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Altoona DECA Students Spice Up Holidays With Flavorful Blends for State Project

festive, student-led endeavor is striving for success

Gracyn Leukam |

HOLIDAY SPICE COMPANY. Altoona High School's DECA club is spreading cheer and prepping for a state conference. (Photos via Facebook)
HOLIDAY SPICE COMPANY. Altoona High School's DECA club is spreading cheer and prepping for a state conference. (Photos via Facebook)

In the halls of Altoona High School, entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. The school’s DECA club has been working hard on creating a seasonal spice company, not only to spread some holiday cheer, but to hopefully win the Wisconsin State Career Development Conference (SCDC) that takes place towards the end of February every year.

The business, fittingly named A Holiday Spice Co. (the “A” is for Altoona), was started by high school seniors Maddie Gagnon and Emma Swanstrom. The company name, along with the slogan “Flavor Express, Spices to Impress!” were student creations.

DECA, which has more than 3,700 high school chapters, “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management,” the organization says.

The school’s DECA advisor, Jim Maier, taught marketing at Eau Claire North High School for 33 years. During that time, North’s DECA club started more than a dozen businesses, including Howling Husky Salsa, Paws Pizza, and Blue Belly Jelly. 

Altoona High School DECA students pack A Holiday Spice Co. spice blends. (Submitted photo)
Altoona High School DECA students pack A Holiday Spice Co. spice blends. (Submitted photo)

This year’s potential company topics were narrowed down to queso, pickles, or spices. After careful consideration, holiday spice blends came out on top. “We chose spices because we wanted to market a product that would easily sell during the holiday season,” Gannon and Swanstrom said. “Spices are an affordable gift, and our spices come with a promise of quality and love that you can’t find in stores.”

 The students curated a selection of six spice blends – Holiday Steak, BBQ, Poultry and Wing, Season Salt, Everything Bagel, and Ranch – and as stated in the slogan, they’re sure to impress.

“We decided what spices to include by creating a survey sheet that asked participants to rate their top five out of 12 spices,” Gannon and Swanstrom said. “We distributed the survey to a wide range of demographic groups so that our data would reflect the opinions of the community.”

Roughly 1,000 students attend the annual SCDC. Winners are decided by a judge and announced on the last day of the state competition. In the Sales Project category, there will be about 10-15 teams, six of which will qualify for the national competition. “In years prior, Altoona has been very successful,” Gannon and Swanstrom said. 

Spice blend gift boxes will be available for purchase at Altoona High’s December events (including the Altoona choir concert on Dec. 11), Altoona businesses (including Rump’s Butcher Shop), online through the website (launching soon), and directly from DECA students. All proceeds go towards DECA district and state conference trips.


Find more information about Altoona High School online.