On Friday Sept. 13, no bad luck was in sight as A Taste of Witt kicked off on Alumni Way. Run by the business department, the event featured free food from different restaurants either owned by Wittenberg Alumni, or here locally in Springfield. The food included Tropical Smoothie Café, Raising Cane’s, Lee’s Famous Chicken and Mad Sweet Heat. Pizza was also handed out.
“This is my first time at a Taste of Witt and it’s honestly so iconic because I really love free food,” Taylor Benford (’22) said, “so I’m having a great time.”
Last hosted in 2017, the event was brought back this year by the Ness Chair of Entrepreneurship and Assistant Professor of Practice Kevin Steidel. He said, “I feel like I should be spurring entrepreneurial thinking on campus, so this is an event that we had had in the past, and I thought, why aren’t we doing this anymore? Let’s bring it back.”
Steidel had a distinct goal going into this event. Besides bringing joy to students with free food, he wanted students to feel connected to businesses and urge creative thinking. He wanted to have this event in the beginning of the year to give a taste of all the other great events to come this year from the Business Department. “Free food, cool vendors, neat ideas, this will hopefully show everybody [how great the events will be],” Steidel said.
“We want local business owners to have a chance to introduce their food to the campus community, as well as talk about their experience as entrepreneurs,” Steidel said. “I think connecting the campus to the local community and letting students know that they can start businesses that will be successful right here in Springfield is important. It’s also important for them to see how an alumni who went to school here, sat in the same desk they sat in, moved on, and then started a business that might be somewhere else.”
The owner of the Raising Cane’s at the event graduated from Wittenberg. Although he does not have a location in Springfield, he still wants to connect to the current students on campus and inspire them. Steidel said, “Raising Cane’s as an example, they do not have a store here in Springfield. But, their owner is an alumni and it’s important for him to feel connected to the university, he ultimately feels the benefit of connecting to the students.”
Debbie and Mark Titus are one of the locally owned businesses at the event from Springfield. Their company, Mad Sweet Heat makes award winning candied jalapenos. They have two products: sliced candied jalapenos and a candied jalapeno relish. Debbie Titus said, “they’re all natural, there’s no preservatives, no food coloring and no sodium. You can actually read all 8 ingredients on the ingredient list and you should know what they are.”
The small family owned business is in about 60 stores across Ohio, including 10 restaurants in Springfield. “We absolutely love what we do—you have to love it to do it,” Titus said.
“It seems like a 7 day a week, 20 hours a day job. We’re an Ohio proud company… we’re processed one hundred percent in Ohio, and we carry the Ohio proud label this year because we use Ohio growers,” Titus said.
“We each collaborate and help each other as small businesses.”
Their company boasts 5 part-time employees who help jar the products twice a week. They took home the first-place award at the Weekend of Fire at Jungle Jim’s in 2016, the largest hot food show in the Midwest. Their sliced jalapenos won first place, and their relish won second. “If we had three products, they really believed we would’ve swept the entire event. It was a good day for us. It was only our second year in business. It was very exciting, it really was,” Titus said.
The Titus’ love to help give business advice and help people like the students at Wittenberg start their own business. “It’s not something you can go into lightly, it’s probably the hardest thing we’ve both ever done.”
The event was a testament to the dedication faculty and staff have for the students here at Wittenberg. It proved to students that you can be successful at making your entrepreneurial dreams come true.