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FMU's Donald E. Kelley Small Business Institute takes on candy bars

A candy bar could be gone in a matter of minutes but the $2 it costs to buy one supporting the Widows of Deceased Veterans Foundation could last substantially longer.

Through the use of the Donald E. Kelley Small Business Institute at Francis Marion University, foundation members developed and are marketing and selling candy bars to raise enough money to build one-bedroom apartments for widows of deceased veterans.

Dubbed the Vet Bar, the premium Belgian chocolate candy bar is being sold at stores throughout the Pee Dee region – made possible through utilization of the institute which offers technical assistance to small businesses and non-profit organizations, free of charge.

“This is an example of why the state legislature decided they needed a small business institute in the Pee Dee,” said Joe Aniello, an FMU management professor and executive director of the institute. “There are good causes. People just need the direction and expertise.”

The institute, founded in 1972 and housed in FMU’s School of Business, creates comprehensive business plans for its clients, who can then approach various financial sources with the information required for procuring funding. The business plans are developed by student work teams. The institute can also offer an intern to help with various management functions for five hours per week over the course of a semester through its internship program.

FMU senior Deanna Cohen was the business student who agreed to intern with the Widows of Deceased Veterans Foundation.

“There was something about the mission that made me want to be part of this,” Cohen said. “No one’s out there doing the things this organization does.”

In fact, the Widows of Deceased Veterans Foundation in Florence is the only one of its kind in the nation, providing widows of deceased veterans financial, health care, and other assistance. Founded by Rev. Daisy Walden on Sept. 24, 2004, the foundation serves nearly 800 widows of deceased veterans.

It is this work that led Walden to expand services for the widows. When a 72-year-old widow of a deceased veteran with no children stood to lose her home of more than 25 years to foreclosure, Walden was quick to take action. Not only did she find a donor to save the widow’s home but she also secured money to assist other widows who found themselves in the same predicament.

“These women, whose husbands risked their lives defending our country, relied heavily on the income of their husbands,” Walden said. “When their husbands died, their income and benefits were all taken away.”

The only viable solution is to provide housing, she said.

Astor Chocolate Corp. also deemed it a great solution because upon hearing Walden’s story, they agreed to produce the candy bars at very little cost to the foundation. The package design was developed by Cohen’s 12-year-old daughter who also writes the foundation’s monthly newsletter.

The Small Business Institute further acted as a clearing house for the foundation by providing specific research, marketing, technology, or accounting help, by directing them to other FMU professors who may have class projects to address those specific needs.

When FMU Marketing Professor Kay Lawrimore was asked to assess the marketing capability of the product, she said it already has many of the key elements for successful marketing.

“It meets a need and has an emotional appeal,” said Lawrimore. “They are not out to make a profit and were willing to come to the university to ask for help.”

Awareness and ease of distribution are the areas Lawrimore encourages the group to focus on next.

Those wishing to order the candy bars can do so through the foundation website at or by calling the office at 843-536-0864.

For more information about the Small Business Institute, call Aniello at 843-661-1112.

#125 / 3-6-07
Last Published: March 6, 2007 1:49 PM
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