Concordia University students start a chocolate company to learn business skills


MEQUON, Wis. — Students and faculty at a Milwaukee-area university are getting hands-on experience in the business world by embracing their love of chocolate.

“I like to run things and make things, take a company to a place where it belongs,” said Concordia University graduate student Jafar Payandeh.

For almost a year, one of the classrooms at Concordia University in Mequon has been moonlighting as a burgeoning business.

After purchasing the company, Red Elephant Chocolates made its way on campus, where students and chocolatiers make, brand and sell these delicious treats and get real-world experience along with class credit.

“I was a serial entrepreneur and you can teach business in the classroom, but you don’t really learn it until you’re doing it. This, in my opinion, was the best way to learn business, by doing it, and I think the students love it,” said Daniel Sem, Vice Provost for Research and Innovation at Concordia University.

Coming to Concordia in 2020, graduate student Jafar Payandeh arrived with a well-established love and talent for culinary arts.

Working as a chef and entrepreneur in his native India, Jafar says those experiences allow him to approach this growing business in a unique way.

“I wanted to run this business and I wanted to take it further and hopefully, we will be in the top companies of chocolates,” said Payandeh.

Payandeh says marrying his interests of culinary arts and business feels natural and he encourages anyone with similar desires to do the same.

“Grab at every opportunity you get,” said Payandeh. “Just do what you feel like, learn what you want to and then one day, it will come to a point where you will be happy with it.”

As they head into the busy holiday season, custom orders are still available, with profits supporting Concordia students and faculty.

For more information, head to their website.

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