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.
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.
“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