Ethan Davis, right, loads the popper in the Vinton Popcorn classroom at VSHS.

Hannah Haisman conducts some popcorn business in the VSHS entrepreneurship classroom.

The success of the Vinton Popcorn Company at Vinton-Shellsburg High School continues to turn heads, as community leaders and educators learn more about how an entrepreneurship class is teaching business skills while reviving a brand that at times was famous across the U.S.

VSHS students Hannah Haisman, Alex Maynard and Ethan Davis spoke Friday at a gathering of the Iowa Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, which brings together the administrators, curriculum directors and instructional coaches of Iowa school districts to learn about new course opportunities.  The three students, accompanied by their teacher, Aric Chvala, and VSHS Principal, spent an hour telling the story of Vinton Popcorn.

“It was such an amazing opportunity to get to present in front of educators,” says Hannah. “They were all very interested in our program, and asked us a lot of questions.”

The trio, representing the VSHS entrepreneurship class taught by Mr. Aric Chvala answered a variety of questions about the class and the popcorn project.

“They asked us what sort of skills we’ve learned, how did we start, how do we deal with class member turn-over, how we run a business on  five hours per week, and what we do with the money, says Hannah, who said at first it felt a bit “weird” for the VS students trying to teachers about Vinton Popcorn.

“But everyone who came to hear us speak was extremely nice and respectful,” she adds. “A couple of them afterwards came up to us and said that they were going to speak with their booster clubs about switching to our popcorn.”

The VS students learned about another district interested in starting a similar program there.

“We gave them our card to help them out if they had any more questions about starting,” says Hannah.

Ethan Davis (second from left) and Alex Maynard (right) stop for a moment during a Vinton Popcorn work day to pose for a photo with classmates.

Alex, the COO of the company this year, says she definitely plans on taking it again next year, when she is a senior. In an episode of “Pop Talk,” a video series that it part of the class’s promotional program, she says that her favorite part about the class is what she is learning about business. She also says she definitely prefers caramel popcorn.

Sponsored by several Vinton area business leaders, Vinton Popcorn has the goal of teaching business skills to high school students while also reviving the memory of the original Vinton Popcorn, which area residents made and distributed throughout the nation for decades.

A high point in Vinton Popcorn history took place in 1981, when Kathryn Koob, an Iowa native and one of the hostages held in Iran for 444 days, said in an interview upon her release that she looked forward to eating Vinton Popcorn again. That led to a big spike in sales.

Like many other members of previous classes, Hannah says being part of the project is a fun way to prepare for college, and beyond.

“I have absolutely loved being a part of The Vinton Popcorn Company,” she says. “I have been able to learn many different skills such as, marketing, sales, negotiating, networking, and so much more. The things I’ve learned in this class give me an advantage as I go into business. This class actually made me realize my passion for business and is the reason that I’m choosing to major in business in college.”

Junior Alex Maynard is serving as COO of Vinton Popcorn this year. In a short video interview in the class’s series called “Pop Talks,” she says that caramel is her favorite flavor of popcorn, and adds that she definitely plans to be part of the class in her senior year. Alex says learning about business is the best thing about Vinton Popcorn.

“The presentation in Des Moines went very well,” Alex said. “I think it was a great way to share what an awesome program our school has. We definitely got our name out there a little more, and sparked some of the audience members attention for sure.
Noting that their audience had a lot of questions for them, Alex said, “I think the hard work that we put in for getting ready for the presentation was definitely worth it.”
Ethan says that ending up in Vinton Popcorn was a happy accident caused by scheduling issues.
“The reason that I joined this class actually isn’t because I wanted to,” he explains. “It was because I needed a class for my fourth period in my sophomore year. I went into the class knowing nothing, and ever since the first day I knew I made the right choice.The one thing that I like most about this class is that it gives us a unique chance to experience what it is like in a real work environment.”
The Des Moines speaking experience was fun, says Ethan, and “surprisingly a lot easier then I thought it was going to be.”
“The teachers and other staff were such a great audience; they had nice questions and treated us with the respect that they would treat every other presenter,” he adds.

See the Pop Talk video featuring Alex HERE. See the Pop Talk video featuring Hannah HERE.

“They did a great job,” says Mr. Chvala, of the three class members who represented Vinton Popcorn. “We are hoping that through our presentation that other educators will see how valuable this experience could be at their schools and consider implementing similar programs.”

To learn more about Vinton Popcorn and its history, or to place an order via the class’s web site, click HERE.

To see the Power Point presentation the students shared click here: VintonPopcorn_Presentation