If Alesha Coleman could live on ice cream, she would.
Now the 18-year-old has the next best thing: ownership of a Maggie Moo's ice cream store.
Coleman chose the franchise over a $10,000 scholarship after winning a contest on writing a business plan sponsored by Maggie Moo's and Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda.
When she won, "I was shaking so bad I could feel my earrings vibrating," Coleman says. The Oregon native had never tasted Maggie Moo's ice cream before then because there is no store in her hometown, Philomath. The chain has more than 190 stores in 43 states.
She chose the franchise over the scholarship because "it would be a really good business decision."
But James Davis, director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Notre Dame and an associate professor of business, says running a business without a college education would be a struggle for any 18-year-old. "There's a real difference between writing a plan and executing a plan," says Davis, who would have chosen the scholarship. "If she receives the appropriate mentoring ... and almost a manager managing her, she might be OK."
Eric Siegel of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania says her choice may be a good decision from a strictly bottom-line perspective but not otherwise: "The college experience is too valuable in every respect."
Maggie Moo's will waive the $30,000 franchise fee and send her to Moo University, a two-week course on everything ice cream.
Coleman, who hopes to open the franchise in downtown Portland, must then have Maggie Moo's approve her store's location. The company will expect Coleman to hire and train a staff, manage the store and lead local marketing projects.
"Her obligations will be the very same as any other Maggie Moo's franchisee," says Maggie Moo's senior vice president of brand marketing Debbie Benedek, who managed the contest.
Coleman, who just graduated high school and will be a full-time freshman this fall at Pacific University near Portland, will oversee at least 20 employees, Benedek says.
Jim McCarren, who owns two franchises in Annapolis, Md., and helped judge the contest, says Coleman has her work cut out for her. The typical franchisee works 40 to 50 hours a week, he says.
McCarren estimates that Coleman could make $50,000 to $60,000 a year. If her business really takes off, she could earn as much as $100,000.
"No doubt it will be challenging at first," McCarren says. "But it can be very rewarding."
She will have the option of hiring someone to take over many of her duties, and she can sell the franchise if she wants.
But Coleman is up for the challenge. "I love having my plate full," she says. Of ice cream, that is.