The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, located in COBA, founded the Springboard Student Venture Competition to support the growth of ACU undergraduate and graduate student businesses and nonprofit organizations. Winners receive one-time funding from $500 – $3,000.
In order for the students to be able to compete in front of the Springboard judging panel, the students must be enrolled at ACU, must own at least 51% of their venture, and must be engaged in entrepreneurial activities such as the Founders Club, a student venture club led by Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator. Awards are based on the panel’s assessment of the potential of the business and the “spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the student(s)”. Students come prepared with a 3 – 4-minute speech and the necessary financial reports for their business. Each student receives feedback on their presentation/business model and a chance to compete again in the next competition for those who are not awarded funding in the current competition.
This year Founders Club President, Karson Tutt, and Founders Club member, Lauren Gumm, were awarded for their presentations. Gumm, an elementary education major from Abilene, TX, runs a screen printing company called Wear It to Share I”. Lauren screen prints thrifted shirts by hand in order to bring people environmentally conscious and unique shirts. Tutt, a senior management major from Tuscola, TX, started Karson’s, an online jewelry company, which is now in the process of adding an in-person location in Abilene where many other products will be available. We interviewed both award winners to learn about their experiences participating in the Founders Club and the Springboard Student Venture Competition.
Wear It to Share It
How has being involved in the Founders Club impacted your business?
Lauren: “Founders Club has provided so many resources for me and my little company! I’ve gotten financial advice and marketing consultations and had the opportunity to speak in front of members of the Abilene community about the awesome entrepreneurs at ACU! I started my business in my dorm room and being able to have an office space where I can work is another great resource that the Founders Club has given me. Founders Club has also given me a community to walk through business ownership with. My friends have always been super supportive of my business but having a group of people who also own their own businesses that I can talk through ideas and problems with has been a huge blessing.”
Karson: “I have loved getting to meet with other student entrepreneurs who understand the struggles I go through. I also participated in one of the pitch competitions and won money to put towards opening my store.”
What did you learn from the competition experience?
Lauren: “The competition gave me a sense of confidence in my abilities as a business owner. To be able to present the work I constantly pour into and receive validation that what I’m pursuing is smart and in demand was really reassuring! I also learned how important it is to be confident in your abilities. The judges were looking for business owners who happen to be full-time students. I walked away really feeling like they saw me as a business owner and a student.”
Karson: “I learned that I am actually more confident in my business as a whole than I thought. I used to think my business was just kind of small and not that big of a deal, but it’s actually really cool that I’m doing this and it’s not as hard as I thought to talk to adults about what I do and my plans for the future.”
What is your plan for your business now that you have won the competition?
Lauren: “Winning the competition gave me the ability to purchase new equipment that I desperately needed. The equipment I started out with in 2018 still functioned perfectly fine but it was the cheapest option available and therefore required every element of the process to be done by hand. My new equipment is what allowed me to fully pursue printing on thrifted shirts! I simply didn’t have the time to thrift and print but with the time saved using my new equipment I am able to do both!”
Karson: “I was planning on opening the store regardless of if I won or not, but now that I did win the extra funding I was able to literally expand the space of the store and get nicer versions of the things I was already going to be getting (ex. cash register, security system, light fixtures, etc.).”
Is there anything you would like to add?
Lauren: “I just want to encourage anyone who thinks they want to begin a business to go for it! Even if it isn’t a business you want to pursue long-term you can learn so much through the process! I have an appreciation for entrepreneurs that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and started Wear It to Share It!”
Karson: “The Griggs Center and Founders Club truly have been a great asset to me and my business. I love the community that has come from being involved.”
Graham Cepica (’21) is a marketing major from Lubbock, TX. Graham recently began an internship with New York real estate developer, Horacio LeDon, where he has been able to receive real-world experience that he can translate to the classroom and his professional career development. When it comes to internships and job searches, networking often plays a vital role in finding the opportunities that will provide the most valuable experience. Initiative, interest, and passion also play a large role in obtaining such opportunities. Graham is a wonderful example of how networking brought him to a once in a lifetime internship opening.
“Last semester, I had the chance to attend the Abilene Young Professionals Summit. In one of the breakout sessions, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer named Tim Smith was speaking. After the panel, I introduced myself to him and got his information. It wasn’t long before I was spending my days downtown shadowing Tim, meeting people, and learning about the exciting developments in store for Abilene. Towards the end of the semester, I approached Tim about a possible internship for the coming spring. Even though he could use a hand with his projects in south downtown, he suggested a better alternative. Tim introduced me to a man by the name of Horacio LeDon, a prominent real estate developer from New York that was a fellow investor in the purchase of the Windsor Hotel. Horacio was the lead developer for the renovation and revitalization of the historic building and was willing to take me on as his intern. Tim recognized that this project would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the experience has been nothing short of exactly that.”
“I would go to my internship every weekday after I got out of class. A typical day looks like me meeting Horacio after lunch and updating him on any upcoming meetings that I have set up for us with different vendors and partners. For example, Abilene companies that sell flags that we want to extend from the balcony, potential businesses that we are interested in for the retail spaces connected to the lobby, interviews with local CPA’s to serve as part-time CFO’s, interior designers that can come alongside us in the project, architects, lighting designers, security services, etc. In addition to meetings, I organize floorplans, inspiration, official documents, and agendas into their corresponding files. Horacio and I have various shared photo albums with inspiration for the Windsor, as well as shared Notes with to-do lists. Sometimes, Horacio has his own meetings that I get to shadow. I have gotten to meet the city manager, chairman of the city council, and others by way of Horacio’s network. Horacio is always mindful of providing me with valuable experience and learning opportunities. The relationship I have with Horacio has been my favorite part of the internship. Due to a mutual respect for one another, we have developed an efficient working environment allowing me to serve the team and be part of a special development for downtown Abilene.”
This project has fueled a desire in Graham to further explore careers in real estate and real estate development. “I am intrigued by the creativity that real estate development presents. The ability to see something with potential and add value to it is something that I have a passion for. I would love to bring this passion into my career – whether I am adding value to a building, a project, or a team of people. But right now, my next best step is to ‘add value’ to this internship with the service I provide.”
The College of Business Administration seeks to provide all students with internship and job search help, professional development coaching, as well as helping students expand their professional network. Graham Cepica is definitely a testament to the power of networking, saying, “The networking opportunities at ACU had a domino effect that led me from one person to the next.”
Interested in learning more about professional development at ACU? Click here to learn more about the Professional Development program offered by COBA. Click here to learn more about ACU’s Career Center.
(Maddy Crockett, sophomore accounting major from Lubbock, Texas shares her experience of living in Oxford, England with ACU’s Study Abroad program this spring and what it was like when they were forced to return home due to the Coronavirus.)
Heartbroken – the moment we’d been dreading had come. We looked around at each other as they announced over the loud speaker on the bus that the Oxford program was forced to shut down. We were going home two months earlier than expected. President Trump had addressed the nation the night before, raising the travel restriction levels all throughout Europe, except for the UK. The other students in Leipzig were out of Germany when the news came, and they left immediately – without their belongings and without saying goodbye. The prospect of the Coronavirus interfering with our semester had been a topic of debate between the students for several weeks, but we were optimistic until the end. After that day, though, we began the dreaded process of saying goodbye.
Before I studied abroad, I might not have taken seriously how deeply one connects to the place they live. “Yes, they have to come home. So what? They just spent the last two months travelling and spending money. Surely it couldn’t have made that big of an impact, right?” And sadly, I make these assumptions for many activities I have no experience in. Yet, the past two months, while seemingly short, truly were life changing, and my heart ached at the prospect of leaving early and departing from that environment.
I really had no plans to study abroad. A friend convinced me to sign up freshman year, and thinking it would be a good way to push myself, I said yes and submitted my application. Yet, as the drop date steadily approached, I went back and forth, struggling over if it was something I truly wanted to commit to. Did I want to be gone for a whole semester? Would I regret the activities and people I’m missing on campus? What if I got over there and hated it? Was it even worth it? After almost backing out – twice, I might add – I decided to go through with it, and that was that. Fall semester flew by and Christmas break arrived, which led to packing, planning, and saying goodbye to friends and family in Texas.
The day we left for Oxford – a Wednesday morning after spring semester had started – we were teary-eyed and unsure what the next four months held. I had two close friends going abroad with me and others who I hoped to know better, but I was leaving many dear friends at ACU. ‘Why on earth am I leaving when I have so many good things right here?’ I thought as we all hugged each other goodbye. Then, we were whisked away on the bus, took several long flights, and arrived exhausted and unsure the next day in the city of Oxford. It was cloudy, cold, and completely foreign.
The next few days held room assignments, walking tours, scavenger hunts, and exploration as we settled into our new environment. The cloudiness and cold slowly shifted to cozy and ideal; the foreign turned into curiosity and adventure. We found bakeries with beautifully decorated cakes, coffee shops with upstairs seating and rickety wooden floors, the grocery store to load up on a few days’ worth of groceries (and no more than that — it’s a mile walk home, and you carry what you buy). We began our classes in a little establishment off of Woodstock Road – The Quaker Meeting House – and got plugged into a church that many study abroad alums told us about, St. Aldates. We went running through the abundant parks and meadows Oxford holds, and we grew accustomed to walking at least a mile to get places. The days faded into weeks, and without even realizing it, I had forgotten to be nervous or to miss home. This adventure had captured my attention, and each new day brought eagerness and excitement – a rhythm was found.
While a foreign country itself is an incredible journey, it wouldn’t have been half of what it was without the people I experienced it with. Oxford holds the largest ACU group, with thirty-five students, two professors, and an on-site director, but it never hindered us from learning to know one another. These were people we saw day in, day out, from breakfast to class, to the common rooms and everywhere in between. We were all on the same schedule, all in a new place, and all wanting to make the most of our time here – which is the perfect environment for connection. Not only did I grow closer to the friends I already had, but our community grew abundantly as we created one-of-a-kind shared experiences with each other. Class devotionals on Monday nights, breakfast for dinner with a smaller group, college night at church (and going for ice cream once it ended), and eventually, travelling to different countries in our free weekends. An environment affect change so much in a person, but the people there with you make all of the difference.
It would be impossible to convey everything I learned or experienced in Oxford, but there are a few that stick out to me. Something I have noticed since being at home is that study abroad gives students the opportunity to step back from their commitments, their activities, the people they spend time with, and really see who they are outside of that. It can help you think about what’s important to you back home, and what you want the rest of your college career to look like. For me, these past two months helped me grow in proactivity and confidence. Whether it be volunteering to plan out all the details of our next trip, using Apple maps to navigate us through the streets of a city, or choosing excitement instead of intimidation when countless opportunities present themselves, the experiences I had helped make me a little more well-rounded (I hope, at least!).
The Coronavirus had been a topic of discussion, first jokingly back in February, then more seriously as other universities began to pull their programs. To us, it was something in China, then in Italy — but not Oxford, not where we were. The week before we left, our class was scheduled for a trip to Northern Spain. We were elated because we would all be together to explore that new place. As we packed and prepared to leave for it, we heard about more and more programs that were being called back home and that the numbers of the sick in Italy were growing exponentially. There was debate if we would be pulled, too, but the ACU Study Abroad office continually communicated with us that our program would continue as planned, as long as our area was safe and that the US deemed it so. Looking back, our time all together in Spain was one of the high points of our semester, and we could not have ended on a better note.
When we learned that we were going home early, we were blessed to have two whole days left to say goodbye to our temporary home. Souvenirs were bought, scones and pastries were consumed in unhealthy quantities, we had one last breakfast for dinner, and we ran through the parks and meadows that were slowly greeting spring. The last day held flurried packing, tearful conversations, and a bus ride to the airport that came all too soon. I thought back to that first bus ride, where I questioned why on earth I was wanting to do this. Now, I never wanted to leave. Life can be funny that way.
As I sit here at home, saddened by what these next two months could have held in Oxford, but even more so by the devastation and chaos that the Coronavirus has brought upon everyone, I am still grateful. Friends and family reaching out to see how we are holding up, class Zoom calls that feel a little more like reunions, a virtual breakfast for dinner, and time to sit and dwell on what the Lord has done in us since we left the US back in January. Study Abroad gave me the dearest friends, an abundant atmosphere and culture, and instilled a drive in me to go after and get done ideas that I have. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity, in the midst of its interruption, and I am curious to see what the rest of this year will look like. Still, I am eager for the day when I can return again to visit this temporary home.
On January 27th, senior chemistry major Claire Shudde entered the Improve ACU Competition and left with a cash prize of $500 and the opportunity to make her idea come to life. The competition was co-hosted by the ACU Student Government Association (SGA) and the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.
Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator for the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy explained why they chose to create this competition. “We wanted to try and reach a larger sector of the student body and engage them in entrepreneurial thinking. The prompt was simply what are your ideas to improve ACU? We had 139 total entries and the finalists and winner were picked by the SGA student team. There were several really creative ideas submitted. Some of the top ideas included a community garden, a low-cost food pantry for students, and a student led spirit team at the ACU basketball games. Our hope was that students would take a moment to look around and see how their ideas could lead to real change at ACU. Every successful business, initiative or service starts with a great idea.”
Claire told us, “My idea to improve ACU is to have selected accounting and business students help lower income citizens in Abilene file their taxes. Filing taxes isn’t always easy and for people who either don’t have the education or ability to file for themselves, it can be a daunting task. If students at ACU — ideally selected by faculty who have witnessed the student’s desire and ability to serve the community in this way — can help locals file their taxes, they can gain real world experience while also benefiting the community.”
Shudde gave credit where credit is due for the idea. “I got the idea from a friend who attends St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Their school is situated in an impoverished part of town and the students intentionally work on reaching out and ministering to the community. As a Christian school, I think ACU could follow suit and reach out to the community in this way. There is potential for this to be an incredible ministry in Abilene, and while accounting/finance majors help people with money, other students can minister to the people waiting.”
Claire continued, “I think the best way to establish this would be to partner with ministries like Love and Care or the Mission that are currently working and established. As a senior chemistry major, I am fairly far removed from accounting and finance, so I doubt I could be involved in the actual functioning of the tax clinic. Rather than be hands on myself, I would love to brainstorm with those who are knowledgeable in this area and will be in Abilene longer than me. I think breaking the ACU bubble in this way will benefit both the community and the ACU students involved. My hope and prayer is that through simple actions such as helping a single mom file for a tax return, people can experience the love of God. Isaiah 1:17 says ‘Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, take up the case of the widow.’ While setting up a tax clinic does not fix all the problems in Abilene, I think it would be a chance for christians to live out this charge. I hope that in a few years I can look back and see ACU taking steps into the community beyond just a tax clinic.”
The ACU community often talks about the “ACU Difference”. Bright minded students who have a passion not only for ACU, but for making ACU and Abilene a greater place, are living, breathing examples of that difference. Congratulations to Claire Shudde on winning the competition! Want to learn more about the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy and how you can get involved? Click here to learn more.
As we come to the end of our “Why I Teach” series, we (the student workers, Katie Norris and Maddy Crockett) wanted to take a moment to appreciate the professors.
Each and every one of the professors works endlessly and dedicates their time to us and for us. We have compiled a few comments from students around COBA to give snippets of appreciation for their professors. Many professors are not mentioned-but nevertheless, they are just as appreciated.
Dr. David Perkins
“Dr. Perkins was my first accounting professor in COBA. The thought of taking an accounting class was terrifying to me, but thank the Lord for Dr. Perkins. His heart is so gentle and kind and he cares SO much. He truly wants the best for his students and that is so evident in the way he builds relationships with them.” – Presley Davis, junior management major
“I appreciate Dr. Perkins’ attention to detail when it comes to teaching and making sure the class understands what is being taught.” – Sam Onstead, freshman financial management major
Dr. Dennis Marquardt
“He has given me great advice on pursuing my career and I always loved his class. He is always motivated and excited and he is also very personal with everyone in class.” – Joseph Crockett, sophomore management major
“He always sees the best in everyone and is a great listener!” – Bryce Adams, junior financial management major
Dr. Ryan Jessup
“Dr. Jessup cares deeply about good education and teaching students to think critically. He has challenged me personally to think more intentionally about my education, career, and faith. Furthermore, he has taught me about the importance of making good decisions in business and in life. His classes are rigorous and challenging, but very rewarding. I appreciate Dr. Jessup’s desire to help students truly learn.” – Luke Stevens, senior marketing major
“I appreciate Dr. Jessup because he really cares about his students and he does a great job of keeping us engaged throughout the semester. He is willing to help his students when we ask. Dr. Jessup is a great example of a professor who teaches us about marketing as well as challenges us in our faith.” – Sloan Polvado, senior marketing major
Dr. Andy Little
“It is clearly evident that Andy cares about his students by the way he shows up and shares his knowledge with us. His class made me love learning about law! I appreciate him!” – Emily Goulet, junior accounting major
Dr. Don Pope
“I appreciate how Dr Pope creates intrigue behind business stats and engages his class in exercises to better understand the advertising and business world we live in through stats.” – Ben Fridge, sophomore financial management major
Dr. Katie Wick and Dr. Monty Lynn
“Shoutout to Dr. Wick and Dr. Lynn for making my mornings really awesome!” – Jose Rodriquez, Freshman
Dr. Dennis Marquardt
Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Assistant Professor of Management and Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, is one of the great examples in COBA of a well-developed, strong, and Christ-like individual. He says, “I often laugh at the thought of telling my 20 year old self that one day he would be a college professor. The idea of being a professor was not even in the realm of my thought space when I graduated from college. My plan was to work a year in a business-related job and try to get into law school. Instead, for some reason, as an organizational communication major, I ended up getting hired for a tax and compliance job at Bankers Trust (which was soon acquired by Deutsche Bank). I really enjoyed the work I did for DB and started an MBA program with plans to continue my business career.”
Dr. Marquardt does well to share his experiences in the classroom and apply the class concepts to his failures and his accomplishments. The humility and grace that he shows earns him the highest respect from his students to his coworkers. Part of that is an incredible amount of faith that he shows through his actions and choices. “I’ve always prayed heavily for each career path I’ve been presented with and asked a lot of advice from others to get a wiser and more well-rounded faith-based perspective. It’s usually when I look in the rear-view mirror that I see God’s direction in my journey most clearly. Most of all, I am overwhelmed by His grace and mercy for the many times I’ve failed and/or chosen the wrong path (and that’s happened more than I’d like to admit).“
Marquardt teaching at Leadership Summit
When asked if and how his faith plays a role in his teaching he was enthusiastic to talk about how he sees God working through COBA. This was his response: “Absolutely. As a management professor, I see the role of “manager” as an incredibly noble calling. The research is quite conclusive regarding the significant impact a supervisor has on the subjective well-being and overall quality of life of his or her subordinates. What an incredible opportunity management is, then, for people of faith to live out the servant life promoted by Christ. I think much of the Human Relations movement in management is not only conducive to but also indirectly (and sometimes directly) draws from the characters and virtues found in the teachings and life of Jesus. One of my priorities is to make these connections evident in the classroom and to help students see that faith does impact our careers and should create cycles of virtue in the lives of employees and customers alike.”
Dr. Marquardt responded with this wisdom when asked what he has learned since being at COBA: “ACU and COBA values relationships and creates settings that allow for a more holistic approach to learning that spans beyond the four walls of the classroom. I think this is one of the key differentiators for ACU and it provides a mutual learning environment for professors and students. Not only do I get to facilitate learning but I am also challenged and sharpened by my students as I see them wrestling with new ideas and living and working out their own faith.”
Dennis and Monique Marquardt
Final Words: “Early in my teaching career I became deeply convicted about the intrinsic value potential of each and every class session. Each time students come into a classroom with any instructor I think there is something almost sacred about the possibilities. I was recently reminded of a poem by former longtime President of Morehouse College and spiritual mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays that conveys this point:
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.