SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP – Two teams of Lakeside seniors made their final presentations March 29 to JT’s Bagels owners Jared and Emily Taylor as part of a new class patterned on the LEADERship Ashtabula County Leadership Lab class, proposing solutions to a significant difference in the amount of business being done at the Taylors’ Main Avenue location as compared to the one in Conneaut.
The class, known as ELI (Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Innovation), was partly guided by Youth LEADERship Ashtabula County Program Director Kesha Conway and took two groups of three students and posed them a question: how to boost business at the relatively new JT’s Bagels location at 4608 Main Avenue, which is significantly lagging its partner store in Conneaut.
“We all learn best by doing,” Conway said. “[JT’s Bagels] is facing a very serious problem. They have a very successful bagel shop in Conneaut. We asked them to deliver a bottom line: how to make the Ashtabula location a successful shop and help out Main Avenue at the same time.”
ELI students conducted interviews with current and potential customers as well as market research, formulating two very different sets of proposals to boost business at JT’s.
Team one, which was made up of Lakeside seniors Maylyn Holmes, Natalie Bilbrey and Kiyana Williams, proposed the introduction of a mobile food capability – beginning with a small cart and moving toward a full-service food truck.
With summer coming, team one suggested staging a JT’s Bagels food cart at Walnut Beach Park and on Bridge Street, as well as establishing a presence at the Wine & Walleye Festival, Uncork’d Winefest and Beach Glass Festival.
The team named JT’s location and poor visibility as major problems inhibiting the Main Avenue shop’s name-recognition. They claimed mobile food service will establish word-of-mouth buzz among teens and 20-somethings in Ashtabula County.
Team two, made up of Lakeside seniors Marissa Mosier, Megan Andes and Romeo Aponte, focused on advertising the goods on offer at JT’s Bagels – particularly the handmade cream cheese made their daily.
The second team advised JT’s partner with local, independently-operated shops such as Harbor Perk, the student commissary at Kent State University at Ashtabula and setting up shop at the concession stand at Walnut Beach Park to offer the shop’s cream cheese to customers – which they said will bring in business to the Main Avenue store.
Another interesting suggestion was to set up a “person versus food”-style challenge in which a customer can attempt to eat a large bagel with heavy toppings in a set time – winning a t-shirt if they do. The idea behind this challenge is to establish “social currency” among youth.
A final suggestion is to set up with a mobile punch card application for cell phones. The idea behind this is that paper cards are frequently lost by busy people. The app would also advertise specials and flavors of the month.
JT’s Bagels owner Jared Taylor said he was impressed by the breadth, depth and quality of the suggestions from both teams.
“The students are legitimately concerned,” Taylor said. “They took the problem seriously and really worked on it. I agree – exposure is, I think, our biggest problem.”
Pictured is LEADERship Ashtabula County Program Director Kesha Conway during her opening remarks at the ELI presentations March 29 at the Lakeside High School library.