A requirement of Senior Lecturer Frank Beil's Business Feasibility and Planning course at the Carlson School is to have groups of students craft and present a business plan. For one group this past spring, its plan was more than just a class exercise; it was designed for an already existing, nearly two-year old business.
The plan was for HotWokDelivery, a business founded by student Vuthy Taing in November of 2010. "I have cut my teeth in several different restaurants working as a host, waiter, and manager," he says. "From this experience and analyzing the marketplace I discovered that there are no franchisors of Asian delivery food." Seeing a niche, Taing recruited two of his friends to launch their first restaurant in Coon Rapids. The outlet generated $600,000 in revenue in its first year and expanded to another location in Buffalo. Where to go from here provided the impetus for generating the business plan.
"The idea was very stimulating and it was something that I haven't primarily seen before. Therefore, I wanted to join Vuthy's group and take this business plan to the next step," says fellow classmate Rahul Patel.
Seth Saeugling also was eager to join the group. "I was very interested because this was an already operating, existing business," he says. "The process of franchising and expanding was very new and very exciting to me."
Bringing Tyler Ueland on board completed the group. "After learning about what type of business this was to become, I was surprised throughout that it hadn't been done already," he says. "I was also surprised how quickly I developed a taste for Chinese food."
As a group, the four began work on their business plan. "We held many meetings that seemed only to decide what we would do during our next meeting. However, looking back, those were the meetings where the ideas of what the business was stewed in my mind," Ueland says. "When it finally came down to writing out the business plan, it did not feel like creating a new business on a sheet of paper as much as just finally writing down what we've been cooking the entire time."
Taing says the team began by sitting down with John Stavig, the director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School, to tap into his business experience and expertise. They also interviewed individuals from Solo's Pizza and Davanni's to get insight on their business.
"In addition, we researched existing delivery restaurants such as Jimmy John's and Domino's Pizza to make sure HotWokDelivery projections were in line with the industry," Taing says. "We incorporated the research and the insight from local business leaders and what we learned in Frank's class to craft our own business plan."
This plan is a further development of Taing's existing business concept. "Basically his two existing locations serve great food in a great atmosphere but are in a crappy location," Saeugling says. "Our final plan tweaks what has worked and hasn't worked with HotWok in the past to find an even stronger concept for the business' third location."
Ueland says the group wanted to take the concept Taing started in the suburbs and make it something that would be successful in a city or college campus setting. Thus, the goal is to build the third location at the U. This will be followed by more units elsewhere in 2013 and 2014. "We plan on pursuing a fast-growth strategy by franchising the HotWokDelivery concept in 2015," Taing says.
Besides coming up with a feasible business plan, Taing says this class gave him much more. "You were able to build relationships with others that you would never have fostered on your own," he says. "This class has connected with local entrepreneurs and I've made lifelong friends with my fellow classmates."