Sixteen ACU students had the opportunity to study Social Entrepreneurship at City Square in Dallas during a January short course. The class was taught by COBA professor, Dr. Laura Phillips. In the short one-week time period, the class covered a wide range of topics related to starting and running a social enterprise (nonprofit or for-profit that has a social mission at its core). Speakers who currently run these types of enterprises, as well as those who consult and advise these organizations, came to share with the class about their own unique experiences. In addition, the class included student presentations on various topics and case study discussions. Students were also taken on a tour of City Square, hearing about how the business operates and ways they are trying to expand.
Many of the speakers were ACU alums, including Robyn Wise, Scott Orr, and Don Crisp. Scott Orr, an ACU and COBA grad, has served in many roles for nonprofit organizations as well as for-profit companies. He is currently the Vice President of Public Affairs for Fidelity Investments.
Scott’s Mantra: Using strengths to accomplish greatness.
Jerita’s Mantra: Bloom where you are planted.
Jerita Howard, an Abilene resident, also came to speak to the class. Jerita is the owner of One Smart Cookie, an online gourmet cookie and brownie gift package company. Like Scott, Jerita has also served in various roles throughout her professional career. Both of these entrepreneurs provided valuable insights on business operations and social enterprises.
Dr. Laura Phillips loved the broad mix of majors that were represented in the class this year. She says, “The class succeeds because of the knowledge, experience, and honesty of the 14 guest speakers. While not all of the students who took the class plan to start a social enterprise, I think all of the students benefited from the class.” After taking the class, she hopes students feel equipped to work with social ventures in the way that fits their life and career goals.
Emily Adkins, a sophomore Pre-Physical Therapy major from Irving, TX, enjoyed taking the class at City Square. She feels like she has learned the basics of social enterprises and that she could comfortably work in this type of environment now. “This class really pushed me outside of my comfort zone in a good way! I love social enterprises and I can see myself working for one some day. Listening to these speakers opened my eyes to how these organizations help people in an effective way.”
In November, the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy hosted the first annual Startup Week. The CEO student organization along with the Griggs Center were busy with several activities during the week, including an Alumni Entrepreneurship dinner on November 18, a CEO chapel on the 19th with guest speaker Toby Thomas, and ending with the final Elevator Pitch competition after the chapel. The goal of the Springboard Elevator Pitch competition was to get students to create and present their idea, giving them the opportunity to gain real experience working with entrepreneurs. Three weeks prior to Startup Week, participants presented their Elevator Pitch ideas in front of a group of local entrepreneurs and ACU faculty members and learned how they would be judged as well as the deadlines for the competition. At the dinner on November 18, the 10 finalists were announced. The next day, the pitches were heard and the winner received $1,500 cash for the idea.
The winner of the Elevator Pitch was COBA major, Colby Hatchett, a junior marketing major from Fort Worth. His idea was The Mullet, a restaurant concept where parents could enjoy a nice meal at the front of the restaurant while their children would be fully taken care of in the back of the restaurant. After the pitch, Colby said he was incredibly grateful to meet entrepreneurs working in the marketplace and gain real experience from the competition.
Rudy Garza, President of CEO, was excited that students were able to meet and connect with ACU alums and other entrepreneurs. At the dinner, students were seated at tables with the entrepreneurs and were able to hear their stories and advice for those considering entrepreneurship as well as making valuable connections for potential career opportunities. When asked the effect of COBA with the Elevator Pitch, Rudy said, “Because the classes are smaller and the quality of the faculty is excellent, COBA students always excel in the Springboard Challenge competitions. The presenters are stronger and seem comfortable speaking in front of the crowd. Through the interactions between professors and students, students gain major insight into what entrepreneurship looks like, which is incredibly beneficial for them in this case.”
Overall, the competition was a great success. Some unique ideas were presented during the pitch and it was great to have so many ACU and COBA alumni back on campus. COBA is proud to see such amazing business and Christian leadership in the marketplace. Again, congratulations to COBA student, Colby Hatchett, on winning the competition!
“The Springboard Challenge is a great enhancement to COBA’s culture of ideation, creativity, and innovation. This competition pushes our students and culture in a good way!” says Dr. Rick Lytle, Dean of the College of Business.
Over the fall break, students from the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy and the School of Information Technology and Computing traveled west to Silicon Valley. Dr. Jim Litton and Dr. Brad Crisp led the group of 16 students to visit and explore several tech companies varying in size and function, from start-ups to some of the most recognized companies in the world. Some of these included Google, LinkedIn, Circa, the Silicon Valley Bank, Livingly, Yahoo! and Square. Students were able to learn about the fundamental principles of technological companies as well as having the opportunity to network with alumni and potential employers.
COBA and SITC students tour Yahoo!
Connor Osborn, a junior Accounting and Finance major from Southlake, enjoyed visiting Silicon Valley Bank. SVB’s mission is to “increase innovative companies’ probability of success worldwide” and is the premier bank for all venture capital firms. The group learned about the services the bank offers as well as the complex system by which the capital is distributed, put to work, and then returned.
Students were toured around LinkedIn by ACU alum, Asa Kusuma.
Spencer Woolfolk, a junior from San Antonio, found the trip to be highly valuable, learning what it looks like to work in Silicon Valley and the purpose and vision of the companies’ brands. The experience of personally visiting such well-known companies is unlike anything one can learn inside the classroom. Spencer is excited to use this knowledge going forward, integrating his passion for marketing with entrepreneurship and technology.
“I am very grateful to the faculty that put the trip together. It was invaluable to be able to learn more about Silicon Valley and the technology field,” says Woolfolk.
Group at the Cerro Negro Volcano in Nicaragua.
At the end of the the summer, 18 students along with Dr. Andy Little and Dr. Jim Litton, traveled south to study abroad in Central America. Students had the opportunity to earn credit in Global Entrepreneurship as well as MGMT 440, including special topics: Business Practicum in Central America. COBA also co-taught an Honors College colloquium on social entrepreneurship in developing countries. The group spent the first two days in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, stayed at Mission Lazarus for nine days, and ended the trip in Leon, Nicaragua.
The trip challenged the students to evaluate how they want to conduct business in the future. They were able to use their business skills in social entrepreneurship, learning how to apply these skills in a missional context. Because the group was surrounded by widespread poverty, this study abroad trip was unlike other COBA programs. Working in Central America gave students and professors a chance to see the complexity and difficulties of globalization and economic development in third world countries.
Throughout the trip, students were able to tour local businesses, go behind the scenes with ACU alum Jarrod Brown at Mission Lazarus, visit a local Honduran co-operative coffee company, and speak to several different business leaders in Honduras. Unlike the local co-op, Mission Lazarus had a much smaller profit margin; because of their commitment to operating the business in a godly manner, they strive to treat employees fairly and with dignity.
Stephanie Day, a senior accounting major from Oklahoma City, was highly encouraged by the trip. She believes in the power of the business principles she learned this summer, even if in the future she does not work in social entrepreneurship. Stephanie encourages students to get plugged in and study abroad at some point in their college career. She says, “There are so many incredible things we can learn in a classroom setting, but there’s something about seeing those principles applied firsthand in other countries that makes the learning experience so much more valuable.”
The encounters students get to experience while studying abroad are truly one of a kind. In Central America, students were able to see firsthand how businesses function in developing countries. COBA is intentional with providing students unique opportunities to integrate learning key business principles with developing students to reach their potential and find their missional calling.
“Because each culture is so different, God is able to manifest himself in different ways; studying abroad is so remarkable because not only does it expose you to a new way of learning, but it also gives students the opportunity to see God in an entirely new light,” says Stephanie Day, a senior accounting major.
COBA offers students multiple opportunities in the summer to get class credit while studying abroad and learning about our global economy. This summer, our business students have already traveled on two separate trips to Oxford and Europe. Currently, we have a group of students in Honduras, working specifically with Mission Lazarus and learning about social entrepreneurship. You can read about their trip in a daily blog on the Griggs Center website. We hope you’ll follow along!
The highly anticipated event we have all been waiting for is just around the corner! Registration for the seventh annual Springboard Ideas challenge is now open and ready to start accepting applicants for 2014. Springboard is a business plan competition that takes place each year through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. Contestants vary, including some who have ideas and are seeking to start a business and others who have already established small businesses. The cash prizes come from several local sponsors. This year, certain phases of the competition have changed. The initial application process has been revamped to make each transition phase flow more smoothly for applicants.
The competition includes three different divisions: the community-growth division, the community-small business division, and the college division. The first, second, and third place winners in each division will receive cash prizes. For the college division, the first place winner will receive $7,500, the second place winner will receive $3,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000. In the community-growth division, the first place winner will receive $15,000, the second place winner will receive $5,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000. For the community-small business, the first place winner will receive $5,000, the second place winner will receive $3,000, and the third place winner will receive $1,000. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and be a permanent resident of one of the qualifying 19 counties surrounding the Abilene area.
To enter the competition, applicants must initially complete an online application and pay the registration fee. The online application deadline is 5 P.M. on March 7th. Once the judging panel has advanced chosen contestants on to the next phase of the competition, a mini-business plan must be submitted. The business plan should address the fundamental issues of interest to potential investors. This document should highlight the most important and interesting points of the business, which should give potential investors a general understanding of why this venture would succeed. Contestants who advance to the next phase of the competition qualify as finalists and must prepare a presentation for a live panel of judges. The exact date, time, and location will vary by division but will take place during the week of April 6-12, 2014. Participants will be given 10 minutes to present their idea to the judges and will then be subject to 10-15 minutes of Q&A from the judges.The final phase of the competition will be the awards dinner, which will take place on April 15th. All finalists will display their ideas as part of an exhibit hall before the dinner, and then the winners of each division will be announced during the dinner. This year, Stuart Crum, President for Bridgestone Retail Operations, will be speaking at the awards ceremony.
Students have represented COBA well in the past Springboard competitions. Typically, around 30-4 students from around campus enter the competition each year. Last year, senior Luke Luttrell won first place in the college division with his Right Route idea. Right Route is a mobile app similar to Google Maps but offers more route options, optimizing the fastest route between as many desired destinations. Dr. Brent Reeves and Dr. Brian Burton were two professors that helped Luke develop his idea for the app. Luke believes that COBA was absolutely fundamental to winning Springboard. He credits his success to the help of such great professors in COBA, reiterating how involved and willing they were to reach out and help him on his journey to success. Luke also praises the competition in regards to the process. He says, “Springboard gives students the opportunity to present an idea to a panel of investors with entrepreneurial experience, resulting in great feedback on the idea and business model.” Luke has learned to always seek entrepreneurial opportunities and encourages anyone with even the smallest idea to enter the competition. Springboard is a great opportunity to grow one’s entrepreneurial skills and gain relevant experience through a high value process and interaction with professional entrepreneurs.
“The Springboard Ideas Challenge is a great opportunity for any student who is interested in entrepreneurial pursuits. It offers an unbelievable experience because it forces students to turn a simple idea into a fully functioning business model,” says Luke Luttrell, senior COBA student and winner of the 2013 Springboard Challenge.