The Business Classroom
Chelsea Hulina is no ordinary undergraduate business
student. While most business majors are simply focused on getting through their
classes, Hulina, as owner and operator of Flagstaff-based Steel City Deli and
Grill, has added a whole different dimension to her university experience.
Though it can be a difficult balance, Hulina says the combination of real-world
and classroom experience has taken her professional skills to a whole new
"The classroom experience definitely improves my
business skills," she says. "My writing classes have improved my
professional e-mail communication, my accounting classes have enabled me to
create spreadsheets that better organize my financial statements, and my
management class taught me how to use creative charts and waiting line
analyses, and to forecast sales accurately."
classroom to her business
For Hulina, this kind of hands-on, classroom
interactivity represented a welcome change. In 2006, then an 18-year-old
Pittsburgh native, she started her first year of college while operating a
convenience store with her business partner, Frank Kline. Her professors were
not particularly supportive of her business efforts, she says, so Hulina headed
west after a vacation to Flagstaff. It was, she says, just the right fit.
"I just fell in love with Flagstaff, and
the fact that it is so supportive of small business," she says. "I
also explored NAU's College of Business and I recognized that the faculty were very
talented at teaching in a way that really gets across to their students. My
professors always call me out in the middle of class, and say, 'Chelsea, how
would this work in your business, can you give us an example?' They do it all
the time and I love it. It connects the classroom to my business."
After relocating in Flagstaff, Hulina says that the only
thing she missed from back East was the food. So she decided to do something
about it. On December 22, 2009, Hulina opened her first restaurant, East Coast
Deli and Grill. Hulina eventually sold East Coast Deli and Grill and began
operating the dining facility Steel City Deli and Grill at Coconino Community
College. She also provides drop-off catering and wholesale items to local
"I'm the face of the deli," she says. "I
promote the business and advertise and talk to our customers. We already have a
lot of regulars."
Making a sacrifice
She is willing to make the sacrifice to succeed, she
says, and is also grateful that there are so many people at the university who
help her to do so.
"There have been several professors I've connected
with," Hulina says. "Dr. Kathryn Savage really inspired me to keep
working hard toward my dreams. Associate Dean Eric Yordy is also an awesome
professor. I always go to him to chat about my business or get legal
Her professors have helped in other ways, as well. Hulina
was approached by a professor from an upper division marketing class with a
proposal to have her deli become the focus of a marketing business plan: she
collaborated with eleven other marketing students over the course of a semester
to come up with a marketing plan for East Coast Deli. According to Hulina, the
class project helped her spur ideas for franchising her deli.
Hulina will continue her studies in Flagstaff as a
graduate student in the university's master of business administration program.
She is confident that the win-win situation she has established thus far will
"The university has provided such a great
experience as far as being in business and having my professors use my
knowledge in the classroom," she says. "I think I can be beneficial
in classroom conversation because I can talk about what's outside the