Michael’s Dairy will be hitting the road soon with its much-loved ice cream, thanks to a newly acquired trailer outfitted to serve up frozen treats and input from Prof. James Patsalides’ Business 311: Entrepreneurship I class. The trailer took its “maiden journey” at Commencement 2023.
Working throughout the spring semester with Keith Padin, manager of auxiliary business operations at Mitchell College, the Entrepreneurship students examined all facets of the Michael’s Dairy Ice Cream Trailer business. Their project included four workshops: value mapping, business modeling, go-to-market strategy and a retrospective.
“Adding catering to the Michael’s Dairy operation has been an idea for some time,” Padin said.
Emily (Pratts) Pratts ’23 said that Patsalides was helpful in directing the class “to think of improvements or other ideas that may work better for a functioning business. He taught us that when writing down business ideas, to always include some worst-case scenarios. That way you can get in the mindset of thinking of safety plans for those scenarios and other ways to produce income from the business.”
Padin said that the worst-case scenarios that the students conceived would help with planning for the trailer, including things like running out of gas, dealing with melted ice cream and poor customer service. They also balanced those negative aspects against existing positives, such as “same great ice cream, amazing staff and lots of festivals and sporting events in the area to go to,” he said.
According to Patsalides, the course was the first in a process now underway of building out a Business Learning Lab in collaboration with Michael’s Dairy and other campus businesses, including The Red Barn, campus rentals and the campus gear shop.
“The connections enable real interaction between students and the staff running the businesses. This ‘authentic’ learning helps them recognize that the skills they are gaining are transferable to any job. In the Entrepreneurship class, we used the Michael’s Dairy project as an exemplar of how to complete each part of another class project—individual business model development. The ice cream trailer workshops we conducted completed the same deliverables students would subsequently develop for their own business ideas. This seemed to work really well and provided both great experiential learning for the students and useful advice and insights for the Michael’s Dairy Ice Cream Trailer work,” said Patsalides.
Rising junior Alexander (Zander) Moubayed said that working on the ice cream trailer project “helped me gain a deeper understanding of business operations and was a fun experience. Seeing the ice cream trailer finished on the last day of class was my favorite part of the experience,” he added. “It felt like we were part of the process, and even Keith said that we should be proud and thanked us for our perspectives and outside-the-box thinking. Our brainstorming sessions and ideas actually helped him out, and both Michael’s Dairy and Mitchell might benefit from it, which is most certainly a valid reason to be proud.”
Pratts agreed and said, “Working on the ice cream trailer project felt like we were part of the team that put it all together. The staff that has been working on this and the Michael’s Dairy Board that brought it to life actually listened to our ideas, and it showed in the final product. It was really nice to see as a student because you get to essentially see your ideas that you spent weeks coming up with in real life, and it was incredible!”
“With a mission of supporting our students (all proceeds from the dairy directly support Mitchell College students), to get to share in the building process with them was an amazing experience. To hear input from a core demographic and customer base was invaluable,” Padin said.
The Michael’s Dairy Ice Cream Trailer was open for business at Commencement 2023.