Professional Literacies Project Spring 2014 — Lindsay Bachman

In our inaugural semester of the Professional Literacies Project (connecting students with “real world” writers living, working, and writing in close-proximity to campus), Lindsay Bachman of “That’s So Sweet” in Uptown Normal brought her mini-cheesecake samples and talked with Jeff Rients’ 145.13 class.

Professional Literacies Project Report

On Thursday, April 17, 2014 my section of English 145.13 (Writing for Business & Government Organizations) hosted Lindsay Bachman, proprietor of That’s So Sweet, a boutique cheesecake business with locations in uptown Normal, IL (2½ blocks from our classroom in Stevenson Hall) and nearby Lexington, IL (17 miles away). That’s So Sweet is known on campus for its individual servings of cheesecake and its unique flavors, such as its popular Andes Mint cheesecake.

Prior to Ms. Bachman’s visit the class discussed this event as an opportunity to study the intersection of business and writing by interviewing someone whose writing activities were integral to her success as an entrepreneur. In order to encourage them to think through what sort of information they wanted her to supply the students were offered quiz credit to anyone who submitted at least three questions in writing ahead of time in lieu of our normal bi-weekly quiz. Here is a sampling of the questions the students composed:

  • What are some writing tasks you had to encounter while starting your own business?
  • When writing professionally, what are the proper time frames? is it appropriate to respond to urgent emails at 1am?
  • What was the biggest surprise you encountered when starting up the business?
  • What is the biggest drawback to being a business owner?
  • What sort of advertising do you do for your business?
  • What documents were necessary in the startup process for your business?

On the day of the visit Ms. Bachman began by briefly describing her business and how she got it up and running, focusing on how surprised she was at the amount of varied writing activities this work entailed. This overview was followed by a lengthy Q&A session in which the students asked many of the pre-written questions as well as additional impromptu ones. Their curiosity ranged across a variety of issues facing small business owners, but included several that focused on the activity systems in which business writing is embedded. The session also included serving That’s So Sweet signature individual cheesecakes to all involved.

During an assessment activity at the beginning of the semester several students indicated a career goal of starting their own business, so we modified the course plan to end the semester with a unit focusing on researching and producing documents related to opening a new business venture. Therefore, in the last unit all the students were “fired” from the positions they held throughout previous scenarios as employees of an international conglomerate. Both the change and Ms. Bachman’s visit dovetailed nicely with the theme of the course, which was surviving in a business world by writing your way out of problems.

One of our major in-class activities for the final unit came directly from Ms. Bachman’s initial presentation. She described her efforts to secure use of an uptown commercial location with rent subsidized by the city for the development of small businesses. As one of the conditions for her application, Ms. Bachman was required to attend a city council meeting where she would be required to offer a two minute oral presentation outlining her business plan. Drafting such pitches and performing them in a mock city council meeting became a major in-class activity of the last unit.

The final deliverables for the project described a business venture, offered a draft of a key document the business would need to get off the ground, and documented the research that went into the composition process. The involvement of the Professional Literacies Project and Lindsay Bachman of That’s So Sweet provided a framework for this unit that brought home a sense of urgency and excitement that would have otherwise been absent from the end of the semester.

-Jeff Rients