DURANGO, Colo., March 4, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In the spirit of Willy Wonka passing his chocolate factory on to a lucky winner, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (RMCF) helps determined entrepreneurial graduates acquire their own confectionery stores. The innovative education-based opportunity began in 2009 as a sweet partnership among RMCF, entrepreneur Steve Craig, and Missouri Western State University (MWSU). The program awards an RMCF franchise store to the top student(s) in an applied entrepreneurship class. To date, the program has awarded 12 stores to budding entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial Roots The program complements the entrepreneurial heritage of RMCF. Founder and chairman Frank Crail started the Durango-based confectionery company in 1981 while searching for a way to provide for his family. Crail started RMCF believing that people could build something themselves and, with hard work, succeed. Since then RMCF has become an international franchiser, confectionery manufacturer, and retailer. The company manufactures over 300 proprietary premium chocolate candies and confectionery products. "We built our business from a vision, with dedication and perseverance. It was difficult back then and in today's credit environment it would be impossible for young people to start a business on their own," explains Mr. Crail. Nurturing Business Skills A desire to foster entrepreneurial business spirit and perpetuate opportunity began with an unconventional idea from Steve Craig, President and Founder of Craig Realty Group and the benefactor of the Craig School of Business at MWSU in St. Joseph, Missouri. Mr. Craig approached Mr. Crail and his RMCF corporate team with a vision to create the Entrepreneurship Program in a partnership with the MWSU business school, accredited by AACSB International, in an effort to speed up the training and development of entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur from the age of 7, Mr. Craig sought to develop a unique program that nurtures and empowers the entrepreneurial spirit of students and offers hands-on, applied learning experiences that lead to business opportunities. He wanted them to "learn business concepts by working from the ground up" and he knew that RMCF's business culture would be a perfect fit. The classroom component of the program culminates in a business plan competition with the winners taking ownership of an RMCF or Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt franchise store. This model is unique to MWSU; there is no other educational program in the country like it.