Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Mayfield, of Wednesday Custom Design

“Hi, we’re Wednesday, a boutique paperworks company from Oklahoma City, OK. We’re a creative collaboration between two complete opposites who happen to like great design and each other, a lot. We invest the best of both of us in our work to create an evocative aesthetic. We compile the delicate and bold, intricate and eccentric, and the playful and thoughtful into our designs to curate Wednesday’s unique style and personality. We get excited about paperworks, because some of our most cherished memories have been initiated by an invitation or punctuated with a hand written thanks.”

Any company comprised of two ACU alumni that has an “About Me” page like this one promises to have a story to tell, which is why it was so exciting to have Jessica and Garett Mayfield speak here on campus last week.

Garett and Jessica Mayfield

Their story started here at ACU, where they met. Following their graduation in 2009, the two moved to Florida to pursue Jessica’s job in corporate marketing. At this point, Garett was doing freelance design, but the two decided that they wanted to pursue something more creative.

At the request of a friend, Garett and Jessica decided to branch out and get into some branding work. This experience, while challenging, proved to be incredibly beneficial as the two taught themselves how to budget, create deadlines, interact with a client, and eventually come out with a good product.

Just one of Wednesday's fabulous designs

In spite of some initial struggle, the Mayfields launched Wednesday and watched it take off. Speaking out of both their struggles and successes, Garett and Jessica had a few key points to communicate to our group:

  • Tell your story; it belongs to no one but you.
  • “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman
  • An honest brand is the best brand.
  • Authenticity attracts others, while fakeness often repels them.
  • Don’t compare yourself.
  • Create your own definition of success.

Throughout all of this advice was woven the central message that doing what you love and bringing glory to God is worth far more than any monetary gain. In addition, at the heart of Wednesday lies the Mayfields’ belief that people are worthy of grace and respect and that customers should always be valued. Garett and Jessica believe that relationships have power, and as a result they use their business to build relationships that have value beyond that the workplace.

As the Mayfields pointed out in their closing thoughts,

“Passion for what you are working on keeps you motivated.”

Don’t be afraid to figure out what that passion is and pursue it.

For more on Wednesday, check out their website!

Behind the Scenes at the Connections Cafe

Most COBA students with an 8:00 class have experienced the tantalizing smell of a La Popular breakfast burrito being eaten by one of their classmates. This delicacy, which is often called “the best breakfast burrito in Abilene,” is often paired with Mission Lazarus coffee. This delicious brew is made from beans grown at a plantation in Honduras that provides its farmers with fair wages.

The Cafe proudly serves Mission Lazarus coffee

You may be thinking to yourself, “What wonderful institution provides this stellar breakfast combination?”

The answer is The Connections Café.

The Connections Café is a unique entity that is run by students interested in entrepreneurship here in COBA. This organization’s main purpose is to provide students with real life experience running small businesses. The thought process behind this institution is that students should learn about taking risks and making mistakes now, before their own money is on the line.

Mychal Ricks, a sophomore management major, was hired as the Café’s manager back in November. She said that during her time at the Café, her biggest challenge has been connecting with customers.

“I think the biggest challenge is knowing what our customers want,” explained Mychal. “Technically we’ll never really understand what our customer wants…and so that’s a really big challenge.”

Because the Café has only been student-run for a short period of time, Mychal and her co-workers are looking into different ways to attract customers. One option is adding new products, such as cereal, to their selection. In order to aid them in their decision-making process, the Café has enlisted the help of a student marketing research group here on campus. The research conducted by this team over the following semester will help Mychal and her team as they make advertising and purchasing decisions.

Mychal Ricks

Mychal wants to go into management after she graduates, although not necessarily in the food industry. She said that running the Café has made her more interested in pursuing a career in management, because it’s helped her to learn the ropes of management.

One of the biggest of these lessons has to do with interpersonal dynamics.

 “I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is how to work with people,” explained Mychal. “[I’ve learned] how to separate my personal life from my business life and when to overlap them sometimes, because I can’t just be the boss around everyone. I have to somewhat get on a personal level with everyone.”

Be sure to stop by the Connections Café whenever you’re in COBA!

Alumnus Spotlight: Kelsey Davis

There are many factors that go into determining the quality of a job. These components include: the company’s culture, how well you work with your co-workers, and whether or not you enjoy the work itself.

Kelsey Davis, a 2012 graduate who studied Management, has found an ideal blend of these three components at her job as Assistant to the CEO of CRU International. CRU International, a dinnerware company, designs fine china and drink ware that is sold in stores like Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Dillard’s.

Kelsey (holding the black and white dishes) with her CRU Co-Workers

CRU International, which was founded by ACU alum Darbie Angell, has a unique culture that allows Kelsey to integrate her faith and her work. Interestingly enough, CRU is dedicated to incorporating social responsibility into their business model. In fact, CRU is perpetually partnering with various social ventures, some of which have included donating coffee presses to developing countries and partnering with St. Jude’s Hospital.

Another reason Kelsey loves her job is that she’s found it to be an incredible community that constantly spurs her on to be a better worker and a better person of faith. She describes this experience by saying, “I am humbled to work for a company where all the co-workers continually encourage each other and work so well together as a team.”

Kelsey is not only able to work with people she loves; she is also able to fill a wide variety of functions in the company. “Fortunately my job role changes on a day-to-day basis,” explains Kelsey. “I am privileged to do everything from handling our shipping logistics to helping create a strong brand for CRU.”

So how do graduates smoothly transition straight from the world of academia to the world of industry?

Kelsey landed her job with CRU International as a result of an internship she had the summer before her senior year. Because CRU International is a relatively new company, Kelsey has been fortunate enough to witness a lot of exciting growth during the time that she has interned and worked for the organization.

Kelsey Davis, of CRU Dinnerware

One example of this success is the company’s recent partnership with Disney.

“Disney actually reached out to Darbie [CEO of CRU International] and asked her to design their first ever Disney Fairy Tale Weddings Dinnerware line,” explains Kelsey. “Never in a million years would we have thought Disney would contact us to co-brand with them.”

As if her job didn’t sound good enough already, what Kelsey really loves is the way in which she can see God through it. “Honestly, seeing how God can use imperfect people to create something much bigger than themselves is unbelievably rewarding,” says Kelsey. “I find so much passion in helping market products that I know will help bring others relief and joy around the world.”

Like many COBA graduates, Kelsey believes she can attribute much of her success in the workforce to COBA and its outstanding faculty. Kelsey elaborates, saying,

“Not only did COBA provide a solid educational foundation, but the professors made it evident that if we dreamed big, we could accomplish anything that God called us to do.”

Where will God’s call lead you?

Leadership Summit: Day 5

The fifth and final day of Leadership Summit was fairly low key as we all began to pack our bags and think about heading home.

In between taking pictures of the mountains, we got to listen to John Aden, Executive Vice President of General Merchandise for Wal-Mart, talk about his faith journey and what it looks like to live out that faith in the marketplace.

John Aden, Executive Vice President of General Merchandise, Wal-Mart, Inc.

Mr. Aden believes that it is only through a relationship with Christ that we can make a difference in our workplaces, a fact that he summarized by saying,

“We have to get close to Christ so we can see what He’s doing in the workplace.”

Mr. Aden went on to explain that bold living is a necessary part of making a difference in the market place, and he offered us some profound advice on how to achieve world-changing boldness.

Four Suggestions for Living Boldly:

  1. Remain in relationship with God
  2. Remember God’s presence and promises
  3. Encourage each other by being in deep relationships
  4. Step out in faith—boldly

Mr. Aden followed this inspiring discussion by inviting us all to write down a burden we were carrying and to throw it in the trash as a symbol of what we were leaving on the mountain.

This exercise was moving, because it allowed everyone who participated in Summit to go through the physical act of giving a specific burden over to God.  After five days of listening, it seemed fitting to end our time together by doing something so symbolic.

Praying over Summit Speakers

All in all, Leadership Summit was an incredibly transformative experience, and I would recommend it to all ACU students, regardless of their major.

Thank you to everyone who put in the time and effort to make this week possible!

Leadership Summit: Day 4

The fourth day of Summit was my favorite. In addition to a lesson on leadership taught by Tim Johnston, we got to hear messages from Mike Haley, formerly of Focus on the Family, and Stephen Quinn, Chief Marketing Officer of Wal-Mart.

Mike Haley

Both of these men told incredible stories about the hard times they’ve been through and the way that God has sustained them throughout those times.

Of all the speakers we heard throughout the week, I found Mr. Quinn’s to be the most moving, in part because the night before his presentation, my friends and I had the opportunity to eat dinner with him and his wife, Linda.  Throughout the meal, the Quinns told us about their hobbies and their families, a conversation that I can’t imagine having with a senior level executive anywhere else.

Stephen Quinn, CMO of Wal-mart

Last year Mr. Quinn was named the top marketer in the world, and while he told us about some of his work as a marketer at various companies, his emphasis was on something different: Jesus.

Mr. Quinn truly believes that God has called him to serve others in the marketplace. As a result of this conviction, he allows God to open his eyes to individuals in his workplace who are suffering. As a result of this awareness, Mr. Quinn has been able to introduce many of his employees to Jesus.

Mr. Quinn summed this up perfectly when he said,

“You will never walk in perfect love until you invest in people.”

Are you investing in those around you?

Leadership Summit: Day 3

A group of students in front of a frozen waterfall at the end of our hike

We kicked off the third day of Summit listening to Dr. Rick Lytle, Dean of the College of Business, talk about inspiring a shared vision. Outside of the guest speakers who we got to listen to, this particular lesson on leadership was probably my favorite. One of the biggest things I walked away from was the simple idea that,

“We don’t think big enough, often enough.”

This is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, because often as leaders we try to cover all the bases and make sure we don’t have any obvious liabilities. However, in this process it is very easy for leadership to lose sight of any big goals it may have.

One incredible example of a group who never lost sight of its big goals is Mission Lazarus, a nonprofit relief organization located in Honduras. Mission Lazarus was founded by ACU alum Jarrod Brown; luckily for us, Jarrod and his family were actually at Summit, where we had the opportunity to listen to Jarrod speak and then to work through a case study with him and his wife, Allison.

Jarrod Brown, of Mission Lazarus

Jarrod began his speech by talking about the kind of person he was when he was here at ACU. He explained that he’d been completely consumed with the idea of making money, and that God really had no place in his life. Immediately after graduating, he jumped on the corporate ladder and landed an unbelievable consulting job that most COBA grads would love to attain.

However, he began to realize he wasn’t fulfilled, and after visiting Honduras on a short-term mission trip, Jarrod began to feel God leading him towards permanent residence in Honduras.

Jarrod’s story struck a chord with a lot of the students at Summit. After all, most of us are currently studying business here at COBA, and a lot of us would like to get a great, high-paying job straight out of college. Because of the parallel that Jarrod’s story had with many of our own, the points he made about living for Christ really struck home:

  1. The most important investments you will make are those in your family.
  2. Don’t settle for the status quo.
  3. Live what you claim to be.

Listening to Jarrod, I was reminded of the unique opportunity that I have to be a part of COBA. I can’t imagine studying business anywhere else, and if I do anything but use that opportunity to bring God glory, then I am making a lesser choice. Instead of allowing myself to do what I want to do, I need to seek God’s will for my life and my calling, something that I can begin working on right now. As Jarrod pointed out,

“You need to decide who you are and what you stand for today.”

What do you stand for?

Leadership Summit: Day 2

Much like the first day, the second day of Summit was packed full of small groups, speakers, and team activities. However, on this second day the emphasis was on the role of leadership in the church.

In order to help us better understand this complex topic, Rick Atchley, senior minister of The Hills Church, delivered one of the most challenging messages I’ve ever heard on the desperate need for leadership in America’s churches today.

Rick Atchley, Senior Minister at The Hills Church

During his lecture, a lot of Mr. Atchley’s words made an impression on me. However, one of the biggest things I walked away with was his statement that,

“You must minister from your blessing instead of for a blessing.”

This point really got me thinking. I’m only nineteen, but throughout my life I’ve seen numerous individuals go into ministry and then get burned out. Mr. Atchley’s statement made me stop and think about how critical it is to allow ourselves to be filled by God before we try to serve and minister to others. I also wondered how often we as the church forget about this step and then wonder why we seem to have nothing to offer others.

In addition to hearing thought-provoking speakers like Mr. Atchley who caused me to examine and reassess my thinking, I also loved the case studies in which we got to participate.

The unique thing about these case studies is that they were written by our guest speakers and draw on real experiences from their lives. After discussing the case studies amongst ourselves, we then discussed these case studies as a class with the speakers who wrote them.

Throughout this process, we were given the opportunity to process the way we would behave before hearing how older and wiser individuals actually chose to handle things.

All in all, listening to Mr. Atchley challenged me to rethink my role in the church and in God’s bigger story for my life.

What is your role in that story?

Students participated in relays and other games during team activity time

Leadership Summit: Day 1

Over Christmas break I had the opportunity to spend five days in Buena Vista, Colorado participating in COBA’s 15th annual Leadership Summit.

That’s right; I earned three hours of upper level business credit while listening to some of the most prominent church and business leaders in the world and living in the midst of this:

Because I was so busy hiking through the Rockies and eating dinner with guests like Stephen Quinn, Chief Marketing Officer of Wal-Mart, I didn’t have time to blog while I was at Summit. As a result, I’m now playing catch up, and while a couple of paragraphs come nowhere close to capturing the life-changing experience that is Leadership Summit, I’m going to do my best to give you some highlights from each day. Hopefully this meager snapshot will give you a better idea of the life-changing five days that compose Leadership Summit.

Leadership Summit: Day 1

Because Summit supports the perspective that leadership should transcend all aspects of life, our first day on the mountain was about leadership in the family. As a result, our speakers on this first day were very family-oriented.

This remarkable ensemble of presenters was made up of Greg and Erin Smalley, of the Marriage and Family Formation department of Focus on the Family, Glenn Stanton, director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, and Lisa Anderson, director of young adults for Focus on the Family. Together, these speakers delivered powerful, humor-infused lectures on everything from the importance of communication in relationships to the top reasons young adults don’t mature.

While I was impressed with the messages delivered by all four speakers, my favorite part of the first day was actually the time we got to spend in small groups with mentoring couples. COBA invited four couples young couples to talk about what life had been like as they entered the real world, pursued careers, and started families. As a result, they were able to give us students some insight into how the next ten or fifteen years of our lives might play out.

As I listened to these incredible leaders share stories from their lives and advice on how to deal with other people, one of them reminded us of this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”

This is why relationships matter, whether in the family or in the workplace. At COBA, we understand that knowledge alone is not what makes a great leader. A great leader goes beyond knowledge, because a great leader is someone who cares.

COBA Alum Kara Ulmer Changes the World

Many students hope to travel the world and rise to lofty positions in international corporations, while some hope to work with monetarily impoverished people on the other side of the world.

Kara Ulmer has done it all.

Kara Ulmer

A 1998 graduate, Kara has put her International Business degree to good use as she has worked in various capacities for several prominent organizations. Although the myriad of companies for which she has worked would be impressive on its own, what’s even more significant is the weight of the positions she has held. At Verizon, Kara worked as an analyst during the company’s inception and initial growth as a new merged entity. She then worked as the Director of Analytics for the US at Alliance Data Systems, Inc. before accepting a position at Barclays Bank in Northampton, UK that eventually led to her promotion to Director of Strategic Planning and Analytics for the Barclaycard division.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that Kara really can’t do much more. If that’s the case, you’re wrong.

In fact, Kara now works as the Executive Director for Freedom Stones International, an international social enterprise that seeks to provide employment for women and teenagers who have been sexually trafficked. “As an international social enterprise, we are a unique combination of business principles, marketing strategy, and international development,” explains Kara. “It is a specific challenge to employ people who have been through significant trauma as they work toward full capacity and healing.”

Because Freedom Stones believes that poverty is at the root of trafficking, the enterprise partners with local organizations around the world to set up micro-lending programs that generate income for individuals who previously had no good way to earn a living. Through this process, Freedom Stones strives to assist individuals in acquiring independence, or, in their words, to “enable families and individuals to move from a place of brokenness to a place where they are ready to move beyond dependency on an organization and into a local sustainable livelihood.”

In her role as Executive Director, Kara leads the organization in both strategic planning and marketing and operations, a role that she enjoys in part because of the unique international relationships it facilitates.

“I love to see our artisans flourish through fair and supportive work environments,” observes Kara. “I also love to see our consumers join in the struggles and healing process that so many women and girls face in South East Asia regarding sex trafficking.”

A Freedom Stones Artisan at Work

Kara believes that the time she spent at ACU, both in COBA and studying abroad, effectively prepared her for the workplace. Even learning to successfully balance the various aspects of college was sometimes challenging.

“In order to complete the semester abroad, I took 21 hours of coursework and worked in both the COBA lab and the cafe. Managing this workload on campus and balancing social time was challenging but reflective of real-life,” explains Kara. “The semester abroad also helped me to adapt to various cultures and people. In my senior year, a class on business writing helped me prepare my resume and job search skills, which served as practical preparation for graduation.”

One look at Kara’s resume should leave current COBA students wondering what it takes to be as successful as Kara. Her advice is to be bold. “Never be afraid to constructively challenge the status quo in your job, always look for opportunities to improve your work and the performance of those around you. If you do this with respect and integrity, you will be recognized for your diligence and innovation.”

She certainly is.

Linda Egle of Eternal Threads Shares Her Story with Women in Business

Linda Egle with one of the artisans of Eternal Threads

“The women we work with are my heroes,” Linda Egle said yesterday as she spoke to COBA’s Women in Business group. Linda is the Founder and Executive Director of Eternal Threads, an organization that seeks to empower women in the third world by providing training and resources that jumpstart their abilities to provide for themselves and their families.

With an audience of nearly thirty, Linda talked about the entrepreneurial spirit of the women with whom she works. Linda explained that these women, her heroes, work tirelessly at their crafts, sometimes even walking for miles to purchase supplies. As Linda explained, Eternal Threads is able to partner with these creative, driven individuals and provide a market for them to sell their incredible craftsmanship here in the States.

The Eternal Threads website eloquently explains this mission and vision by saying, “Part of this vision was the desire to connect women in the developed world to women struggling to survive in underdeveloped nations.  By selling their handiwork Eternal Threads is able to tell the story of these women and by purchasing their work you can be a part of providing them with hope and a future.”

A true social entrepreneur, Linda transitioned into her current line of work from a job as a flight attendant. She explained that her years of traveling experience empowered her to work independently in countries all over the world. Interestingly enough, Linda also believes that part of her success comes from the fact that she started Eternal Threads with nothing more than her own money.

Linda explained that this monetary independence has helped Eternal Threads maintain its integrity. She explained that because the organization was able to keep its focus on the end goal of empowering women rather than on the importance of maintaining donors or earning back investments.

This integrity is something that Eternal Threads has retained over the last ten years as it has expanded to employ over two-hundred-and-fifty women from countries such as Nepal, Madagascar, and Afghanistan.

Be sure to visit the Eternal Threads website to learn more about what they do or to do a little bit of Christmas shopping!