On-campus Ice Cream Parlor Gives Business Students a Chance to Taste Success

News Story: October 18, 2012

Sacred Heart University’s new ice cream parlor serves not just handcrafted, gourmet ice cream, but a real taste of what it takes to succeed in business.

Located on the first floor of Roncalli Hall, which houses Sacred Heart’s John F. Welch College of Business, the ice cream shop will feature handmade ice cream from Walnut Beach Creamery in Milford and be 100 percent run by undergraduate Welch business students.

The shop, scheduled to open by the end of October, is the latest addition to The Welch Experience—an innovative program that through community-based internships, mentorships and other opportunities provides Sacred Heart students the diverse professional experiences needed to effectively explore career options and succeed in today’s competitive business world.

Overseen by Welch College Director of Student Experience Sean Heffron, students will be responsible for everything from creating new flavors and purchasing supplies to scheduling needed staff, creating a marketing plan and managing the financials. Eleven Welch Scholars—sophomores and juniors chosen by faculty for their academic achievement and entrepreneurial abilities—will serve as middle managers, with freshmen work study students scooping the ice cream and running the cash register.

“Every detail and, ultimately, the shop’s success or failure, will be up to them,” said Heffron. “They’ll sink or swim together and learn a lot of important, real-life business lessons along the way.”

To build buzz while the store gets set up, and staff gets prepared and trained, involved Welch students have been giving away ice cream. They pushed ice cream carts around campus the day freshmen moved in at the end of August, as well as at various September events. They began making their first actual sales earlier this month at Homecoming and expect that by the time the shop’s doors open, there will be few on campus who won’t want to stop in for at least a peek, Heffron said.

Heffron and the students are grateful to Dean of Students Larry Wielk for his support of the project. “He has been a tremendous help getting this project up and running. It is a collaboration between student affairs and academic affairs,” Heffron said.

Like the Milford store, Walnut Beach Creamery at Sacred Heart will feature a “rustic, fantastical décor,” Heffron said, with artificial grass, fake trees and a few park benches. Service will be primarily take-away, though the benches will give customers the opportunity to sit.

“One of the primary pieces of feedback we’ve gotten from business students in recent years is ‘No more fake projects. We want to learn from real work,’ ” Heffron explained. “We also know from talking to employers from throughout the region that real-life experience is one of the most important things we can give students to best prepare them to become future business leaders and take their career goals to the highest possible level. So that’s what we created. Now, it’s up to students to make it a success—though it’s important to note that sometimes our most valuable lessons come from our failures.”

Welch students running Walnut Beach Creamery have already, however, had a taste of success and in more than one way. Big Red, the flavor they designed to be the store’s signature offering, is already in demand and asked for at all the giveaways. Named after the school’s mascot, Big Red is a mix of red velvet cheesecake ice cream and fudge-covered, caramel-graham cluster clodhoppers.

“The quality of all the flavors of this ice cream is second to none, and that it’s craft ice cream—meaning each batch is made individually by hand—allows us to do a whole lot with it,” Heffron said. “There’s so much room for growth, and the business model we’re using is empowering for our students. They own, and are going to grow, this business. It’s really exciting. Truly, the sky’s the limit.”