What if? Alan Howell Recommends Connecting Calling and Career

Alan Howell is visiting professor of missions in the College of Bible and Ministry at Harding University. 

Alan Howell
Alan Howell, visiting professor of missions

As a student at Harding University, I double majored in Bible and marketing. Near the end of my time as an undergraduate in Searcy, I joined a mission team that eventually went to Mozambique, Africa, where my family served from 2003-2018. It was there that I saw how those two disciplines that seemed to compete for my attention as a student had actually served me well and prepared me to serve well.  Our team’s mission in Mozambique was to encourage a church planting movement among the Makua-Metto people – this goal was holistic. We were committed to ministering in a way that integrated both the spiritual and physical aspects of life. 

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27 million people live in Mozambique, a sparsely populated country where 45% of the people are below age 15.

When we first moved to Mozambique in 2003, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, and although in recent years our host country has made some advancements, the vast majority of our friends there live in abject or absolute poverty. In 2018, Mozambique ranked 180 out of 189 in the UN’s Human Development Index (Haiti and Afghanistan are tied for 168 – ranking 12 spots higher). Over 70% of the population live in “Multidimensional Poverty” and over 60% live on less than $2 a day. Statistics like these are both mind boggling and misleading — because the situation in Cabo Delgado, the province where the Makua-Metto people are most concentrated, is even worse. It is the furthest from the national capital (where much of the economic advancement has been concentrated) and the rare person with a job earning more than $2 a day is supporting his or her family on that income as well as a large group of extended relatives. 

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Because foot travel during the rainy season was limited, Howell’s team partnered with a Peace Corp volunteer to design and build a bridge.

Trying to make a difference in such a religiously, socially and economically complicated place meant bringing all of our skills and training to the table. Over the years, we tried a number of different projects – from Lorena stoves to a nonprofit chicken business, a sustainable agriculture program, a small peanut butter business, building a pedestrian bridge and eventually getting a school off the ground. My business training was a huge asset on many different levels. As the network of churches we worked with grew, learning how to “scale up” our ministry to encourage and empower the growing numbers was crucial. All of these experiences in Mozambique have given me a greater appreciation for the way the entrepreneurial skill set is extremely important in the kingdom of God. 

When I get the chance to talk to people with entrepreneurial gifts and skills (creative, innovative, risk-takers, people who think big and are willing to experiment and work hard), the question I hope to get the chance to ask them is this: What if your gifts for business were given to you to also do something else?

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Howell’s team had real success at teaching sustainable agricultural practices in Mozambique.

Ephesians 4:11-13, says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Often in churches, we highlight those with pastoral skills and teaching gifts. But, Frost and Hirsch in their important book, The Shaping of Things to Come, ask us to consider Ephesians 4 from a different angle. What if…What if the labels of pioneer, strategist, innovator, visionary, or entrepreneur — words we often use in a business setting — are part of the apostolic skill set that God gives to the church today? 

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Howell and wife, Rachel, and daughters Abby, Katie and Ellie

As one who was sent to serve in Mozambique, I know from experience that being able to think and act strategically like an entrepreneur, using skills developed in my business training, was crucially important. 

What if? What if you thought of your entrepreneurial gift set as an important part of the kingdom of God? What if you found your place in Business-as-Mission (BAM) or full-time church planting or service in the local church?

In Let Your Life Speak, author Parker Palmer states, “vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear.” As followers of Christ we believe God can and does speak into our lives, equipping and calling us to live a good life of meaning and purpose.

What if? What if your calling or career connected your skills alongside your passion for service with the church in the world? What if God is calling you to do something like that?

I would like to encourage you to stop and listen – ask God if that is something you may be called to do. 

And if it is – come and see me – let’s talk about it.  

To continue this discussion of business as mission, you may reach Alan Howell at ahowell@harding.edu.

Guest Blogger: Phil Waldron of Mission UpReach Says Business as Mission Makes Sense for Honduras

Guest blogger Phil Waldron is CEO and co-founder of Mission UpReach, a nonprofit affiliated with the churches of Christ, operating in Western Honduras.

“Business as missions” (BAM) encompasses a number of concepts that join an aspect of business with a missional approach to kingdom work. In his book God is at Work, Ken Eldred defines business as mission as “for-profit business ventures designed to facilitate God’s transformation of people, cultures, and nations.”

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Mission UpReach Co-founders Phil and Donna Waldron

At Mission UpReach, our adventure into the world of BAM began when Phil Davidson’s Canadian nonprofit, APRACOLA, donated a 60-acre farm known as the Moses Project. The project’s goal was to help young men from poor families finish their formal high school education while learning agricultural entrepreneurial skills. For years Davidson and his brothers were the primary source of funding through profits from their development and construction business. Over time, it became increasingly difficult for them to both manage and fund the program, so they determined to find someone to take it over. They chose Mission UpReach, and we have striven to be faithful to their original mission while adding a fresh approach to achieving the goal.

Since its founding, Mission UpReach has used the kingdom business perspective in stewarding donated resources. Too often in missions there are soft expectations for productivity or efficiency, and sound business principles have been dismissed with the justification that “it’s the Lord’s work,” as if working in the spiritual world isn’t subject to the same principles of stewardship that are indispensable in secular business.

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From the outset, Mission UpReach has had goals and milestones by which we have measured our efforts. If a particular ministry or program wasn’t producing the desired results after a significant amount of time, we conducted prayerful analysis. Sometimes, we decided to cut the program and move on to something that showed more promise. Part of our biblical justification for this is Jesus’ instructions when he sent his disciples out two by two. He told them to “shake the dust out of their clothing” and to move on to a more receptive audience (Matthew 10:14). 

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It isn’t always clear whether God wants us to persist in the face of overwhelming obstacles or to move to greener pastures. It requires a tremendous amount of prayer to have confidence in such decisions. In this sense, business has a great deal to teach us about how to better steward our kingdom efforts. No one in business would advocate continuing to sell a product or service with no hope of making a profit. In the same way, we sometimes need to move on, always with an eye on returning if the community where we have been working shows an openness.

In recent years Mission UpReach’s business component has grown to include three agricultural businesses: tilapia, broiler chickens, and coffee. Our brands are Tilapia Moisés, Pollo Moisés and Subida — providing real-world, commercial business experience for those in the Moses Project program and employment for the local community. 

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Our goal is for these businesses to cover our overhead by 2021, so we can dedicate 100% of donations to ministry programs. Ultimately, we believe some of our young men will return home to their villages and support their families with similar businesses. Our fondest hope is that these men, trained and discipled with us in the program, will go home as self-supporting, missionary church-planters.

Here in Honduras, unemployment is at 27%. Fifty percent of Hondurans are under-employed. The majority of people cannot earn enough money to support their families. The massive exodus of men and women headed to the United States illegally believe that if they can just get to the States, they will earn enough money to solve all their problems. 

We believe our holistic approach to missions, based on the encouragement from the book of James about a practical, works-oriented faith, is a useful model. This faith isn’t about earning salvation, but rather is an outflowing of gratitude to God for having saved us and brought us into His kingdom. There is no compartmentalization between secular and spiritual in Jesus’ kingdom. This worldview should cause all of us who are U.S. citizens to do some soul searching. Did you know that:

  • 20% of the world lives on $1 a day
  • 20% of U.S. citizens live on more than $70 per day
  • U.S. citizens make up just 5% of the world’s population but consume 50% of the world’s resources 

Think about it: We consume half of all of the resources

 consumed in the entire world.

It’s naïve to think Americans can consume half of the resources consumed by the world, yet we are not responsible to help our neighbors to the south improve their economies. The U.S. immigration issue must be resolved. We recognize that it’s complicated and that there is little agreement as to what the solution should be. However, we should all be able to agree that a holistic approach of investing in people — in their home country — is a positive and effective strategy. 

At Mission UpReach we believe a business as mission approach is the best path forward. We preach the gospel and at the same time work to help people earn a living that allows them to support their families. This lowers the immense pressure to go to the U.S. to pursue the “American dream” illegally. We don’t believe in giveaway programs, and in our opinion, business as mission is the solution. The Bible says, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Proverbs 19:17). 

  

Estela Taylor takes the cake

IMG_2745Estela Taylor is a management major with an entrepreneurship concentration and a sweet side hustle:  Momo’s Pastries. The beautiful, soft-spoken Taylor has always loved baking, as evidenced by family photos of her at work in the kitchen when she was four years old.

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Her interest became more earnest when she was about thirteen, and her father was stationed in Florida. Their military community hosted a birthday party for everyone who had a birthday in each month. They began paying Estela to bake the cakes, and a business was born.  

Is it still a joy to bake when you are doing it for money?  “Yes! People explain what they want, or they say ‘just make it pretty,’ and I love seeing their reactions when they first see it. I’ve always been creative and artsy and have dabbled in so many hobbies that expressed that side of me. But what appealed to me most was cooking and baking. I’m a major foodie so the combination of being able create something delicious and beautiful is definitely my calling.”
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What kinds of orders thrill her?  “Cakes, especially wedding cakes. But while I absolutely love cake decorating, I also love making desserts from other cultures such as French, Italian and especially Latin American pastries. I love expressing my heritage through making different pastries that I enjoy when I visit my family in Mexico. My brothers are my guinea pigs, though.  For them, I’ve done fun things like Spiderman and Star Wars.”  

Any baking disasters she’ll share? “I’ve had my share of heart-breaking disasters. The worst was a beautiful graduation cake for a student from UCA. It was really hot the day when we had to drive an hour to deliver it. By the time we arrived, the fondant had melted and was dripping. I was crushed, and I learned a valuable lesson that I needed to invest in a refrigerated truck for transportation. 

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What does she envision as the endgame? “I really want to open up a full-time bakery that also does catering. I want my bakery to be known for wedding cakes and big event cakes. I definitely live by ‘go big or go home.’ I watched Buddy Valastro a lot on Cake Boss, so a lot of my inspiration is drawn from him as well as Duff Goldman.  I’m looking to hire people who not only have an inclination to baking but who are artistically talented. I’d be hiring sculptors, painters, and so forth.”

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For the time being, until she finishes her education, everything is contract work. Estela’s long-term goal is to open a shop in Cabot. She’s realistic about the challenges, however: Financing a startup is the biggest hurdle. “It’s a long-term goal. I plan to get a job after graduation and work in industry until I can save the money to launch without huge loans.”

Many people look at starting a business as a purely passion-driven endeavor.  Does she feel the academic study of entrepreneurship has also had value? “I have baking and decorating knowledge, so I wanted to major in something that would help me learn to be a successful business owner—so I chose management with a focus in entrepreneurship. The more classes I take, the more I realize how much of a fit I am as an entrepreneur, and it just excites me even more.”

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“Entrepreneurship coursework has definitely made me think carefully about how to finance my own business. It’s made me a little more cautious and taught me to plan. Fortunately, I don’t have student loans, so I can save for what I want my future to look like as I more toward starting my own business.”

Her family is very supportive. “I taught myself how to pipe and roll fondant and everything else I know from reading a lot of Wilton magazines and watching YouTube. I would eventually like to go to catering school to perfect my skills. My family, especially my mom, is very helpful and supportive in what I do. Mom even went back to school to earn her BBA to help me when I open up shop someday. My parents have the doors wide open, but you never know what will happen.”  For now, the brick and mortar location remains a sweet dream. 

In the meanwhile, you can call Estela for all your birthday needs. 

Follow Momo’s Pastries on Facebook and Instagram @momospastries.

Mark Moore: Business Roundtable says it’s no longer business as usual

Guest blogger Mark Moore is the co-founder and CEO of MANA Nutrition, a nonprofit food producer that makes specialized emergency food for severely malnourished children. His perspective on a recent shift in the mission statement from the Business Roundtable is first in a series of alumni guest blog posts we’ll be sharing this year. It was lightly edited. 

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There are many excellent entrepreneurial centers at American Universities these days. For the Waldron Center to strive to be the best at preparing student entrepreneurs over world-class efforts like Stanford and UC Boulder is a tall order. While we may never be the most connected or best funded, we could aspire to be a center for entrepreneurs who care deeply―primarily, perhaps―about justice, fairness, equal opportunity and creative thinking for the poor. These things, a traditional business person might say, are indeed interesting and important… but not the business of business. Not, that is, until today. 

Today could be a red letter day in business history—the day the very definition of business changed to a definition that more closely reflects the above aspirations. Today the Business Roundtable, a group of nearly 200 CEOs led by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, revised its mission statement to prioritize employees, communities and the environment, along with shareholders. They issued a statement saying that the primary goal of business is more than the traditional notion of “seeking to maximize shareholder value.”

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Prior to today, the Business Roundtable’s principle of purpose was aligned with what I learned in business classes. It was rooted in the words of economist Milton Friedman, who argued that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value. For generations, business schools have considered fiduciary responsibility to shareholders justification for minimizing or ignoring social problems beyond the scope of their profit.

Today that changed, as the Business Roundtable expanded their goal of business to include not just the owners’ right to maximum profit, but to also include employees, customers, and the general public. 

It remains to be seen if this statement will become more than aspirational words. It’s a tall order: For the principle to inhabit the ethos of business leaders, CEOs will probably have to accept less than the 1000-to-1 pay ratios they currently enjoy over their lowest paid employees. Bonuses and stock options for executives may have to fall from millions to thousands. Business leaders might not have the guts to pull that off, but Harding’s young entrepreneurs might. They have not yet made millions and become addicted to the luxury that such disparity grants the people at the top of the heap. 

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Nourish: A God Who Loves to Feed Us. 2015.

Today’s aspirational Business Roundtable statement could be the first step for a new generation of entrepreneurs from Harding and elsewhere to offer our world a version of business that does much more good than the version their parents were offered by Milton Friedman’s helpful, but arguably too narrow, definition of business. 

If you are a business student at Harding or beyond, the good news is that the business of business changed a little today. At the very least it will be harder for the true entrepreneur and business leader to say to the great issues we face in society and the people they affect, “that’s none of my business.” 

For more on the subject read and listen below:

Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans’

When the Bottom Line Isn’t Everything

Nourish: A God Who Loves to Feed Us

Moore is a graduate of Harding University and Georgetown University.  He’s held a fellowship in the U.S. Senate and has consulted with many large companies. He was selected as a fellow for the 2013 Unreasonable Institute Fellows program and in 2014 was awarded the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Smart Power Award for his work at MANA.  He currently lives with his wife, Marnie, and four children in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

 

Maddy Byrd is designing her future

This is the latest in a series about student entrepreneurs on the Harding University campus. 

When Louisville native Maddy Byrd first appeared in the Waldron Center, she was a ball of fire talking a hundred miles an hour about her side hustle doing fashion accessory popup events. She was determined and full of energya tornado of ideas spinning through our creative space.

Just three short semesters later, she has maintained her vision, but she’s disciplined her process.  She speaks more slowly; she’s more deliberate when explaining her path and her vision. The entrepreneurial intuition she’s nursed since middle school is still there, but entrepreneurship coursework has given her a broader perspective, and she’s learned some lessons through trial and error as a designer and exposure to some mentoring.

She’s reflective about what she still needs to learn, and more methodical about things like customer discovery and keeping her focus on mapping for the season to come, like any good designer. Maddy Byrd is growing into her dreams.

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Since she was 12, Byrd has been designing and selling accessories and marketing her goods through retailers with brick and mortar locations. She created jewelry repurposed from vintage items. She sold knitted accessories. She had a profitable relationship with retailer Ralph London, whom she met four years ago at his Betty Jeffries mobile boutique on the Louisville waterfront. London now has a fixed Betty Jeffries location in Madisonville, Indiana.

“Ralph taught me to slow down, hear what customers are saying, and to forecast design into the season to come. Seeing how he uses his academic expertise daily encouraged me to become an entrepreneurial management major. I’m thankful to him for encouraging me to become a well-rounded business person, rather than just someone who is good at one or two things. He could have easily turned me away. In his store, he covered the overhead and took the risk that I would show up and provide a saleable product for him. As a self-taught designer that was a huge vote of confidence.”

Byrd now looks everywhere for inspiration. Last spring she studied in Australia and visited Thailand, Cambodia, India and Japan. Exposure to artists’ communities on that trip helped her to acquire new skills. Some designers at the Saturday markets in New Zealand allowed her to get hands-on with soldering and hammerwork and shellacking of native flowers for jewelry pendants. “In Japan, artists repurpose vintage kimonos; turning the pieces into beautiful jewelry and hair ornaments.”

Does she feel her personality innately equips her for business?  “One way I’m well suited for business is that I’m not scared to ask. My Dad taught me that the worst thing anyone can tell you is no–and that sense of courage has served me well. On the other hand, I have occasionally struggled to focus on the most important things, which is a challenge for all entrepreneurs. I’m getting better at it.”

She’s thankful for opportunities that have allowed her to learn some lessons early. “My parents have stood by my side no matter what. This business has always been a hobby and something I love. They encouraged me when I needed it as well as occasionally provided funds so I could pursue my hobby and further my education at the same time. My grandparents supported me as well–always asking for pieces, pushing me to try new things and believing in me. I’m very lucky.”

img_0289Taking her business to the next level, however, requires formalizing business procedures and transitioning from handshake agreements to contracts with named product lines and guarantees of production quantities.

For a young designer, taking a profitable hobby into formal retail relationships can be intimidating. Learning to negotiate the retailer’s terms and requirements for tagging, shipping, packaging and invoicing is a new level of structure that transcends the pleasures of design. But successful designers must sell their designs, and Byrd is now concentrating more of her efforts on that next level of professionalism.

Byrd is currently in discussions to schedule a summer trunk show for the Draper James retail location in Lexington. Draper James is the women’s clothing and lifestyle retailer launched in 2015 by actress Reese Witherspoon. The flagship store is in Nashville, and there are locations in Lexington, Atlanta, and Dallas. Draper James has been successful in cultivating national co-branding relationships with such partners as Jack Rogers, Eloquii, Crate and Barrel, and Nordstrom.

Byrd considers this trunk show a unique opportunity to observe and to learn from a company established by a female entrepreneur building a brand around a modern, strong-yet-gracious Southern women’s aesthetic—something to which the women in Maddy Byrd’s family definitely relate. We wish her luck on her journey.

If you are a student running a business, the Waldron Center wants to hear your story too. Drop us a line at psummers@harding.edu. 

Startup Monity embodies Walton Scholarship ethos

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L-R: Zuniga, Navarrete, Cruz, Rojas, and Escobar and faculty member Jon Wood

Fintech startup Monity is the embodiment of the Walton Scholarship vision: Combining the foundation’s investment in educational opportunity with hard work and persistence, Walton Scholars are charged to return home with a vision to make meaningful contributions to the region. The founding members of Monity are computer engineering major Michael Cruz of Belize, international business major Roxana Escobar of El Salvador, management information systems major Andres Rojas of Costa Rica, and software development major Jhoel Zuñiga of Costa Rica. Recently, computer science major Pedro Navarrete from Nicaragua came aboard to assist with web development.     

We remember the first meeting of last year’s Arkansas Governor’s Cup business plan competition teams, at which students explained their ideas to faculty and answered questions about the viability of their business model.

At a corner table sat four Latin American students, intently explaining their vision for a blockchain-based money transfer system for the developing world, where millions of foreign workers pay high fees to send money to unbanked families across national borders.

We were impressed with their quiet commitment. CEO Michael Cruz established the need by describing a ledger his father had shared with him. It contained a record of his wages and of all the money he had transferred from his remote employment location back to his family. The total in transfer fees he had paid over the years seemed staggering, and that revelation planted the seed for Monity.

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Monity CEO Michal Cruz

Monity’s collaboration began the week they first arrived in Arkansas. Zuñiga and Cruz met on a campus bus on a Walton Scholars trip to Walmart. They discussed their dreams of creating a business and returning to help their countries. Their first attempt didn’t end as they’d hoped; they spent six months developing a video game, but soon realized they needed team members with solid business skills. “We launched the game, but people would play for a while, but when players didn’t see a critical mass of users, they would drop off.” They sidelined the game and looked for partners.

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Rush Deacon of Arkansas Capitol, Zuniga, Escobar, Dhu Thompson, Cruz, Rojas, Lt. Gov. Tim  Griffin, Ken Olree.  Photo: Arkansas Capital

They soon added Rojas, who was, as Cruz said, “all about big data.” Then they began trying to identify an important problem to solve. The team considered a digital wallet, but eventually settled on money transfers. “And we asked who else could align themselves with our dreams?” Cruz said. They needed marketing expertise, and Cruz knew Escobar had big dreams for things she wanted to do. With their team in place, they used the Governor’s Cup competition as a concentrated effort to move their vision forward. The strategy was successful: Monity was well-received at the Governor’s Cup Competition, taking third place and a $10,000 cash prize.

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Roxana Escobar presents Monity’s 90-second pitch at the Governor’s Cup luncheon. Photo: Arkansas Capital

In the fall, Monity was accepted into the Delta I-Fund, an early stage, proof-of-concept business accelerator formed to train entrepreneurs administered by Winrock International. Each startup is matched with a mentor, completes 12 weeks of rigorous training, and receives $5,000 in technical assistance or access to seed-stage capital. The experience helped them refine their business model.

Although Monity originally targeted money transfers from laborers in Costa Rica to unbanked families in Nicaragua, political instability delayed a planned market research trip last summer and led to the devaluation of the Nicaraguan currency. The team now views that complication as a blessing. Confronting the political risks led them to modify their strategy. “During the course of the Delta I-Fund, we decided our initial target market needed to change,” explained Escobar.

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Senior management information systems major Andres Rojas consults with an expert on regulatory issues.

“The exchange rate was always the big unknown in the equation.” said Rojas. “The U.S. dollar is the official currency of El Salvador. With El Salvador as our beachhead market, Monity will start out lighter on our feet. Also, our original target market was unbanked individuals but the individuals who are sending money out of the U.S. are mostly younger people, more accustomed to working with banks.”

“Our entry point now is the United States-to-El Salvador corridor.” said Cruz. “Salvadorans are the largest population, after Mexico, transferring money from the U.S. to Latin America. That market is not saturated. Every other player in this industry targets Mexico.”

The team realized that, given the demographics and attrition, an ever-increasing percentage of their customers will have a relationship with a bank. They predict they eventually will be able to serve unbanked customers as well, however.

“We mainly talk about people sending money back to families in Latin America, but there would also be utility for individuals such as foreign students in universities, for NGOs and missionaries, and for populations all over the developing world,” Zuñiga noted.

Cruz notes that the traditional U.S. companies in the money transfer sector have not created a relationship of trust with the market. “People go to those companies because there is nothing else.” Monity believes a close affinity with the people of the market will offer a loyalty and intuition advantage in marketing the service. “Monity wants to step into that market and develop a relationship of trust we can use to educate users and eventually provide jobs that will help move the entire economy forward.”

In the meanwhile, the team admits Monity is an all-consuming preoccupation, invisible to most faculty and students. “When I finish with my classes and see people on Netflix,” Cruz says, “I am thinking how I wish I had all that time to devote to Monity.” Rojas nods, “I often wish I could split myself in two!” They are remarkably intentional, and their dedication comes from having their collective eye on a goal. The entire group affirms that they’ve had to learn to self-regulate; making sure they get enough sleep while getting coursework done and meeting their obligations to the Delta I-Fund and other Monity-related tasks.

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Software development major Jhoel Zuniga and Dr. Kenneth Olree discuss presentations at the 2018 Arkansas Governor’s Cup luncheon in Little Rock. Photo: Arkansas Capital

So what’s the next hurdle? Cruz takes a deep breath. Transfer licenses are the elephant in the room right now. Monity requires money transfer licenses from all fifty states, and license costs vary widely from state to state. California, where the Salvadoran concentration is greatest, is the most expensive: licensees must have $250,000 in collateral. So having an affiliate bank who already has the license structure in place might be an ideal strategy.

So what happens after graduation? Cruz is developing a tourism side hustle—a website to organize tours of Mayan ruins near his home in Belize. He and his sister will launch that while he continues his efforts to raise Monity from the ground. The others will continue to collaborate remotely while they are employed elsewhere, traveling as needed.

The vision for Monity has a long arc. “We are not only trying to help people economically—we intend to help educate them financially, to incorporate them into the formal financial system,” said Escobar. And the team believes that connecting unbanked citizens to the financial infrastructure can have ripple effects and could lead to more political and economic stability in the region over time.

A rising tide lifts all boats—bringing us back to the original vision of the Walton Scholarship, which for a quarter century has been “creating life-changing opportunities, championing faith and empowering young minds to initiate meaningful impact across Central America and Mexico.”

As they approach graduation, the Waldron Center would like to assist these award-winning students in identifying a network to help move their vision forward. If you have contacts in banking, or if you are interested in learning more or helping to fund next steps, contact michael@monity.co.

The Arkansas Governor’s Cup prize money is underwritten by Delta Plastics. Monity would like to thank Owner and Chairman Dhu Thompson for investing in innovation and entrepreneurship in Arkansas.

Joshua Clemons takes the wheel

This article is the latest in a series featuring Harding student entrepreneurs.

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Joshua Clemons of Newport News, Virginia, literally carries with him a symbol of his most defining trait: His hobby is cars; his passion is cars; his side hustle is cars. He’s a senior management major who’d like to find his future in the automotive sector. Even if you don’t know him personally, you may know who he is; he’s the guy carrying the steering wheel.

Why the wheel? “In Formula One racing, because of the way the seat is bolted into the car and because of the roll cage, it’s difficult for a driver to get out in an emergency or in the pits, so the steering wheel is designed to be removable. My car has racing seats, so my steering wheel is removable.”

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He laughs. “It may seem a little weird, but it also gives me an opening to offer people a business card when they ask about it, and to explain what I can do for them. Plus, it’s harder to steal a car with no steering wheel.”

Clemons talks about cars the way some people talk about baseball. He doesn’t just discuss them — he obsesses over them. The design, the engineering specs, the statistics. One minute he speaks romantically and philosophically about a car — the next, he’s disdainful of some design characteristic he thinks was an unfortunate miss. He’s a car analyst, and his niche area of expertise is the Toyota Celica.

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1991 MK3 Toyota Supra Clemons owned in high school

He currently owns a 2001 Toyota Celica GTS and a 1977 Toyota Celica GT Liftback. He smiles. “It’s the first and last generation Celica. I call them the Alpha and Omega.”

Cars helped cement a special bond with his grandfather, Harding alumnus Kenneth Noland of Newport News, Virginia, whom he calls Grand Ken. “If I hadn’t fallen in love with cars, I don’t think we would have the relationship that we have today. As it is, he’s one of the few people in my family I can actually talk about more complex car issues with.”

“Grand Ken acquired an emerald green ’65 Mustang GT Fastback when I was a kid. He bought it for $2,100 bucks with no doors, not running. He intended to flip it, but once he heard the engine run, he decided to completely restore it. It’s in beautiful condition now.” The Mustang has some multi-generational family history. “My Dad went to New Jersey to ask my mom to marry him. On that same trip, he and Grand Ken went to a parts swap to buy these rare GT wheels for the Mustang.” Clemons and Grand Ken worked on cars together as he grew up.

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Clemons and the 1965 Mustang Fastback belonging to his grandfather, Kenneth Noland.

“When I was in high school, I’d help him flip cars. I guess one thing I learned from Grand Ken is there are things you can be really passionate about and really good at. That you can combine work and hobby. Over the years, Grand Ken has bought and sold many cars. He can do tons of work himself, and he has a guy who helps with what he can’t do.”

Clemons’ current ride, a 2001 Toyota Celica GTS 6-speed, was his first car. It looks nothing like it did when they bought it — and of course, there’s the magenta steering wheel you can frequently find beside his desk when he’s in class.

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The before and after of Clemons’s 2001 Toyota Celica GTS.

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With so much effort into tuning his car, is Clemons one of those car owners who park diagonally, hogging multiple spaces in the Walmart parking lot? He says absolutely not. He does have favored parking spots on campus, which we discussed at length, but we’re not telling.

“Sure, I’m pretty careful where I park it, but my car’s FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) approved, and after June 2 it will be pretty much a full-time race car.” So maybe it makes sense that he’s not quite so worried about a potential ding in the door.

He has a goal to begin racing in the GridLife Street Modified class. “This class is for vehicles that are street driven. If you go up to the next tier, the vehicles don’t have to be street legal. Gridlife racing is all across the East Coast — events in Richmond are held at Dominion Speedway. I’m part of an unofficial racing team of friends I’d like to see compete eventually.”

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Dr. Mark Farley and Clemons discuss the parts that just arrived for some repair work on one of the Farley family vehicles.

While at Harding, however, he concentrates on whatever his local customer wants. “I’ll fix your hybrid, build you a race car, or anything I can do for you without a lift. Just this weekend I replaced a side mirror and straightened a door out for someone who had hit a deer. I do stereos and speakers. I’m doing a full build on a friend’s car: exhaust, wheels, suspension, front bumper, interior.”

“Tuning” is car speak for the modification of a vehicle for appearance or performance. “In the tuner world, you can either do show modifications or track modifications. My car is a track car. The modifications I’m doing to my friend’s car are purely aesthetic upgrades.”

So how does he eventually want to make his hobby pay? “My goal is to someday be able to combine my mechanical understanding with my business degree and perhaps eventually be a project manager for a car company. I think being able to talk technical to engineers as well as understanding the business implications would be a good combination. My absolute dream job would be to be on a product development team rolling out the next Toyota Celica.”

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Clemons uses the Waldron Center’s 3D printer to make a delta-wing vortex generator for his car.

Clemons knows the dream job is some distance in the future and would consider any opportunity to get his foot in the door. The holy grail may be Toyota, but “Subaru’s headquarters is in Michigan, and Toyota owns 25 percent of Subaru, so there’s a connection there.” Or there might be opportunities at Ford, of course, in Dearborn, Michigan.

Clemons’ car interest will follow him everywhere, much as the steering wheel does these days. He returns to his automotive Zen vibe. “Cars are about much more than just getting from A to B. They’re about the journey.”

If you need repair or performance upgrade work done on your vehicle, you may contact Joshua Clemons at jclemons1@harding.edu.

If you are a student who is running a business while in school, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you too. Contact Patti Summers at psummers@harding.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dalton Drye Combines Academics with Practical Operations Experience at Searcy’s Oasis

The Waldron Center is fascinated by entrepreneurial journeys. Some people are gifted with a clear vision from the very beginning—a business idea that animates everything they do—but that’s rare.  It’s interesting to hear how the interplay of personality and circumstance drives entrepreneurship. Our previous student entrepreneurs have all been from places far removed from Arkansas. This week, we continue our series by talking with a hometown boy. 

Oasis Wash and Drye is a state-of-the-art car wash located at 700 E. Beebe Capps Expressway

Accounting major Dalton Drye is rooted in Searcy. He’s familiar with the business landscape here, easily identifying who owns various businesses and commenting on where there might be opportunity. And he knows a lot of people. He comes from an entrepreneurial family, and has the enviable advantage of some excellent personal mentoring. One thing is apparent from talking with him: Drye lays it all on the table. There is no hint of pretension; no attempt to artificially impress. He’s getting his education, and he’s got some goals, and he’s working hard and moving forward. 

img_4406-1After graduating from Harding Academy, Drye enrolled in the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He did Greek life with enthusiasm, but academics a little less so. He joined a fraternity and learned some useful lessons about poise and self-assurance and meeting people, but eventually decided to return to Searcy and enroll at Harding. 

Although he wants to gain broader experience in business, Drye has never envisioned being completely dependent on the corporate world for his future economic security. He once had a dream of opening a quality gun shop and shooting range in Conway. His grandfather, Charlie Adcock, offered an alternative: Adcock was considering opening a new car wash and was agreeable to let Drye help run it to get some experience in business operations. The result was Oasis Car Wash and Drye.

Adcock, a serial entrepreneur, was orphaned at an early age. He joined the Air Force. After retirement, he assembled a commercial career by starting a series of local businesses, building on skills he developed in the military. “He’s just business savvy,” Drye said, with obvious admiration. Adcock saw some of himself in his grandson, and was willing to work with him on the new venture.

Oasis opened last April on a parcel of high-traffic real estate on Beebe-Capps Expressway, a stone’s throw from the Harding Campus. It’s hardly the small town single-bay self wash you might imagine. The new owners did their research. Adcock and Drye were impressed with the Oasis car wash technology they saw on a site visit to the manufacturing plant in Galena, Kansas. They ordered premier touchless equipment for their future location, which also features multiple self-wash stalls and vacuums, as well as a dog wash. Heated bays allow it to remain “open 24/7/365.” They arranged to use the Oasis name and logo for the new facility.

 Drye covers almost full-time hours at Oasis most weeks; combined with his classes, it’s not unusual for him to work 80 hours in a single week. Right now, the staff consists of Adcock; another manager, who has mechanical and maintenance expertise; and Drye, who performs general operations functions and is the technology guy. “If it has electronics, that’s me. The kiosks or the bays go down because of electrical issues and so forth — that’s mine to solve.” He takes all the after-hours calls when something goes wrong. Drye is building equity in the business with every hour he puts in, whether in classes or at Oasis. His current situation is demanding and challenging, but he’s learning important lessons.

Drye always has his eye open for future opportunity. He’s engaged to Kelly Gordon, a student in Harding’s graduate Professional Counseling program. “She wants to eventually have a private practice in mental health. We’ll eventually do that. We’ll have the car wash.  I might be interested in real estate. We’ll see.” He’s always considering  ventures that might someday create a revenue stream. 

How does he evaluate himself these days?  “Well, I can handle myself better in time crunches now, and I know I have to prioritize. I’m not a 4.0 student, but if you have been involved in a number of other valuable things, that gives balance to your GPA on a resume.” He believes his practical experience in problem-solving in a business environment is something that can’t easily be duplicated in a classroom, and we agree. One of his teachers remarked that it was apparent Drye sometimes processed classroom content in a way that would be impossible for a student who hadn’t worked so closely in a business.

He’s also learning some valuable things about himself. “I used be a little hot-tempered, maybe quick to pop off.” He smiles. “But when you own a business, you have to learn to control that. I think I’ve improved. My grandfather once told me, ‘That’s one of those things you are going to have to learn.’ The other day he said, ‘You’ve changed. You’ve handled some situations that I could not have handled as well.’ ” Drye is satisfied that his early experience in small business is shaping him in ways that will make him a better employee and manager in the future, regardless of the venue. “When customers show up, you have to be ready to put a smile on your face and be professional.” 

He can be a self-described stressmonger; he’s taken very few days off since the car wash opened. And he acknowledges that working nonstop can have unintended consequences, a common concern among entrepreneurs. He’s mulling over the realities of the entrepreneurial path and what will be required of him someday as a husband and father.

One thing he knows: He wants to pass along the most valuable part of what he is learning to his children someday. “I want my kids to be able to do cheer, football, whatever activities they want. But regardless of what I may have financially someday, I will want my kids to learn to have a good work ethic. They need to learn to work hard — even when it’s no longer fun — and not to quit when the going gets tough.” Good advice. 

For now, Drye’s working 24/7/365. We wish him luck. 

You can meet Dalton Drye and get a an excellent car wash at Oasis Car Wash and Drye, 700 E. Beebe Capps Expressway.  Follow them on Facebook @oasiscarwashanddrye and on Instagram @oasis_carwash_and_drye.

If you are a Harding student running a business, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you, too.  Email Patti Summers  psummers@harding.edu. 

Luke Yates Helps Homeowners Keep Brentwood Beautiful

This is the third in a series of articles about student entrepreneurs on the Harding Campus.

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The day before orientation at Harding University, Luke Yates changed his major from pre-med to accounting, and he never looked back. Growing up, he learned to power wash the dock at his family’s lake house, and later decided he wanted to try to turn that experience into a contracting business. With an investment in more professional equipment, Yates now operates Yates Power Washing and Sealing, LLC — helping to keep homes in Brentwood, Tennessee, in pristine condition. He’s located in an excellent market: Williamson County abounds with upscale residential developments in which maintenance is a priority. Many Brentwood homes feature exposed aggregate driveways and hardscape. Cleaning and treating those concrete surfaces with a protective sealant IMG_1757that leaves a rich gloss is the bread and butter of Yates’ business.

Yates has operated his company for three years, but before that, he had a variety of job experience. He was a Little League umpire and a math and English tutor during high school. He worked as a Domino’s driver, behind the counter for Smoothie King, and as a wood cutter for a barbecue place. “I work for a Christmas lighting company, Lumenate, over Christmas break. The owner started a small business purchasing the lights and helping design, install, remove and store them. It’s enjoyable work and there’s lots of face-to-face with new clients every day.” He enjoys the personal feel of small business.

While in high school he also helped manage accounts for an Instagram marketer. “He was extremely successful. At one time the total follower numbers for the accounts he managed amounted to one out of every seven Instagram users.” So Yates has peered into the black box of social media marketing at a high level.

ShowImageEven so, he hasn’t used the typical social channels to promote his business. “I haven’t really had to,” he commented. The best tool I’ve found is the Nextdoor app.” Nextdoor is a social app that neighborhoods use to communicate about issues and events of common concern, and it is widely used by homeowners in Brentwood. “After I complete a job, if the customer is on Nextdoor, I ask them to complete an honest review. Keeping my reputation is what keeps business coming in.” And if he were going to add another social channel as his business expands? “Facebook, definitely.”

IMG_0463The power washing business has low entry costs: His business license as an LLC, his liability insurance, and his commercial power washing equipment. He shared a photo of an attachment called a surface cleaner, which operates like  a floor buffer, cleaning the concrete better and faster than a spray nozzle. “It directs all that pressure into two tiny nozzles that rotate close to the ground, and you push it and you get a 20-inch swath.”

There’s the cost of the sealant itself, which is applied with a long-handled roller and short-napped roller heads. Other than the hourly wages for his crew, that’s about it. “I quote a rate per square foot based on size, how dirty the concrete is, the slope of the drive, and whether there are mulched beds that adjoin it. The average is around 3,000 square feet, at 30-40 cents per square foot. So washing and sealing makes the average job cost about $1,000.”

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What has he learned from operating the business?  “The customer really is always right. And the importance of being thorough. Even if I think something is OK — if I miss a small spot here or there — I’ve learned to fix the small things. I rely on ratings and reviews.” Quality work is always the goal. “I inspect all the work we do. I try to lead by example because my reputation is on the line. I want to be the company that stands out and doesn’t take shortcuts.”

What skill would he like to improve to benefit his business most? “Definitely managing people.   Teaching others how to interact with a client, teaching others to sell. Every year I learn things, and the more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” He smiles wryly. We remind him that this particular feeling is common to successful business owners; entrepreneurs who don’t think they have anything to learn don’t generally last long.

Does he evaluate other businesses differently now that he runs one? Definitely. “I always look at a business — for instance a restaurant — with an eye for what they could be doing much better or what they do really, really well. I’m always looking for new ideas to implement into my business.”img_0702.jpeg

Yates will graduate in May 2020. “I have a tax internship at BKD this spring.” He thinks he would like to return to Nashville for permanent work, outsource his business and keep the company going. “I have a couple of years to figure that out, though.”

He’s not sure what his ultimate goals are. “Accounting was the best way for me to learn business as a whole, and I might like to start my own business at some point. I kind of want to be known as that guy who does a lot of different things.”

If you’re a student operating a small business, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you. Email Patti Summers psummers@harding.edu.

 

Jo Ellis is Making.Do in Searcy

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Photo:  Ashel Parsons

In a colorful loft makerspace above the new Arch Street artist’s corridor in downtown Searcy, Jo Ellis is building a community. She’s connecting people who want to create and people who need to create with opportunities to explore new skills together. Equal parts Christian philosopher, entrepreneur and advocate for the arts, Ellis has a deep conviction about the therapeutic value of the creative process. She views creativity as one way humanity bears the image of God. Her belief, shaped during three years as a missionary in Ireland, underpins the business model for her nonprofit, Make.Do.

IMG_0672She sighed, her powerfully expressive face momentarily calm. “I’m careful how I talk about calling —  but I know that I am a co-creator with God in this work,” she confides, relating Make.Do’s origins in a group of “difficult” girls who were her charges while she was doing mission work. They were the girls no one wanted. They challenged her and pushed the limits in every way.

To keep them occupied, they made pillow covers out of strips of fabric. Ellis recalled, “They went through the entire creative process: They were overwhelmed with the fabric choices, they discussed possibilities, narrowed them down and learned to use the sewing machines. They made mistakes; they had to use a seam ripper to tear out and start over. They were frustrated. They had to deal with imperfection.”

IMG_0678At the end of the day, they posted pictures of their finished projects on Facebook. She beamed at the memory. “We spent the entire evening watching people ‘like’ their projects and comment on them. In a single day, they went from being the girls that ‘no one ever wants’ to being creators of something others valued — and that value was reflected back onto them. It was the first time I understood the deep impact creativity has on our hearts.”

Not only does Ellis want to be able to offer classes for free to places like Jacob’s Place or Hope Cottage, but she wants to be able to offer an affordable place for community to gather. For now, Make.Do’s class fees are “pay what you can.” Most people pay the suggested fee, a few people pay more, and some people pay less.

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Clients may learn quilting, sewing, watercolor, hand lettering, embroidery, felting, knitting, cookie decorating, iris paper folding, macrame and more. Classes may last three to six weeks, but Ellis believes the social mission of Make.Do is best realized in six-week classes, which bring people who might not otherwise interact together over a longer period.  

To some degree, all entrepreneurs are risk takers and, although Ellis has a missional purpose for Make.Do, she seems bold in the familiar entrepreneurial way. The numbers have to add up, even for a nonprofit. “It didn’t feel brave. Committing to one idea and having to stick with the same thing day in and day out might have been a challenge, but Make.Do allows me to constantly look forward to the next, new class.”

To market new offerings, she publishes a newsletter and relies heavily on social media. Since Facebook users can share content in a way Instagram users can’t, Facebook is Make.Do’s primary expansion tool. But 30-something Ellis is an uninhibited natural on Instagram live, where viewers have a window into her life as they visit her eclectic apartment while she emotes about her babies (her houseplants) or bond with her on the merits of her new side-shave hairstyle.

She’s on a related mission to lure each of us away from projecting an image of polished perfection. “When the front that others see is one of perfectly-edited photos and captions, we can forget how to relate to someone in the moment. Face to face, I can’t edit what I say to you as I do when we text. When we’re constantly smoothing out the roughness to perfect our communication, and when that is what we are always seeing from other people, we become grossly more aware of our own insecurities.”

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Photo: Ashel Parsons

Ellis shares a promotional photo of her taken in her studio. She’s awkwardly, enthusiastically telling a story. Her face is contorted. It’s the kind of photograph most of us would delete rather than post. But she loves it. “The more vulnerable we are, the more we post things that aren’t perfect, the more we give others permission not to be perfect as well.”

She sees the creative process as a metaphor. “When we take random scraps of something and give it a purpose, over and over, it makes it easier for us to draw a parallel in our own lives. We can zoom out and see that random pointless events are being woven into something more purposeful and beautiful. And that point is amplified when it occurs in community.”  

Comfortable authenticity is a goal worth pursuing, and it’s especially useful to anyone whose self-image has been weakened or fractured by life events. Ellis is currently working on fundraisers and is pursuing grant opportunities to provide scholarships to classes for those who might benefit. If you’d like to become involved, contact her through her Facebook page.

Know an entrepreneur whose story needs to be told? Email Patti Summers in the Waldron Center. psummers@harding.edu.