The story of Vinton Popcorn is one that details a great deal of community history, mentorship, commitment, and creative minds that have led to today’s success. Vinton popcorn was started in the 1940s and was sold several times before the end of operation in 1998. Although there were several different owners there were several things that remained consistent: the name Vinton Popcorn; and the reputation of a widely known tasty treat. Vinton Popcorn was responsible for number of jobs in the community as well as feeding many Americans a high quality product that garnered attention from numerous news outlets throughout its years of operation. It was not until 2011 that several community leaders and the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District came together to bring this community staple back to life. It was decided that Vinton Popcorn would live on as a project for local students involved with the entrepreneurship course at Vinton-Shellsburg High School. The beauty of this partnership is the recognition of the strengths of the student body and the ability to transform aspects of our current educational model to focus on hands-on, project based learning.
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The unique advantage of this project is that Vinton Popcorn is completely run by the students. The students are responsible for the accounting, marketing, production, sales, and administration of the company. Having a completely student run business comes with many challenges and opportunities. One of the most evident challenges is the cycle of human resources the company goes through. There is constant transition with each new trimester and work to get new students acquainted with the company, its practices, and its product. With this challenge, opportunity is quick to follow. Each new student that comes into the company has a different perspective and is another creative mind. These creative minds work together to provide top quality service and products. Most recently, the company had a yearning to provide a new variety to their customers. After community and client research, they decided to start production of caramel flavored popcorn. This product hit the shelves in January 2016 and is now their top selling product
The enhancement and development of the participating students’ 21st century skills is undeniable. Each day the students are faced with issues or obstacles they must tackle together with their team. They have gained experience managing and facilitating through tough conversations with their peers, vendors, board members, and clients. They have also gained knowledge of the many steps it takes to be a compliant business, including navigating FDA regulations. The hard work and dedication of these students does not go unnoticed. The Vinton Popcorn board, which is made up of community and business leaders, serves as a source of input and an outlet for students to remain engaged within the community as well s other communities throughout the state. The board recognizes students on a monthly and annual basis and rewards them with Vinton Unlimited Dollars and cash awards as a token of appreciation for the work and value they have given the company and educational process.