Shannon Wilburn, co-founder and CEO of Just Between Friends (JBF)

by   |  09.29.14  |  Uncategorized

Last week Shannon Wilburn, co-founder and CEO of Just Between Friends (JBF), visited campus as part of the Griggs Center’s Entrepreneur Speaker Series. Shannon, a former Wildcat, founded JBF in 1997 with a friend after they decided to host a consignment event with 17 of their friends. Since that time, Shannon has led JBF to become a national children’s and maternity consignment franchise that has received a number of awards and national recognition.

At CEO Chapel, Shannon shared her story of how she started the company as well as successes and failures along the way. She also shared insights into what is going on today with the company.

“It was great for Ms. Wilburn to be so candid with us about current opportunities and challenges her company is facing,” said Jason McVey, senior Management Major from Austin, Texas.

Shannon also visited with the Griggs Center’s fellows program and an entrepreneurship class as well.

JBF’s accolades in the past couple of years include being named to Inc.magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies,Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 500 Franchises, receiving one of only 75 Blue Ribbon Awards from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and being featured in Kiplinger magazine as “One of 8 Franchises Worth Buying.”

 

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Chris Coggin

by   |  09.23.14  |  Uncategorized

Last week, the Griggs Center hosted Chris Coggin (’07) on-campus as part of its Entrepreneur Speaker Series. Coggin currently serves as Vice President of Thelese Management, an investment firm based in Austin. In addition to this role, Coggin also serves as an instructor at the Acton School of Business. Acton offers an MBA focused on entrepreneurship and has received national recognition in various rankings for its program and classroom experience.

During chapel Coggin shared a number of stories with the students, highlighting some of his greatest successes and failures while in business. His words of advice for ACU students focused on putting yourself out there and becoming involved.

Coggin remembered some of the best advice he ever received while at ACU. He recalled a lesson Dr. Monty Lynn gave him, saying the key to business was to “do what you say you’re going to do.” He continued that doing so “separates you because there are so many people out there that don’t do what they say they’re going to do.”

Coggin currently lives with his wife Elena in Austin with their two sons.

 

Clay Selby, Founder of SocialRest

by   |  09.11.14  |  Uncategorized

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Clay Selby (’11), founder and CEO of SocialRest, visited campus yesterday as part of the Griggs Center’s Entrepreneur Speaker Series. SocialRest was founded in January 2014. The company analyzes social media content and provides relevant information to its customers immediately and makes them aware of what content and which influencers are making the most impact.

Selby spoke to 175 students at CEO Chapel about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. He shared his experience and the benefits and challenges of starting his own company. Selby emphasized that keeping God first in every company endeavor is the true key to his success, and has made a habit of reading scripture every morning. He also emphasized that the team dynamic of SocialRest has played a huge factor in their success.

“On our own, we may not be the most talented, knowledgeable, or experienced,” Selby said. “But put us together and it’s amazing what we can accomplish simply because we believe in what we do.”

Later in the day, Selby shared more details about his business and experience with members of the Griggs Center’s fellows program and an entrepreneurship class.

“Clay has a really interesting startup with a powerful idea. It was great to see his company as he’s in the process of tweaking his product. My favorite takeaway was Clay’s advice about not putting your family on the line for your startup. He clearly has his fundamentals and priorities in order.”

Selby’s interest in social analytics began by developing enterprise-level social media dashboards for companies. Before he started SocialRest, he worked at USAA in social media innovation. Clay graduated from ACU in 2011 with a degree in Information Technology and a concentration in entrepreneurship.

 

Tom Love, Founder of Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores

by   |  09.08.14  |  Uncategorized

Tom Love, founder of Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, visited ACU this week as a part of the Griggs Center’s Entrepreneur Speaker Series. Under his leadership, Love’s has expanded to 320 stores in 40 states nationwide, and is ranked number nine of Forbes Magazines’ 2013 list of America’s largest private companies.

Mr. Love shared his story with students as the first guest of the year at CEO Chapel.  The event serves as the weekly meeting for ACU”s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  Over 160 students were in attendance for the first event of the year.

“Mr. Love’s visit was a fantastic way to kick-off the year for CEO.  We had a great turnout and students enjoyed his insight and stories from his entrepreneurial journey” said Rudy Garza, Junior Marketing Major and President of CEO.

Before founding Love’s in 1964, Mr. Love served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a graduate of St. Johns University, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City University where he holds an honorary doctorate in Commercial Science. He was the past chairman of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, and currently serves as co-chair of the St. Gregory University’s Capitol Fund and the TRUST Coalition.

Love was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2000. He is also an honoree for the Oklahoma Health Center’s Treasures for Tomorrow along with his wife Judy. All three of his children are employed with Love’s as well.

Learn more about the Entrepreneur Speaker series here.

Learn more about CEO here.

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Sunburned by Beach Waves

0 Commentsby   |  08.12.14  |  Study Abroad

On our last full day in Central America, we took a trip to the beach near Leon, Nicaragua. Most of the group had a nice relaxing day walking up and down the Nicaraguan coast or playing volleyball, while others challenged some nice beach waves for fun. The beach was a beautiful and relaxing site to embrace, and we mixed and mingled with locals enjoying the ocean with family and friends and a few tourists from other countries. Everyone had the option to rent surfboards or take surf lessons to challenge the waves. Few dared to challenge the 2-3 meter breakers. Those who did took a tumble under the massive waves. Many of us enjoyed classic body surfing or jumping over the waves for a little fun. The service and food at the local restaurants were exceptional. Later in the afternoon, we had to clean up (as much as possible), pack up, and head to our last destination of the trip.

(View from beach in Leon, Nicaragua)

(View from beach in Leon, Nicaragua)

After some rain, heavy traffic, and taking a wrong turn, we arrived at our hotel in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. After arriving, we cleaned up and headed to our last meal together. After abandoning the hotel restaurant because it was too crowded and slow, we shared some pizza in the hotel lobby for our last meal together. It wasn’t exactly local cuisine, but it satisfied the bellies of our hungry group and gave us a chance to discuss the past two weeks.  As we shared stories and favorite memories, it was great to reflect on all of the funny moments, cultural experiences, visits with locals, and time with Mission Lazarus that we were a part of during our trip.  After dinner everyone went back to their rooms to get some rest for a very early flight the next morning.

Some of us ended the day with sunburns, but overall the day was a relaxing and great way to finish our two-week experience in Central America.

Brionna Sherer
COBA Management Major
Class of 2014

Sliding Down a Volcano

0 Commentsby   |  08.11.14  |  Study Abroad

On the second Friday of our trip, we spent our first full day in Nicaragua. Most of the group traveled to the Cerro Negro Volcano for ash boarding (while a couple of others went surfing).  With the help of our tour guide and instructor, Danny, the group made the hour long drive from our hotel to the base of the volcano.

The Cerro Negro Volcano is the only place in the world where one can ash board. As a result of its distinctive and thrilling experience, it was listed at #2 on CNN’s list of “Big Thrills: 50 Ways to Be a Daredevil.” An eruption in 1999 left everything in the area covered with rocks and black ash.  As the bus pulled into the parking lot, nothing stood between us and the steep slopes of fine, black, pebble-like ash. It is there where the real journey began.

(Group getting ready to climb volcano)

(Group getting ready to climb volcano)

At a minimum, the hike to the rim of the crater takes 45 minutes and we were about to understand why. With our plywood boards, backpacks of gear, and water bottles in hand, we began the ascent. It came as a surprise to many of us that this climb would be no easy feat. The hot sun, awkward boards, boulders, and shifting ash, made the climb painstaking and exhausting; but the cool breeze and spectacular views, alone, were well worth it. After many rest stops, we made it to the top, where we spent a few minutes taking photos and putting on our gear. The gear included a jumpsuit, goggles, and thick gloves, which were cause enough to raise some concern about what we were getting ourselves into.

(Group at top of volcano - about to slide down)

(Group at top of volcano – about to slide down)

Standing at the top of the ash boarding track one could not see the bottom because of the incline. But, our guide reassured us time and again that if we followed his instructions we would have no problems reaching the bottom safely. After a brief demonstration on the use of the board and a reiteration of how to properly control the speed of our descent, one by one each person took their turn. The entire experience takes about a minute to complete (a minute full of adrenaline and little pellets of ash flying towards you, making you very thankful for the excessive gear). The short run was well worth the effort! Everyone made it to the bottom (some faster than others). Happy, yet tired and covered in ash, we boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel.

By the time we got back it was almost dinner time, so everyone cleaned up and headed out into Leon to grab dinner and explore. It was a relaxing tourist town with a nice town square, cathedral, and restaurants.  We spent the rest of the evening eating, laughing, sharing stories, and relaxing.

It was a day to remember in Nicaragua. We were daredevils, in one of the safest ways possible.

Rebekah Wood
COBA Accounting & Finance Major
Class of 2016

Blown Away by Wind Farm

0 Commentsby   |  08.07.14  |  Study Abroad

Today was our last full day exploring Honduras. We have spent most of our time learning about the differences between the U.S. and Honduras, socially, economically and so on. But today we spent our morning talking with the project manager for a wind farm currently being constructed here in Honduras. Wind farms are common in Texas, particularly near Abilene. It can be a great way for landowners to bring in money because they get a monthly royalty for each wind turbine on their land. This is also true for the landowners in Honduras, which is a great way to bring more money into the country. The wind farm has brought a number of positive effects to this region. For example, there have been concrete, highway-like roads built in remote regions to get the equipment up the mountain, which greatly helps the people living in what used to be isolated villages. Also, with all the new energy created from the wind turbines, at least five villages in the mountains will now be getting power.  Unfortunately, with every big project comes disadvantages. The main problems with this project were the disruptions caused by extensive construction and the logistical difficulties of getting massive pieces of equipment up the steep mountainsides.

(Group at local wind farm)

(Group at local wind farm)

 

Later in the day we went to two different street markets in Choluteca. The first market is the “new” market, and primarily sells food, household items, and pharmaceutical products. It was anything you could ever want to buy all in one place from raw fish to fake ray bans. The second market is the “old” market, and vendors there sold more artisan products like you might find in the countryside. In some ways they were like the markets you might see in the movies. After spending an hour or two roaming the markets we went to dinner at the Pizza Hut, which was basically a sit down restaurant. Like many things we’ve seen in Honduras, having a modern American restaurant and a bustling street market almost side by side is an important reminder of the contrasts that can be found in developing countries.

On the way back to the ranch we saw another beautiful sunset.

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(Our last sunset in Honduras)

Our time here in Honduras has been great.

Mary Melissa Keil
COBA Marketing Major
Class of 2016

Visiting a Fern Farm

0 Commentsby   |  08.06.14  |  Study Abroad

On the second Tuesday of our time in Honduras, we started out working on various projects that can be implemented at the Mission, such as a nutrition plan for the children’s homes and a new inventory system for the warehouse.  In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit a company named Ornamentales Del Valle, which is a branch of Grupo Agrolibano, a Honduran agribusiness with facilities throughout the country.  Del Valle focuses its efforts on the production of ferns for use in floral arrangements.

We spent a couple of hours speaking with the company’s general manager.  He gave us a tour of the facility which had dozens of acres of ferns, planted in carefully controlled rows with extensive irrigation and artificial shade. The manager explained how the growth of the ferns is highly regulated by allowing the plant to receive specific amounts of water and sunlight.  The company grows other plants as well such as cedar trees for the use of furniture production and flowers to be sold in the local markets for events such as Mother’s Day. They explained that the flowers are only sold locally because it takes roughly too long to export the product to places like Europe, which is about the life of the plant.

 

(Plant production at Del Valle)

(Plant production at Del Valle)

It was interesting to compare how different organizations like Mission Lazarus and Del Valle provide for their employees.  Del Valle has a cafeteria available onsite for employees and also provides common grocery items such as beans, rice, and spaghetti at the same price they are able to purchase the items in bulk. This allows the employees to save their earned dollars on everyday necessities.  However, many of the employees are paid based on production, which can make it difficult to earn even minimum wage at times.

Del Valle also seemed to focus greatly on being environmentally friendly.  The facility uses the shavings of leftover cedar to create fertilizer for the plants and constantly replaces trees used to create their wood products. The water system is computerized with a program that uses sixty percent recycled water so as to not waste water. The company also uses their own rainwater ponds to supply water, but when the ponds are empty during the dry season or droughts, they pump water from the river as needed.  The manager explained their focus on environmental standards was required by their buyers from Europe. It was interesting to see how standards and customer expectations from the U.S. and Europe can have an impact on how companies do business in Honduras.

Overall this was yet another great day.

Van Watson
COBA Management Major
Class of 2016

From the Classroom to the Waterfall

0 Commentsby   |  08.05.14  |  Study Abroad

We began our second Monday of the program by meeting with Hector Corrales, a prominent businessman in Southern Honduras.  Hector discussed the history of Honduras and how the country came to be what it is now. He told us all about the growth of the economy as well as political issues related to businesses such as the banana industry. Hector also discussed some of Honduras’s foreign trade with the United States. He was extremely passionate about agricultural industries, as he manages one of the country’s largest shrimp farms and owns a ranch with 350 head of cattle. He explained that his passion for agricultural industries stems from investing in a venture where the land is actually a part of the investment. It was incredible to hear about all the exporting he does within the shrimp industry, ranging from Russia to Germany to Mexico. It was also great to hear a sophisticated businessman with such a passion for agriculture and God’s gift of the land.  Throughout his meeting with us, he emphasized over and over how important agricultural and economic sustainability were to his outlook on business. Also, coming from a cattle ranching family myself, it was great to be able to compare what an agriculture industry in Honduras looks like compared to Texas.

(Local entrepreneur with ACU faculty)

(Local entrepreneur with ACU faculty)

In the afternoon we all loaded up and drove to a waterfall for a Mission Lazarus staff appreciation day. The waterfall was beautiful, however, it wasn’t quite full enough to do cannon balls off the ledge.  We enjoyed good conversation, skipping rocks, and hanging out with the Mission Lazarus staff. It was neat to see all of the staff come together and enjoy some free time after seeing all of the work they put into Mission Lazarus as a whole.

Following our time at the waterfall, we headed back to the Posada at the Mission Lazarus ranch where we had an amazing dinner. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to hear Jarrod and Allison Brown discuss the human resources aspect of their organization. They shared the pros and cons of hiring both local and U.S. employees. It was beneficial to hear how Jarrod and Allison maintain a balance between business and ministry through decisions such as hiring employees. It was also interesting to hear their take on American employees working in a different culture.

Overall, today was another fantastic day at Mission Lazarus. We got to learn more about business operations in Honduras, and enjoyed some down time at the waterfall. I am looking forward to the days to come!

Claire Carmichael
COBA Management Major
Class of 2016

Exploring Tiger Island

0 Commentsby   |  08.04.14  |  Study Abroad

Sunday was a very special day for all of us here in Honduras.  It was our first Sunday at Mission Lazarus, but the day only began there. As soon as we finished breakfast at Mission Lazarus we piled into trucks to head towards the southern coastline of Honduras.  The ride took about two hours through the mountains and then down into marshy lands against the coast.   It never gets old to drive through these remote communities and see how the local Hondurans survive on a day-to-day basis.  We arrived at the edge of the mainland with a breathtaking view of a volcano-shaped island covered in tropical vegetation, called Tiger Island.

(Group at Tiger Island)

(Group at Tiger Island)

The purpose for this trip was to attend a church service led by local church leaders and our incredible host Jarrod Brown, and then to enjoy ourselves for a bit on the local beach.  To get to the island we had to pile into about a thirty-foot boat that was no wider than 6 feet, which held the whole class and our local Honduran drivers.  The trip to the island took a brief twenty minutes through some smooth bay waters.   Once we arrived at this beautiful island the class got into groups of 4 and jumped into miniature three-wheeled vehicles that took us around the west side of the island. After a 5-minute drive we pull up to a small home were we where greeted by very polite Hondurans who quickly handed out chairs for us to sit in before the service started.  To begin the service we started with a prayer and then sang three hymns in Spanish that really set the mood for the church service.  Jarrod had been invited to preach, and he started by preaching to the young kids in attendance, which was very neat to see because he got on their level and shared the word of Christ.  You could tell by the children’s reactions that they understood his message and were interested with what he was preaching.  Following the kids’ Sunday school service Jarrod shared a brief message with the adults in the crowd before starting communion, which hit home for me.  It was an unforgettable Sunday church service in a place that really made me reflect on all the things I’ve been blessed with.

Soon after the service ended we got back into our mini taxis to head down to the beach.  We had to back track around the island through the local town to the east side of Tiger Island.  Upon our arrival we could see the ocean through the trees and shanties that lead down to the beach.  Everyone leaped out of the taxis and quickly immersed their toes in the warm volcanic black sand.  We spent half the afternoon playing in the water and enjoying the local cuisine that the beach restaurants had to offer.   Everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves in there own unique way.  From going to explore the pirate bat cave at the end of the beach to just relaxing in the water – everyone had a great time.   Around 3 o’clock the group pilled back into the taxis to catch the fairy back to the mainland.  The ride back through the mountains to Mission Lazarus gave me time to reflect on this great opportunity we all had in worshiping with good local Christian people, and the time at the beach seeing another spectacular part of Honduras.  We ended the day with a filling dinner back under the Mission Lazarus posada, where this amazing day all started.

Emil T. Litterer
COBA Management Major
Class of 2016