Student Perspective: Gaining Management Lessons from Granola Bars

Management 100 is a highly experiential course in which teams of ten students plan and execute a field project for a client in the greater Philadelphia area. The course focuses on teamwork, group dynamics and leadership development. Three Wharton students share some of their work from this semester, exploring issues around urban nutrition and social entrepreneurship. 

Rebel Ventures

As students surrounded by food trucks, dining halls, or restaurants around campus, we are fortunate enough to find ourselves with ample opportunities to choose healthy and nutritious foods.

But for many people across Philadelphia, that’s not so. Issues such as food deserts and malnutrition are prevalent. In addition to food insecurity and lack of access, Philadelphia ranks first among the seven large cities for which teen obesity prevalence is known according to a Community Health Assessment conducted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

As freshmen, we chose Penn because we knew this community could allow us to make a difference not just at our school, but also in the local community. Our Management 100 class has already given us a chance to do exactly this.

In particular, our management team, Team SuccSEEDing ReBels, came together to consult for Rebel Ventures, a youth-driven organization that promotes healthy communities, job creation, and nutrition education in West Philadelphia.

Rebel Ventures is a project of the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, a program of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships; since the spring of 2010, the program has grown from a classroom project for eighth grade students to a business-minded program that engages high school students in crafting and selling healthy snacks. In addition to making the food products that they sell, the students – guided by professional staff and mentors – learn valuable skills that go into running a business, such as marketing and accounting.

Rebel Ventures’ line of healthy snacks now includes Rebel Bars, whole-grain granola bars made from local, organic ingredients, and Rebel Seeds, roasted organic sunflower seeds glazed with an Ethiopian spice blend. They also have a new initiative for the summer:Icy Color, a selection of refreshing frozen fruit sold in schools during and after the school day.

In our Management 100 course, we had the opportunity to promote the Rebel Ventures brand both at Penn and in the West Philadelphia community.

rebel bar

To better understand the student staff and their mission, our team spent time working with them twice a week in the Center for Culinary Enterprise, the production facility for Rebel Ventures’ whole line of snacks. We also attended their weekly staff meetings to get a feel for how the students run the company.

When we asked Nick, one of the six high school students working at Rebel Ventures, why this project was important to him, the answer was simple and personal. “It’s food justice—instead of going to buy unhealthy food, students can buy our bars and seeds,” he says.

Our project focused on expanding awareness about Rebel Ventures and its mission, and at the same time bringing the topic of nutrition and food insecurity into the forum of public debate.

One component was a social media campaign aimed at sharing the Rebel Venture story with a broader audience. We experimented by producing a QR code video that can be found on the newly designed packaging.

Our team also reached out to co-packers in order to assess the viability of partnering for more large-scale production, as Rebel Ventures has been in discussion with the Philadelphia Education System to supply on average 170,000 bars weekly.

Lastly, we have been reaching out to various Penn clubs and organizations such as Penn Eco-Reps and Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement (PennSEM) to establish sustainable partnerships between Penn and Rebel Ventures. In fact, Penn Eco-Reps have already purchased more than 40 bars for one of their on-campus housing events.

Having this opportunity as college freshman is invaluable to us as we will all remember the relationships we built and the assets we gained while working with Rebel Ventures in the years to come. We also feel incredibly moved to have the chance to make a lasting impact in the community. Hopefully with our help, Rebel Ventures will become an even larger presence in the community, able to spread its message and to combat malnutrition, obesity and food injustice.

Cristóbal Salamone, Cindy Fan, and Analiese Fernandes are part of the Wharton School Class of 2019. Throughout the year, they’ve had the pleasure of working with their Management 100 client, AUNI Rebel Ventures. They are currently finalizing their work for the client and have enjoyed helping them promote their cause within the Penn and West Philadelphia community.