Bringing Business into the Classroom

Posted: Thursday, August 2nd 2012 at 11:09 AM

This story ran about a year ago, but it is worth a re-listing in our news.

Chelsea Hulina is no ordinary undergraduate business student. While most business majors focus on their day-to-day assigned coursework and completing their classes with good grades, Hulina has been learning how to juggle two huge undertakings at once: earning her BS in Marketing and Accounting and operating her own business. chelsea-web230

Hulina says the real-world experience born from owning Flagstaff-based Steel City Deli & Grill, coupled with the classroom opportunities she receives at the university, has propelled her professional skills to a whole new level.

"The classroom experience definitely improves my business skills," she says. "My writing classes have improved my professional communication, my accounting classes have enabled me to create spreadsheets that better organize my financial statements, and my management class taught me how to use creative charts and waiting line analyses, and to forecast sales accurately."

And because learning is a two-way street, Hulina’s professors and peers benefit from picking her brain about real-life business topics as well.

“My professors always call me out in the middle of class, and say, 'Chelsea, how would this work in your business, can you give us an example?' They do it all the time and I love it. It connects the classroom to my business."

Hulina was even approached by a professor from an upper division marketing class with a proposal to use her deli as the focus of a business plan. From this, she ended up collaborating with eleven other marketing students over the semester to come up with a marketing plan for her business. The class project helped her spur ideas for franchising her deli.

For Hulina, the university’s hands-on, interactive classrooms represented a welcome change. In 2006, the 18-year old Pittsburgh native started her first year of college at a university on the east coast while operating a convenience store with her business partner. Her professors were not particularly supportive of her business efforts, she says, and after a vacation to Flagstaff, Hulina decided to move west to continue her studies. Flagstaff—and Northern Arizona University—fit her just right.

"I just fell in love with Flagstaff, and the fact that it is so supportive of small business," she says. "The (business program) faculty is very talented in a way of teaching that really gets across to their students.”

After relocating to Flagstaff, Hulina says the only thing she missed from back east was the food, and being the take-charge person she is, she decided to do something about it. In December 2009, Hulina opened her first restaurant, East Coast Deli & Grill. She eventually sold the restaurant and began operating the Steel City Deli & Grill on the campus of Coconino Community College, a job in which she also provides drop off catering and wholesale items to local convenience stores.

"I'm the face of the deli," she says. "I promote the business and advertise and talk with our customers. We already have a lot of regulars."

Striving to do two important jobs exceptionally well is no doubt a challenge, but Hulina is willing to make the sacrifice to succeed, she says, and is grateful that there are so many people at the university who help her to do so.

"There have been several professors and faculty I've connected with," Hulina says. "Dr. Kathryn Savage really inspired me to keep working hard towards my dreams. Associate Dean Eric Yordy is also an awesome professor. I always go to him to chat about my business."

Going forward, Hulina plans to continue her studies in Flagstaff as a member of the university's MBA program. She is confident that the win-win situation she has established thus far will continue.

"The university has provided such a great experience as far as being in business and having my professors use my knowledge in the classroom," she says. "I think I can be beneficial in classroom conversation because I can talk about what's outside the textbook."

Categories: chelsea hulina students steel city deli & grill student-owned business