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Senior business student wins franchise competition

Last Updated 12 January, 2017

This semester, three Northwest Nazarene University seniors participated in a course titled “Franchise Venture,” which tasked each student to prepare a business plan for a Cherry Berry Self-Serve Yogurt Bar franchise, a subsidiary of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. This is the second year of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s partnership with NNU to support this entrepreneurial competition. Last year’s winner owns and operates a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory location in Petaluma, California.

On Wednesday, April 27, the three students presented their plans before an eight-judge panel that included NNU alumnus Casey Crail who is university program manager and field consultant at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Following the presentations, the panel selected a winner who will receive his own Cherry Berry franchise located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. After a short but difficult deliberation, Martin Lira was announced as the franchise recipient.

“I feel excited. I’ve been working hard the whole semester towards this, but it looks like it is just barely getting started.”

Lira is a graduating global business and accounting major with a Spanish minor from Nampa, Idaho. He graduated from Skyview High School in 2011. After being awarded the franchise, he said, “I feel excited. I’ve been working hard the whole semester towards this, but it looks like it is just barely getting started. The next step is getting packed and starting to plan for the big move to Oklahoma.”

Crail said of the selection process, “All three students did a great job, and I think what made Martin stand apart was that every section of his business plan was detailed to the point that I could see an existing franchisee write it. I feel very confident that we can plug him into a store and see him from day one feel comfortable with the operations of the store and be able to grow it better than we could as a company.”

There are 218 stores in the Cherry Berry family of yogurt brands—U-Swirl is the parent company. While a new yogurt location would cost from $360,000 to over $460,000, Lira will have the opportunity to own a store that opened in 2011 for about the price of a new car. He will receive financing through Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for five years, which is an incredibly unique opportunity for a new college graduate. In addition, he will receive support from the franchisor and volunteering mentors.

Crail said of the partnership between NNU and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, “It is exciting to see the franchise venture program at NNU continue to grow and receive more interest from students who want to learn more about entrepreneurship and have a passion for running their own business ventures. The winning student will put the whole of their business education to practical use—from marketing to finance to management.

“We enjoy watching the young entrepreneurs grow as professionals and make an impact in the communities where they do business. Today’s funding climate is more challenging than in years past, and it has taken a noticeable toll on entrepreneurship. Without financial backing and education, even the most enterprising graduates will struggle to live their dream of business ownership, which is why this partnership between NNU and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is so impactful.”

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