PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – Mister Bee Potato Chips, the only potato chip maker in West Virginia, hosted Professor Kim Conrad, Ph.D., and 15 students in her West Virginia Wesleyan College MBA class at its production facility on February 7 as part of a real-world business teaching experience.
The MBA students, who have divided into five teams of three students each, are addressing different business development and marketing challenges facing the small, woman-owned business. At the end of the semester, the teams will present to Mister Bee leaders their findings and recommendations.
“We thought after our initial briefing with Dr. Conrad, it would be helpful if the students saw firsthand the manufacturing facility and our state-of-the-art fryer and processing facility,” said Mary Anne Ketelsen, president of Mister Bee Potato Chips. “They can see the process – from start to finish – and meet the people who make it all happen.”
Professor Conrad said having an existing company to focus on is far greater experience than a simulation in the classroom. “Our students and our institution are very grateful that an iconic West Virginia brand like Mister Bee would enthusiastically open their doors to graduate students who want to make a difference,” said Conrad.
“No matter how long you’ve been in business, there are challenges that keep you up at night,” said Ketelsen. “Mister Bee enjoys working with students of all ages and the talented public school and higher education faculty in the state. I am looking forward to hearing the insights and observations the MBA students share with us after their plant tour, research, and collaboration.”
Mister Bee is also working with West Virginia University at Parkersburg and West Virginia University Potomac State College in Keyser on strategies to grow more in-state potatoes for production at the company. Ketelsen also said educational partnerships with the West Virginia Manufacturers Association are in the works.