Leadership Summit: Equipping Students for Service and Leadership

written by special contributor, Lance Fleming

For 26 years, the ACU College of Business Administration has hosted a Leadership Summit in the mountains of Colorado intended to re-energize the mind, body, and soul. Each Summit takes on a life of its own, providing answers to the questions the attendees bring with them each year.

The recently completed 2024 version of Leadership Summit wasn’t different. This year’s version might have been the most diverse session of any of the 26 that have occurred.

Established in 1998 in the College of Business Administration, Summit is a one-week, 3-hour course hosted in picturesque Colorado. The course blends academic rigor with an environment ripe for deep, personal, and lasting encounters with Jesus. Dr. Rick Lytle, Tim Johnston (‘80), and Mike Winegeart (’86) dreamed of an experience that would take students out of the regular classroom and inspire them to think of their future work as missional. The first Leadership Summit was held in 1998, and the trio would go on to be involved in various aspects of the class over the next few decades.

Leadership Summit is open to all majors and classifications on campus – it’s not just for business students. Because this year’s cohort consisted of so many non-business majors, Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Associate Professor of Management and Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, said Summit 2024 started a bit differently than other sessions.

“This was one of our most diverse groups along the lines of classification and major, so the first few days of Summit were really about getting to know each other,” he said. “It takes time to trust one another and be vulnerable with each other, which is an important aspect of the growth process at Summit. We also hosted more speakers than ever and from a wide range of industry backgrounds, so the week was packed, especially the first two days. By Wednesday, I noticed the group came together and opened up around some deep spiritual topics.”

The base curriculum for this year’s Summit centered around two books: Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner and The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness by Tim Keller. Each day is assigned one of the five leadership practices from the Leadership Challenge – Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart – but every speaker is encouraged to share their spiritual journey in whatever way the Spirit moves.

Serge Gasore (’09), co-founder of Rwanda Children

This year, Marquardt said, notable themes emerged across topics such as forgiveness from Serge Gasore (’09) and Tonya Carruthers, pride and humility from Tim Goeglein and Tony Roach (’01), and vision and role-modeling from Elise Mitchell (’83) and April Anthony (’89). Each speaker, he said, is encouraged to be transparent and vulnerable, creating an environment for deep collective reflection and sharing with the students. When that happens, Jesus takes over, and theory and books fade into the background.

“It’s one thing to learn about theory and read textbooks on leadership, and there certainly is a place for that,” Marquardt said, “but true learning and growth happens in community and relationships. Summit is distinct because it pairs the best leadership teaching with the spirit and heart. The environment is ripe for true reflection on how we become the servants God calls us to be so that we might be people of influence known for bearing hope, peace, and love.”

Hayden Poorman – a senior from Tuscola graduating in May and triple-majoring in finance, accounting, and information systems – completed his second trip to Summit in January. Like last year, Poorman said he left Colorado Springs with a definite direction for his life.

“Last year, I felt incredibly empowered to make changes in my life and impact those around me,” Poorman said. “For instance, after coming down from the mountain, my friend Matthew Trow (’24) and I initiated a Real Estate & Banking club on campus to assist students in navigating the industry. This year, I went to Summit seeking Godly wisdom and guidance and a time to wrestle with my inner struggles.

“Instead of feeling energized and engaging in constant hiking and exploration (though I did still hike), I found solitude in the mountain landscape and sought God,” he said. “ I firmly believe that God worked on me in the stillness of the mountains. I left the mountain prepared to confront my final semester of college and effectively navigate the valley I was traversing.”

Poorman said one reason he felt ready to take on the final weeks of his collegiate experience was the nightly conversation with his roommate on the trip, Mason Graham (’25).

“We discussed the day’s topics and delved into how life was unfolding for each of us, offering support and encouragement,” Poorman said. “Mason played a pivotal role in helping me articulate my thoughts and was instrumental in navigating my journey through faith and suffering.”

Allie Harper, a junior Bible and ministry major from Carrollton, was deeply affected by the connections with students and speakers during the six days spent on the mountain.

“I think what makes Summit so impactful for people is that you get to retreat from everyday routine and spend time with like-minded people,” Harper said. “The connections and friendships I made at Summit are special because of our unity in Christ. Those connections have given me people to rely on, whether needing strong leaders to help with a ministry event or business and finance advice. 

“Something I remembered during one of the morning sessions was the people in my life I love who don’t know Christ,” she said. “Needless to say, I was a teary mess but also felt loved and encouraged by those who sat with me and prayed for those people. It reminded me that sometimes we have to sit in grief, but the Lord always brings hope and joy.”

This year’s Summit was Harper’s first venture to the mountain castle, and she said she came away with a deeper appreciation of the skills needed to be effective in ministry.

“I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect at Summit, but the whole week, I was surprised by the connections to faith, scripture, and community,” she said. “I saw what good Christian leadership looks like through the speakers, professors, and fellow students. It reminded me of the importance of leadership skills and not just a knowledge of scripture. I realized that to be effective as a minister, I need both. I would encourage those who aren’t pursuing a career in ministry but in the business world that God has called and equipped them because the world needs more Christ-like teachers, financial advisors, doctors, and salespeople. I left the week grateful because I had been equipped with scripture and the leadership skills to make me a better minister.”

And those moments – of reflection, self-awareness, and enlightenment – help make the moving parts that go into planning a week-long, out-of-state conference worth it for Marquardt.

Dr. Dennis Marquardt

“There was just a moment this year when the Summit program began, and I looked at all of us worshipping together and about to embark on this special experience for the next week, and it broke me,” Marquardt said. “God is good. And He is gracious to allow us such a transformational experience.”

And that experience is what the first 26 Leadership Summits have given each participant and will continue to be the focus of in the future.

“God does amazing things, and He chooses to do those things through His people,” Marquardt said. “When we surrender to Him, our lives become this grand Kingdom adventure (which is not always safe or easy), but it allows us to serve others in transformational ways. That service might be as a business leader, community member, or in a family, but we will all have the opportunity to step into it. We want Leadership Summit to create leaders who are servants first and run into the storms and fires of life to be bearers of hope, peace, and life.”

Dr. Bill and Mrs. Donna Petty: Honoring Lives of Service to Others

Written by special contributor Lance Fleming

Dr. Bill and Mrs. Donna Petty

If – as ACU President Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) said on Friday, Oct. 13 – the College of Business Administration has been an engine that has driven ACU’s extraordinary growth over the last 35-plus years, then the man who put the key in the ignition was Dr. Bill Petty (’64). 

So, it was only natural that when the Mabee Business Building – which Petty and others planned, raised money for and saw through to its opening in 1986 – needed a facelift, Petty’s name would adorn one of the newly remodeled areas of the facility. 

And that’s why Schubert, Petty and his wife Donna (Guinn ’64), ACU Dean of COBA Brad Crisp (’93), and numerous family and friends were on hand the Friday afternoon of Homecoming 2023 in the Mabee Business Building to celebrate the grand reopening of the Bill and Donna Petty Atrium. 

Dr. Brad Crisp, Dr. Phil Schubert, Kelly Shewmaker, Bill and Donna Petty

The atrium renovation is part of a multi-million-dollar upgrade of the building that opened in 1986, allowing business classes to move out of the Hardin Administration Building and into a modern facility. The renovation project began out of the need to replace the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in 2020. Still, it grew to involve all major spaces inside the building – including classrooms, labs, offices, and the atrium, which reopened this semester after four summers of construction. 

The Bill and Donna Petty Atrium features upgraded technology and appearance to better welcome students, faculty, staff, alumni, and business and technology leaders into the building and facilitate networking between these groups.

The atrium project was made possible thanks to a generous lead gift from an anonymous donor and substantial commitments from family and friends. It also received significant support during the ACU Gives event last April 25-26, when dozens of donors – many of whom the Pettys mentored – contributed an additional $100,000 toward the $1.4 million renovation. 

But the project got its push in 2020 when Crisp began meetings and conversations about the viability of raising the necessary money amid a global medical emergency. 

“I vividly remember conversations with some of our key donors just as the pandemic hit in 2020, and I asked them if we should continue with the project,” Crisp said at the dedication ceremony. “And 18 families gave us the courage to fund the first phase and tell us it was time to move forward. Across the four phases, we had more than 280 donor families contribute more than $3.4 million toward the total cost of almost $9 million.” 

The Petty Family

But when it comes to COBA and the Pettys, that should come as no surprise. COBA has been a catalyst for the remarkable growth of the university and its global reputation since the Mabee Business Building opened to students 37 years ago. 

Petty was called back to ACU from Texas Tech in 1979 and became the founding dean of COBA in 1981. The newly formed college set up shop in the administration building, which hosted Bible classes and other programs at the time, putting available space at a minimum. 

“We didn’t have room to grow, and it was limiting the number of students we could support,” Petty said in an article in the Spring-Summer 2023 issue of ACU Today.

That’s when Petty went to work, calling on friends and alums alike to raise the necessary money to build the Mabee Business Building. He has often given credit to Jozell Brister (’61), associate professor emerita of management sciences and former associate dean of COBA, and other dedicated faculty members. 

But it was Petty who pushed, prodded, and cajoled to raise the money the university needed. The generosity of alumni and friends and a lead gift from the Mabee Foundation made the building a reality. And once the building opened, Petty, the faculty he hired, and the students he and other outstanding faculty taught helped propel the university to greater heights. 

“Over the last 30 or 40 years, the College of Business Administration has been an engine for Abilene Christian University, fueling the trajectory of growth and escalation that we have enjoyed,” Schubert said. “That would not have been the case without the bold vision that Bill Petty brought to ACU, seeing all that could be in front of him with Donna by his side supporting him to bring that bold vision to reality.  

Another former student, Kelly (Stites ’91) Shewmaker, brought a calculator to the ceremony, the same one she used in Petty’s Financial Management class. The same calculator she thought would help her cruise through the course. 

“I have this Hewlett-Packard 12C calculator that I used as a student,” she said at the ceremony. “I was convinced that it would be an easy A class after I found out you could calculate every answer to every question. But on the first day of class, Dr. Petty told us that for every test and every problem, we would be using the HP 12C. Then, we would have to calculate it by hand to show that we knew how to use the technology, calculate every problem by hand, and understand the calculations. I kept that HP 12C calculator as a trophy of sorts because I survived his class.” 

In his brief remarks at the ceremony, Petty once again thanked Brister, his classmates, and friends Jack Griggs (’64) and Dr. John C. Stevens (’38) for persuading him to leave Texas Tech and return to ACU to be part of the business faculty. He also recalled the numerous times he and his wife hosted students in their home over the years, building the kind of relationships that would lead to two former students thanking him from the podium and many others attending the ceremony. 

“I never felt more called by God than when I was called to return to ACU,” Petty said. “Those were 10 ½ of the best years of our lives. We raised our children in the shadow of ACU, and then they went to school here, so they have a deep love for ACU just like we do.” 

And, it’s that deep love for ACU and sense of calling that Petty passed along to his students, including Schubert.  

“I tell people all the time that I had the best experience anyone possibly could have had at ACU,” Schubert said. “I found people here at ACU, especially in the College of Business Administration, specifically people like Bill Petty, who saw things I didn’t see in myself. I found people who challenged me and encouraged me to be more like who God called me to be. My guess is that many others would tell the same story about the transformation that took place because they had people like Bill and Donna come alongside them and encourage them to be more like the people that God had called them to be. We’re all so incredibly grateful for them both. We’re grateful for their example of selfless service, amazing generosity, and bold vision to be more of who God calls us all to be.”

Note: Some information from this story appeared in the Spring-Summer 2023 issue of ACU Today.

Career Fair Helps Students See Possibilities

written by special contributor Lance Fleming

Each year, ACU’s College of Business Administration (COBA) graduates students ready to move into professional fields in numerous types of businesses at every level of an organization. Sometimes, it’s in a company run by an ACU alum who wants to help students at their alma mater secure employment. Other times, it’s a global brand looking for the best and the brightest employees. 


Whatever the case might be and whatever employers are looking for, more often than not, ACU graduates – and in particular, ACU COBA graduates – are usually at the head of the line when it comes to new hires each summer.


So it shouldn’t be surprising that more than 50 companies from across the state and Oklahoma were represented on Thursday, Oct. 5, for the first joint Career Fair sponsored by COBA and the Department of Engineering and Physics at the Hunter Welcome Center. COBA also has in-house career preparation led by Professional Development and Internship Director Jasmine McCabe-Gossett. Students also have access to the ACU Virtual Career Center with resources to help them create resumes and cover letters. 


McCabe-Gossett (2010), who joined COBA last year, sensed a need for a Career Fair. After months of preparation, on October 5, that happened giving COBA students a chance to sit across from potential employers, put their resumes in front of them, and allow them to talk about themselves and what skills they would bring to an organization.


Various companies with both a local and international presence participated in the fair, providing our students with options that appealed to all. Business and technology students were able to engage with companies within the following industries: real estate, hospitality, IT services, consulting, distribution,  financial services, sales, healthcare and more. One student noted, “I have never attended a career fair, but it was great! It was so cool to be able to see many different options in internships, companies, and people!”


These companies weren’t just looking for full-time employees, either. Internships have become a way for companies to put a student and potential future employee through an on-the-job interview, a point McCabe-Gossett tried to drive home to some of her students going into the Career Fair.


“We want to connect students with employers, especially students looking for full-time employment,” she said. “But a considerable focus is to connect employers to potential interns. In the lead-up to the event, we hosted several different workshops to help students feel comfortable and confident, starting with a workshop focused on identifying personal values and what it looks like to live out your faith in the workplace authentically. We had a panel of professionals who came in and spoke about that.


“The Career Fair turned out to be geared more toward internships,” McCabe-Gossett said. “During this season, many companies are laying off employees, but we know it’s still strategically important to build a pipeline, and internships are a big part. I told the students not to dismiss the internship experience because it’s a great foundation\opportunity that can open doors for them. Some students were disappointed, but I tried to help re-frame their thinking regarding how you leverage an internship.”


Another area where McCabe-Gossett and others helping her with the Career fair tried to re-form thinking centered around the experiences students might have working as interns or part-time workers at faith-based camps or events. While that experience fits neatly into the ACU experience, sometimes it doesn’t catch the eye of a potential employer, something McCabe-Gossett said she tried to help some students with as they prepare themselves to hit the job market.


“A lot of times, our students have faith-based experiences, so we talked about how to translate those experiences to a compelling resume and what values they can bring to the workplace,” she said. “Those are wonderful experiences, but we also want our students to be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone for any job. This is beyond talking about what you did but digging into how you did your job and the result.”


And this year’s success has McCabe-Gossett already thinking about the 2024 Career Fair.


“We’ve had Meet the Firm Nights in the past, which was specific to accounting majors, and that’s wonderful,” she said. “But I wanted to cast a wider net this year and probably a wider one next year. It was a heavy lift, but I’m glad we did it because I now have this Career Fair to show potential employers. We have ACU alumni who are killing it in the business world, and they’re in positions of power, so why not ask them to come back here and represent their companies? I’m trying to create a playbook to present to alumni who work at Google or AT&T or wherever to help convince them they should come back here and represent their company at future events.”


For more information on professional development in COBA, email Jasmine McCabe-Gossett at jcj05c@acu.edu


Rick Atchley Encourages Students, Faculty, and Staff to “Abide in Christ” at Lytle Center Dinner

Written by special contributor Lance Fleming

In more than 30 years as the minister at The Hills Church in North Richland Hills, Rick Atchley (’78) has delivered thousands of sermons to millions of people, drawing listeners from near and far to a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In Atchley’s tenure with The Hills Church, it has grown to be among the largest Church of Christ congregations in the world, averaging over 5,000 in attendance each week across three campuses.


As he said when he was named ACU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 2014, one of the themes of his life and his ministry is to live out Christ’s call to unify and to “bring down walls that God didn’t want up in the first place.”


Atchley spoke to both students and faculty and staff at ACU on Tuesday, September 6th.  His address to students was a part of the Lytle Center’s Fall Speaker Series while his exhortation to faculty and staff was a part of the Lytle Center’s second annual Abiding in Christ dinner event.  The Abiding in Christ dinner was established in 2021 with a vision of encouraging and challenging faculty and staff in the deepening of their relationships with Jesus in order to better influence and serve students. It should come as no surprise that Atchley had a challenge for each group. A mission to  follow Christ no matter the setting or circumstances.


At the Abiding in Christ dinner, Atchley contended, that ACU should be a place where students attend to not only grow in academic ability but also in wisdom.


“We know there’s a difference between being intelligent and truly being wise, and that’s why I believe the mission of this university is so critical,” he said to a group of around 200 faculty and staff members gathered in the Brown Family Club Level at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium. “Let’s be honest: young people don’t have to come to ACU to gain knowledge on how to be an accountant or how to manage the market. They can gain knowledge at many great universities. What I hope for when they come here is that, along with knowledge, they gain wisdom. They learn to be wise, not just smart.”


Atchley then spent several minutes challenging those in attendance to teach their students to look for wisdom and guidance from above and not from other sources.


“What is the wisdom of the world?” he asked. “It’s the knowledge that looks for truth from within instead of above. It’s the Kool-Aid of this culture. The young people you teach have been immersed in it. It’s all about finding their truth. The world has told them to look inside to find truth.”


“They don’t have to come here to get knowledge; you’re good at that,” Atchley told the crowd. “You’re good at that. But when they leave with the knowledge you’ve given them, will they be wiser? Will they leave with a worldview that says ‘I’m going to look at life through the lens of the wisdom of Christ? He will be where I get my truth. He will be the framework from which I understand what is right and wrong.’ Will they leave with wisdom, not just knowledge?”


Late in his address to the faculty and staff, Atchley reminded them that they are working and teaching in a society that has been battered by the constant battle between politics and religion. And it’s against that backdrop that ACU faculty and staff must equip students with the wisdom needed to traverse that world, no matter their chosen profession.


“For the Christian educator, the opportunity to prepare students for the world in which they will pursue varied and creative careers must include the role of faith and the pursuit of wisdom,” said Mitzi Adams, Director of Clinical Teaching and Field Experiences in the Department of Teacher Education. “We are challenged to consider how our courses are different from the courses offered at other prestigious universities where students could secure a solid education. At ACU, it must come back to the witness of faith.”


“I think it’s very important for students to hear and experience much more than just knowledge of their field of study,” she said. “At a Christian university, the faith we profess becomes the framework through which we view and experience this education.”


As Atchley pointed out numerous times to the faculty and staff, the prevailing mission of ACU should be to not only equip students with knowledge and wisdom but also the desire to live out their faith in the world around them.


“For a student to walk away from this Christian university without the opportunity to understand and apply where and how faith integrates into their chosen field of study is to have had an important aspect of this education withheld,” Adams said. “If not now, when will our students have the opportunity to be immersed in studies intended to prepare them for excellence in their field? Beyond this, at what other time in the lives of our students will they have the opportunity to be taught by exceptional practitioners, academics, and researchers who are compelled by the Christian faith? Our students are here now. This is an opportunity we have as a faculty to pour into our students not only our professional expertise but also the centering of our faith.”


Before Atchley spoke to the faculty and staff at the football stadium, he met with COBA students, challenging them to choose the battles that matter.


“It’s easy to get passionate and carried away with matters that don’t have much weight,” said Kathryn Crawford, a senior Finance and Management major from Flower Mound. “Instead, we need to recognize the fights that will have an impactful outcome and approach those with our chosen values.”


In addition, his theme with the students was much the same as it would be later with the faculty and staff: that knowledge is easily attainable anywhere but it’s wisdom and obedience in Christ that will make the most impact on the world.


“He made the point that we have to trust the impact of an obedient life,” Crawford said of Atchley. “When things become difficult, the easy way out seems so attractive. But this path does not guarantee obedience. Time and time again, scripture shows us our convictions will cause us to face difficult things in our lives. Choosing obedience may not be easy but the impact we can unknowingly have on the Kingdom is far greater than the temporary adversity we might face.”


Crawford said Atchley’s message to students about integrity and faith in the workplace resonated with her because he put special emphasis on how important the choice will be.


“As a student at a Christian university, it becomes easy to rely on circumstances and surroundings to motivate my faith,” she said. “However, I know this won’t necessarily be the case when I emerge into the workforce as a young professional. I value my faith deeply but have not been in many environments that challenge or counter my beliefs. I left the message feeling encouraged to stay true to my values regardless of circumstance and recognize how much of a difference it can truly make if I choose to let it.”


The Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership exists to foster environments for individuals to grow in faith and character, equipping them with cutting edge leadership competencies, and developing them to be ambassadors of hope, peace, and life in their workplaces. The Lytle Center Speaker Series and the annual Abiding in Christ dinner events are just one example of the ways the Lytle Center strives to encourage and equip the students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University.  More information about the Lytle Center can be found by clicking here.

“A Slice of Summit” – Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

Perhaps this was meant to be.” When thinking about the cancellation of Leadership Summit earlier this year, these are not the words one expects to hear. Yet a pivot from the disappointment of the canceled course to bring the student experience to Abilene has created an opportunity like no other. 

Leadership Summit, 2020

Leadership Summit is a weeklong mountain-top experience that combines an executive conference-style environment featuring high-profile speakers with a close-knit community. It has been a beloved COBA event for the past two decades. Last year, the virus canceled the event. This year, hoping to resume the tradition, disappointment struck again. The Young Life camp facility where the course was to be held sustained damage from a burst water pipe in the kitchen on the day that students, speakers, faculty and staff arrived. Because there was no water in the camp due to the damage, Leadership Summit had to be canceled, leaving students, speakers, and faculty devastated.

In the days that followed the cancellation, communication was frequent and plans were made to allow students enrolled in the course the opportunity to complete the credit hours needed for Leadership Summit. Part of the new coursework included watching videos from past Summit speakers and writing reflections on the content.

A Slice of Summit, 2022

However, Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, said it still didn’t feel quite right. “We had selected speakers specifically for this experience [Summit] – I couldn’t believe we were missing this.” After the cancellation, Dr. Marquardt and his team spent the next two weeks in prayer and listening to student’s stories of how they were impacted by the experience. 

With the rest of the spring semester remaining and the impacts of the recent events felt throughout the college, Dr. Marquardt pondered the potential to make the best of the situation. “God allowed these speakers to be on the list and students to be in the program. How can we be good stewards of that despite the change?”

As this question lingered, the idea for “A Slice of Summit” began to emerge. If the students couldn’t go to Summit, could Summit be brought to the students? The speaker list for the year had long been set with the content planned out in advance. Perhaps the speakers would be willing to come to Abilene to speak with the students here?

Elise Mitchel speaking at the first “A Slice of Summit” event.

And so, the idea became a reality. What began as an ask to one speaker – Elise Mitchell – turned into a series featuring five of the guest speakers with an opportunity for the Summit students to gather, share meals together, and be uplifted by the speakers and mentors pouring into them. Elise Mitchell, Kent Brantley, Mo Isom, and others are joining the students in Abilene over the remainder of the semester to share their Summit message in person. Marquardt shared that the speakers have jumped at the new opportunity to travel to Abilene and share the message they had prepared to share in January. 

A Slice of Summit, 2022

While Leadership Summit is a packed week full of content, “A Slice of Summit” is sprinkled throughout the semester. Typically, the longer the semester goes on, the more worn down students become. The hope is that these “slices” will encourage students in the perfect moments; key junctures to uplift and encourage them in the middle of their challenges. Marquardt said, “It is all falling into place.” 

While the last two years of cancellations have been discouraging, Dr. Marquardt said they aren’t giving up and are already planning for the future. The date for next year’s Leadership Summit is set and preparations are underway to ensure the travel plans work better for students and speakers. In the meantime, the Lytle Center is able to bring a little slice of that Leadership Summit pie to the ACU campus. Students can learn more about guest speakers through the Lytle Center, the COBA Newsletter, or the Compass app. To learn more about Leadership Summit, click here.

Springboard Student Venture Competition

Founders Club

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.”