Scott Colom: G.I. Wings, the entrepreneurial spirit in action

August 17, 2011 12:58:00 PM

Scott Colom - [email protected]


Tyrold Weston is about business. After more than 18 years of military service, including stints in the Navy and Army and tours in South Korea, Haiti, and Iraq, Tyrold retired from the military and moved home to start his first business: G.I. Hot Wings.  


At first glance, G.I. Hot Wings may not appear to have much to do with Columbus schools. Yet, on closer examination, important lessons can be learned from Tyrold''s entrepreneurial mind-set; lessons that should make us consider ways to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in our students.  


Small businesses are a significant economic engine for our economy. The Small Business Administration reports that small businesses employ just over half of all private sector employees and created 64 percent of the net new jobs (jobs created minus jobs lost) over the last 15 years. This begs the question: how can we encourage more small businesses?  


Amy Rosen, president of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, says adding entrepreneurialism to school''s curriculum is one way to answer this question. In a recent article, she said "our schools are still captive to an industrial-era approach to education, moving students through an assembly line of arbitrary grade levels without pausing to consider what skills the market demands." Rosen suggests schools prioritize subjects like economics and adopt experimental learning that incorporates business lessons in traditional academic settings.  


The story of G.I. Hot Wings supports Rosen''s thesis. Tyrold has loved chicken wings since the days of eating them in his mother''s kitchen. This love followed him as he lived and traveled across the country and ate at wing restaurants. Tyrold then noticed the popularity of mobile kitchens in college towns and metro areas.  


While stationed at Washington State, Tyrold thought of selling chicken wings in a mobile kitchen. Most of the trucks he had seen offered Asian or Mexican food, so he thought chicken wings would bring a new product to the market. He learned that themes help with marketing; so, because of his patriotism, Tyrold named the company G.I. Wings and added military associations to all his products. For instance, the range of spice to the wings is measured by phases in military rank, and eating wings from the highest and hottest phase puts a customer on the "Commander''s List."  


G.I. Hot Wings was a hit as soon as it opened. Despite this success, Tyrold missed his mother and home. Consequently, Tyrold decided to retire from the military and bring his mobile kitchen to Columbus. But, G.I. Hot Wings has not had a smooth ride to the South.  


Columbus doesn''t yet have the cluster of walkers needed to support a mobile kitchen market. Tyrold, therefore, decided to open a restaurant. He couldn''t find a location on the high traffic volume parts of town so he got a place on Idlewild Road. To make up for less visibility, he is focusing on creating a positive reputation and providing versatility. He offers over 60 homemade flavors of wings, including unique flavors such as Dr. Pepper, Peanut Butter, and Honey Teriyaki Pineapple.  


Maybe G.I. Hot Wings will be as popular and widespread as McDonald''s one day. Maybe not. Regardless, Tyrold possess the skills -- ingenuity and critical thinking -- required for all successful businesses. We need to nurture these skills if we want students to follow in his footsteps and create the jobs of the future. We need to teach students to look critically and creatively at the economic needs around them; by doing so, schools could play a role in creating the entrepreneurs needed to revitalize our economy.

Scott Colom is a local attorney.