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The Students in Free Enterprise club and Sam’s Club have financially helped three St. Thomas students implement process improvements and sustainable tools in an Eagan gas station and deli.
Since mid-October of last year, seniors Njenga Kariuki, Greg Scharine and Lora Young have worked with Lone Oak Market to decrease customer wait time and improve unnecessary bottlenecks from forming around register areas.
The $1,500 grant from Sam’s Club and $500 from SIFE helped make the project possible.
“The reason we picked Lone Oak Market in Eagan is because the owner buys a lot of his items from the local Sam’s Club, and Sam’s Club is a sponsor for SIFE,” Scharine said. “We were able to apply for a grant to help the market improve their carbon footprint and business operations somehow.”
The team began its research by taking several trips to get familiar with the set up and operation of the market. They noticed two bottlenecks would form during peak lunch hours, one from customers waiting in line to order, and another from customers waiting to pay.
“The employee would make the sandwich and then would come back and start a new order. It was a really slow process, and we saw a need in improvement,” Young said.
Kariuki said he enjoyed talking with market owner Tony Donetella about the group’s recommendations to improve the problem and was pleased at how cooperative Donetella was.
“Probably the most memorable part of the project was how Tony was so taken back about how much waste and confusion was happening in his market,” Kariuki said.
The team’s recommendations included better signage above designated food order areas, separate lines for sandwiches, ready made hot and cold food and implementing a ticket system for customers waiting in line.
During weekly two-hour visits, the group took note of what customers bought and how long the wait took to receive their food.
This week the new changes were implemented, and Young said she was proud when she received a ticket for her sandwich order.
Kariuki said seeing the outcome of their recommendations for the store was the best feeling in the world.
“We learned a great deal through this project about teamwork, learning from our mistakes and how patience pays off in the end. The store has already come a long way from when we began this project,” Kariuki said.
The group hopes their Step Up for Small Business project in the end will be picked as one of the top eight finalists by a Sam’s Club panel of representatives. The winning team will receive $1,000 and a plaque for its achievement, but Scharine said that is not why they want to win.
“Tony’s business receives an additional $1,000 if we would win also. I think that would make our project complete,” Scharine said.
Sara Kovach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.