DENMARK, WI — Behind every successful business is a coherent vision, managerial efficiency, adaptive tactics, and a work force. Most vitally, however, is the original ignition of an idea, brought to life only through experientially-influenced knowledge and an ability to enthuse both producers and consumers. Anything, much less a business, are subject to failure without these prerequisites.
Two Denmark students understand this fully and will put their business skills against peers from around the country this summer.
Emilia Goetsch and Rachel Altschwager recently competed in the Wisconsin Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) state conference and, “for the first time in a long time” Denmark will be represented at the National Leadership Conference later this summer.
Goetsch, a senior in her second year of competition and this year’s FBLA recruiting officer, had convinced Altschwager to join the business-minded educational competition earlier this year. Influenced by their experience with jobs in customer service the team has competed in the, “hospitality management” section of FBLA.
“I really like working with…and making people happy, solving any issues that they have. Making people happy makes me happy,” Altschwager said.
Their time in the workforce has helped them develop dynamic problem-solving skills and Goetsch, a supervisor at the Packers Pro Shop, has learned to interact with a spectrum of different people.
“[I’ve learned] how to lead different groups of people as well as respond to them. I have co-workers that are recent retirees to high school peers, so getting a feel for different demographics has definitely helped,” Goetsch said of her work influencing her FBLA competition skills.
After advancing through the regional finals via electronic testing, the duo headed to the state conference at the Appleton Performing Arts Center with fellow Viking team members Braeden Speer, Alec VandenHeuvel and Blake Bomski.
The girls qualified for the second stage of the tournament after scoring within the top eight of teams on a 100-question collaborative test on issues and concepts relating to their field. The second and final stage of the competition was something the pair knew would require some on-the-fly thinking.
Given a random business scenario, competitors had 20 minutes to organize a solution into a 7-minute presentation before a pair of judges. Having practiced with example prompts from years’ prior, the girls said they were comfortable with the timing and organizational aspects of this problem-solving match. A wide range of potential topics and a random draw did not let them get too comfortable, though.
“It could have been anything from guest service to hotel service, maintaining multiple aspects of [a hotel,] marketing aspects, restaurants or travel.” Altschwager said of the blindness heading into the competition’s decisive stage,
“It was really nerve-wracking.”
The hypothetical problem Altschwager and Goetsch were tasked with solving brought restaurant and hotel services together, imagining a declining diner attached to a tourist-rich hotel. The two judges, posing as the management team of ‘Marcos’, needed ideas on how to reverse negative reviews and receding profits.
Fusing themes of popularity and principle, the girls formed ideas which would later bring them onto the awards stage.
Mirroring well-known national chains, the girls thought that by offering half-sandwich/half-salad combos rather than full entrees, more of the hotel’s guests would stay for dinner instead of going off-campus. In addition to drawing influence from others’ ideas, the team offered a unique concept to attract a large yet specific demographic: Family-sized pasta meals.
Goetsch said the idea was to market towards families of four or more, attracting both hotel guests and neighborhood regulars.
“That way everyone’s coming together as a family, enjoying the same meal and having something to talk about.”
“We promoted the restaurant as a ‘home away from home’ and encouraged staff training and excellent customer service.” Goetsch said.
To capture younger customers, the team recommended a social media strategy based around a phrase coined by Altschwager, “Marcos is not pop culture. Marcos is home.”
The girls placed third and will compete in Anaheim, CA at the end of the June in the National Leadership Conference, earning a spot within the 4% of 250,000 FBLA members nationwide who earn such distinction.
“It’s just a tremendous honor to represent Denmark and to have learned so much here,” said Goetsch, who will be attending UW-Madison for a business major next year. Saying the honor is, “bittersweet” as she nears graduation day, Goetsch reflected on how her vision has changed since entering Denmark’s highest halls,
“Going into high school I was set on the medical career field, but with my business classes and the opportunity to do youth options through Denmark High School and take classes at UWGB, that education has definitely affirmed my belief that business is the route I want to go.”
Entering her senior year this fall Altschwager, who will be a part of the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program, talked with acquaintances from larger schools in the Green Bay metro-area and gained perspective on the “small town” aspects of Denmark.
“One thing I really like about Denmark is that it’s big enough to have these opportunities but small enough that you actually have a chance to partake in them.”
She hopes to bring more of her peers along for the ride, already contemplating her next FBLA teammate and considering taking up the recruiting role which will be left vacant by Goetsch’s graduation.
Regardless of where life will take these ladies or how their minds fare on a national level, for now they share a California destination:
“We’re gonna go to DisneyLand!”