Wolffest seeks to break previous sales record
Last year, Wolffest had its most profitable year since it began in 2002. This year, the students running the event are seeking to top that number.
Wolffest is a three-day food festival that will run from April 9 through April 11. The event is intended as an opportunity for students in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship to practice their negotiation skills. Students form teams and develop marketing strategies to recruit companies and restaurants to donate or cater Wolffest.
“Whenever the little birdies fly out of the nest, it’s a good safety net,” said Bill Sherrill, the founder of Wolffest.
Out of the $315,000 the event made last year, $110,000 came from donations and $200,000 from sales. In total, 2,800 transactions were made at Wolffest last year and an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 students came to check out the tents. Program coordinator for the WCE class of 2020 Amanda Moya said she expects to see a similar turnout this year.
The students in charge of Wolffest set a goal each year for how much money they want to raise. Last year, the participants succeeded in beating their $300,000 goal, and have set their 2019 goal at $400,000.
“Every year, we have seen the event grow,” said Melissa Munoz, the program manager for the WCE class of 2019.
Approximately 40 to 50 food vendors will be in attendance at this year’s event. These vendors include Crawfish Shack, Wingstop, Shake Shack, Italiano’s and Tony’s Mexican. The amount of vendors could go up before the event happens, as students continue marketing to prospective clients until the last minute, Munoz said.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” said Tanvir Bhogal, one of the student CEOs running Wolffest.
Bhogal is in charge of WCEats, one of the seven student groups taking part in Wolffest this year. However, Bhogal’s group is better known as the UH Crawfish Shack, as it was responsible for bringing the Crawfish Shack to UH for Wolffest in 2018 and 2019. Bhogal said the focus this year was to work one-on-one with his team to find suitable positions for everyone.
“Not everyone needs to be a pro,” Bhogal said. “I wanted to find everyone a spot that they could grow in.”
There are 70 students running Wolffest with the help of 246 volunteers, the most that the event has ever had, Munoz said.
Originally called BurgerFest when it started in 2002, Wolffest underwent a name change when Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff became supporters of the WCE. As the years went by, students went from cooking their own burgers to negotiating with businesses and vendors, Munoz said.
Students incentivize businesses to participate in Wolffest in a variety of ways, from simple shoutouts on social media to volunteering at the business of their prospective client.
“It’s all about finding what the businesses value,” Bhogal said.
The owner of Crawfish Shack asks that the students go out to interact with his guests and provide support at the location, Bhogal said.
One of the primary ways Wolffest brings in vendors is by maintaining relationships with businesses from previous years.
“We as a class have really picked up the ball on that this year,” Bhogal said.
Wingstop, a returning vendor, actually reached out to participate this year and not the other way around, Bhogal said.
“Seeing that this is all run by UH students, it really enforces that sense of Cougar Pride,” Bhogal said.