built from scratch by students in teacher John Bushen’s business management and marketing class. 

A tight-knit crew of eight students plan, order, keep track of sales, stock inventory, design the space and basically do everything else involved in running a small business. They are overseen by Bushen and “Wolf Den mom” Jodi Goff, a district accountant.

“We started with a strong marketing plan,” said Noe, who has been involved with the store since it opened last year. “We were trying to see what  people wanted.”

That meant surveying students on items they like and coming up with a retail plan. They soon landed on a big hit– slushies, which they serve in different flavors from machines.

“They helped the store start up,” Noe said.

The sweet, icy drinks– made with 100 percent fruit juice– remain a go-to for students, who then often browse other offerings in the small former concession area located near the gym. Students cash in “Caught Being An 11” tickets, earned for good behavior as part of the school’s Alpha Wolf 11 program, for the treats.

The Wolf is In

The store offers Nike gear and less expensive brands of Wolf apparel. There are stress balls, pop-sockets, scrunchies and cups sporting the Wyoming Wolf logo. New inventory orders are based on demand and trial and error. Students have learned that long-sleeved T-shirts are popular, but track shorts tend to sit on the shelves. They’ve learned to bundle less popular items with in-demand ones to boost sales.

“My department is inventory,” explained senior Taylor Ross. “Inventory makes sure the store is organized. We design it. We make sure all the inventory is counted and that we have new inventory coming in.”

Senior Noe Martinez opens up the school spirit shop, which he’s been involved with running since last year

Other students work in marketing, finance and purchasing — departments they interviewed with Bushen to operate — and they all work together to keep things going smoothly. “Another responsibility of ours is working as a team — learning how to engage with others and respect other people’s opinions,” Taylor said.

Before the school year ends, students will rotate departments to get a sense of how each works.

With Goff and Bushen as mentors, the store has developed into a sustainable presence at the school. Proceeds are being saved to go back to the school and benefit teachers and students in some way. School pride is evident in the number of students wearing gear.

Students also staff the store themselves, rotating shifts during lunch twice a week and at basketball games. A full online Wolf Den store has proven popular for community members.

Building Character and Skills 

Junior Ashley Soto said she’s enjoying learning about marketing, making posters, posting on social media and monitoring what students like. “I would like to go into business, marketing or graphic design,” she said. “It’s prepared me a lot.”

Operating a store is a better lesson in business than any lecture or text provides.

“The hands-on exposure is better for them than a classroom experience,” Bushen said. “They  are getting their hands dirty, learning how to figure out cost analysis and how to market a business. … For them it’s a good character building experience.”

Goff said she sees students grow their skills and develop confidence. 

“The biggest thing is their pride. Last year was rocky as our first year. This year they’ve taken it and run with it. They are coming up with ideas, owning it and they are loving it.”Wyoming High School is currently under renovation and in fall 2021 the Wolf Den will move to a 900 square-foot space.

Norell Gill and other students run the Wolf Den as a business
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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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