Guest Blogger Mat Faulkner Reflects on Inspiring and Supporting a Community of Entrepreneurship

How does a community create a culture that inspires entrepreneurship and is supportive of one of the most challenging and risky pursuits in one’s lifetime?

You are likely aware that Searcy rallied to win a national vote to be featured in eight episodes of the hit online show Small Business Revolution  co-starring Ty Pennington and Amanda Brinkman. The show’s premise is to help revitalize a town’s Main Street by conducting make-overs for six local small businesses. Deluxe Corporation utilizes the television show platform to market their small business services, which is an example of content marketing at its finest. 

The show championed small business owners and the common challenges that most entrepreneurs deal with. Amanda Brinkman, the brainchild behind Small Business Revolution and Deluxe’s chief brand and communications officer, emphasizes how most entrepreneurs start a business because they are skilled at what they “do”  but may not be a specialist at wearing all the hats — such as marketing, human resources, legal document drafting, and accounting — needed to run a small business successfully. 

The creative magic for Think Idea Studio happens in the historic Robbins-Sanford building in downtown Searcy. The stylish renovation also provided conference space and an event venue on the ground floor.

Entrepreneurs tend to survive in a steady state of nervous energy: pursuing new sales, retaining employees, juggling costs of benefits versus profitability, upholding quality, maintaining the facility, creating social content, carving out family time, eyeing the competition and keeping up with technology.

So, it is safe to say the first step in creating a conducive entrepreneurial environment is affirmation and encouragement. Entrepreneurs are heroes. They are the backbone of this country and vital to the sustainability and uniqueness of our communities. Owning a business is hard and it can consume most of your mental, physical and emotional energy. It is risky and many business owners leverage personal assets as collateral to get their baby off the ground. The fact that they are doing it (or thinking about doing it) exemplifies a courageous spirit, ingenuity and adaptability. 

Encouragement is powerful. Community leaders need to publicly champion entrepreneurs, setting a tone of appreciation and validation. This should be a consistent message that resonates across all community organizations and reinforces that the community is behind those who decide to take the leap. It also cultivates an atmosphere of shared experiences, allowing entrepreneurs to know they are not alone and there are many who empathize with what they deal with on a daily basis.

Amanda Brinkman congratulates Faulkner after the announcement that Searcy had been selected for the show, and that six local businesses would receive consulting and a makeover.

Along with consistent affirmation and encouragement, entrepreneurs need networks and programs for peer-to-peer information sharing and cross-promotion. Even businesses within the same vertical market can participate in being supportive of each other while still protecting their trade secrets. We were first-hand witnesses to this during the Revolution experience. Restaurants within walking distance were promoting each other and sharing foot traffic. Brinkman coins it as “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

When the community is generally successful, the residual benefits can affect everyone. In a typical competitive environment, businesses keep everything close to the vest and work hard to rise above their competing neighbors. So it may feel unnatural to support a competitor, but we witnessed several business owners lean into cooperation over competition and it didn’t negatively affect their bottom line. On the contrary, it built goodwill, camaraderie and even produced unique co-op opportunities through cross-promotion and shared ‘shop local’ efforts.

The Small Business Revolution competition galvanized local resources around a common objective. Faulkner entered the town in the competition and was key to promoting the opportunity to local businesses.

Beyond competitors transitioning to supportive cheerleaders is the initiation of information-sharing groups. Commonly, this comes by the way of Chamber economic development programs. However, communities who are heading in the right direction will also see more grassroots efforts where business owners begin taking it upon themselves to be proactive. For example, an all-women entrepreneurship group recently formed and began meeting monthly at various locations. It is an open forum for women entrepreneurs, facilitated by volunteers and is centered around information-sharing. These organic, less formal groups represent a healthy entrepreneurial community where citizens are taking the time, effort and initiative to better themselves and others.

Searcy is getting a lot of things right and is generating a culture that inspires and supports entrepreneurs. The winning formula is a community that champions its entrepreneurs through encouragement and affirmation, generates opportunities to share both information as well as customers, and consistently communicates all the resources available to them through university and community partners. The Small Business Revolution poured fuel to a fire that was [and still is] burning bright. Entrepreneurs are champions who give communities uniqueness and character. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to tell a few of their stories on a television show, but there are still so many stories yet to tell. 

*For links to the Small Business Revolution episodes and behind-the-scenes photos, visit www.gosearcy.com

Mat Faulkner is founder of Think Idea Studio, president of the board for the Searcy Regional Economic Development Corporation, former chair of the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Committee, director of the Think ART Project, co-director for Searcy Beats & Eats festivals, past president for Jacob’s Place Homeless Mission, member of Searcy’s Beautification Committee and Holiday of Lights Committee, member of Harding University’s chapter of Sigma Nu Tau National Entrepreneurship Honor Society, and 2017 member of Arkansas Business’ 40 Under 40. 

Mat and his wife Shelley have 3 boys: Easton, 14; Lawson, 12; and Jace, 9. The couple renovated the old Robbins-Sanford Mercantile in downtown Searcy, which now serves as an event center and loft studio offices. Faulkner is a Fall 2002 graduate of Harding University with a degree in Communication Management. Recently, Faulkner served as the point person for the Searcy community winning the Small Business Revolution hit online TV show, where six local small businesses received $500,000 in makeovers as well as community improvements.

Have a small business story to tell? The Waldron Center would like to hear from you! Email psummers@harding.edu.

OneLife Provides a Different Model for Primary Care

The OneLife partnership includes Lance Kemper, P.A.-C;
Christie Brooks, Functional Medicine R.D.; and Joe Dugger, M.D.

Dr. Joe Dugger and partners have assembled a multidisciplinary team in a newly-renovated facility —  and along with traditional and urgent care, provide an innovative practice model for wholistic treatment. 

Everyone agrees there is room for improvement in American healthcare. Statistics indicate that emphasizing wellness, access to preventative care, and consistent management of chronic conditions improve patient outcomes and reduce the overall cost of care. OneLife Wellness and Primary Care, a new clinic, provides a model of primary care that takes all these factors into consideration.

After 20 years as a traditional primary care physician, Dr. Joe Dugger and his partners, physician assistant Lance Kemper and Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian Christie Brooks, have opened OneLife Wellness Center at 901 E. Beebe-Capps Expressway, the former Ann’s Bridal location. Community Relations Director Todd Miller discussed the concept and introduced the team. 

“The clinic will offer the traditional primary and urgent care to which patients are accustomed,” Miller explained, but what distinguishes OneLife from other practices is that they also offer an alternative known as concierge medical care or direct primary care (DPC) — in which the physician contracts with a patient for a flat monthly fee. In exchange, patients receive a guarantee of a provider who knows their medical history, is available to communicate, and offers preferential appointments to members. 

Todd Miller, Community Relations Director

“The vision for a better kind of clinic really stems from Joe’s faith. He’s a motivated achiever —  but he’s a soul/body/spirit thinker. Those different parts of our being are connected, and he was very interested in reaching patients wholistically. The vision was to have a place where patients would receive primary and urgent care with excellent providers, but where we also emphasize treating the whole person.”

Dugger is not only an experienced primary care physician with a loyal following —  he’s also an entrepreneur, having been part owner of Doc’s Grill and Searcy CrossFit. Partner and physician assistant Lance Kemper contributes deep experience in orthopedics; partner Christie Brooks is a registered dietitian with expertise in functional medicine and weight loss. Dr. Wade Fox, who specializes in men’s health and sports medicine, recently moved from Bentonville to join the OneLife practice. Physician Assistant Amanda Diles has a particular interest and experience with diabetes management. Physician Assistant Mary Madill is the director of the medically-supervised weight loss program. Mary Darden, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, specializes in women’s health and family medicine and has years of college health experience. 

OneLife offers monthly memberships for $89 per individual, $149 per couple, and $189 per family. Family memberships for families of three or more include a couple and all children under the age of 25. There is a six month minimum requirement for monthly memberships; some exceptions apply. Student memberships are $299 per semester. Student memberships are $75 a month.  

OneLife is located at 901 E. Beebe-Capps Expressway, the former Ann’s Bridal location.

Memberships include: 

  • Guaranteed same-day appointments 
  • After-hours phone and email access to a primary care provider
  • Nearly unlimited access (up to 99 visits per month)
  • Office care and minor procedures (such as stitches, rapid strep test, flu vaccine, urinalysis, pregnancy test, EKG, and in-office labs)

The multidisciplinary facility also houses the following specialties:

  • Byram & Finley Physical Therapy
  • OneLife Hand Specialty, Cyndi Seevers, O.T.
  • Life Within Mental Health Counseling,  Thomas Ritchie, Jr.
  • Restore Cryotherapy
  • Searcy Crossfit

Miller says providing a positive experience and minimizing stress for patients is central to the philosophy of OneLife, so staff members emphasize friendly faces in reception and are mindful of patient wait times. 

A final offering by OneLife will take another step to improve access to care: in March, OneLife will roll out a no-deductible health insurance plan to include a membership to OneLife along with major medical coverage. They expect that small business owners, churches, and anyone who is without employer-provided health insurance may be interested in examining this product, which will be underwritten by a third party.

The Waldron Center is interested whenever people apply new methods to familiar processes, whether it’s professional services or manufacturing. Know someone we need to write about? We’d love to hear from you. Email psummers@harding.edu.

The Bible Nook: Glen and Wanda Knabe Re-envision a Tried-and-True Business

Glen and Wanda Knabe may be first time entrepreneurs, but considering Glen’s experience managing the shipping and online functions for the Bible House, and Wanda’s years in retail, they definitely bring relevant skills to the table. They’re also content creators, having written and marketed a children’s curriculum for several years, so they also have intuition about the creative side of the publishing business. Buying an existing business, such as the 40-year-old Bible House, would be intimidating for most people — but the decision seemed easy for the Knabes.


A few years back, Glen resigned a full-time preaching position to return to pursue graduate work. He needed income, and was employed by the previous owner as a shipper. Eventually his position evolved into managing the online store as well. “When Dennis decided to retire, he asked me if I would be interested in buying the store. Since I knew so much about it, it felt right.”  

“I have managed different retail stores,” Wanda said, “so I understand how to track inventory and listen to customers.” She also realizes the importance of thoughtful merchandising, and has already set about revamping the store layout to be more customer friendly.

The Book Nook’s new Kid’s Corner is already seeing young holiday visitors.

What will change under new ownership? Wanda is passionate about making shopping easier for parents, and providing enrichment for children. “We watch moms try to handle their children while they shop, and we’re now working on furnishing a special children’s area and rearranging the women’s studies section to be nearby — so parents can more easily keep an eye on the little ones. We’ll have a featured kids’ book each month and we’ll have a reading and craft in the Kid’s Corner to go along with that. Parents can order the book in advance and the children can take their copy home after the reading.”

Wanda is also evaluating vendors for gift items that would appeal to younger customers; for instance, she recently changed t-shirt vendors to one that provides a fresher look. 

A relatively small space serves as both the office and their shipping and receiving area. Glen notes, “We have developed an agreement with our vendors to effectively act as our warehouse and ship on request,” which is convenient, but it also means it is essential that someone be monitoring inventory at all times.

Known as Bible House Supply, the well-established online portal has a national customer base.The online business is developed from what was originally a mail-order catalog business. “Dennis, the previous owner, invested heavily in traveling to conventions and trade shows for many years — and carefully cultivated his special order customer pipeline through doing that.” Glen explained. Supply orders from institutional accounts provided a stable revenue stream through lean times, which included a fire that destroyed the previous Bible House location and all the inventory. Glen emphasized the challenges of maintaining the portal well while being preoccupied with reconsidering the merchandising and making decisions about what lines to drop and which new lines they’ll bring on board.

A real area of growing opportunity is with LifeWay Christian Resources. The Nashville publisher closed all its corporate stores this year, so now their widely-used materials are finally available to independent retailers like the Bible Nook. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to upgrade our inventory and offer Bible studies and books by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Lysa Terkeurst. We can also special order older studies that might not be currently on the shelf.”

The Beth Moore studies are now available to independent booksellers.

The Knabes’ guiding principle while in this transition year is “evolution, not revolution.” They want to try to understand the reason things were handled in a given way by the previous owner before making sweeping changes. The stability of the online business allows them a little more time and freedom to do that than a new owner of a brick-and-mortar retail shop might have.

So what inventory management software and other tools do they use? “Bookstore Manager is an integrated system that houses our online portal, tracks inventory and sales, provides analytics, and serves as our point-of-sale system. We use UPS Worldship and Stamps.com for our online shipping through the portal.”

What other advertising and promotion efforts have been effective? “Dennis used Google AdWords for a while, and had real short-term success generating orders. Then the store worked with a marketing company that tracked the Google analytics and emphasized some particular items and promoted those. We did see a significant increase in sales to new customers through that, but then eventually it ceased to be effective. We’re reevaluating those plans going forward.” In the meanwhile, the part time help is upping their social media game and planning for some organized promotion of the newly-available LifeWay studies and Kid’s Corner activities.

There’s much to do, but for now: evolution, not revolution, is the plan.
You can visit The Bible Nook at 2207 W Beebe Capps, on Facebook, on Instagram, or their online store.

James Howard’s “The Modern Log”: A River Runs Through It

Entrepreneur James Howard is an outdoorsman and a craftsman, and sometimes the two intersect, as with his new business that markets his custom river tables.

On the surface, James Howard is a typical recent college graduate: He’s tall and slim with jeans, boots and a ready smile. He’s smart, confident and engaging. Behind that smile, however, is a mind churning with what the startup community calls ideation—and a fierce intentionality: He’s constantly scanning his own backyard for immediate opportunities and surveying the larger landscape for innovative projects with longer timelines. He’s a multitasker:  He can simultaneously manage his own well-defined artisan woodworking business while pursuing and implementing his part in partnership projects. And Howard obviously understands that every human connection in his network may pay future dividends. 

We met today to discuss Howard’s startup, The Modern Log, in which he handcrafts custom wood pieces ranging from tables to 3D wall art. He calls them “river tables.” Made of locally-sourced wood artfully combined with resin and other natural elements, Howard creates the appearance of water flowing through the table. The tables are finished with marine-grade epoxy and are extremely durable. A 20-by-45 inch coffee table with the flow element sells for $1,000.

Combining native red cedar with the flow element, Howard creates the illusion of a water feature flowing through the table.

Tables that are made using a computer numerical control (CNC) wood router to transfer a dimensional design into the wood can feature an exact map of a body of water or a custom logo, recessed with the flow material forming the level surface. Such a piece would be a perfect addition to a hunting lodge or rustic commercial applications, but would also add a unique accent to casual home design. 

A custom CNC router table features a map of Greers Ferry Lake with the flow element.

So how is business at The Modern Log? Howard smiles. “If I can show them, I can sell them.” He has access to an abundant supply of local cedar, so many of his first-year projects have incorporated that material, but he can order virtually any type of wood. If a customer can conceive it, Howard can probably include most ideas in a project. He’s recently brought his brother on board to assist with social media marketing of his creations.

Howard was born in Australia to parents who were vocational missionaries, but later lived in Pendergrass, Georgia. A finance major in the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, he ran track for Harding and later married the former Hayley Tobias, who teaches special education at Riverview Judsonia Elementary. They live in Searcy, where he does part of the work for The Modern Log in his garage and part in the borrowed shop of a friend. 

Entrepreneur James Howard's custom river tables are a unique addition to a casual space, whether commercial or residential.
Howard and wife Hayley Tobias.

Ellis Sloan, assistant professor of business, taught Howard in finance classes. “James’s innate business IQ is higher than most students. He seemed more engaged in class discussion. He asked penetrating, relevant questions. His grades were good—but what really struck me was his maturity, his energy, and his ambition. When I say ambition, I mean that he wants to accomplish.”  

We hear so much in the media about self-doubt and fear of failure among Gen Z, but that seems not to afflict Howard. “James is not afraid,” Sloan confirms. “He doesn’t just want to study and understand—he wants to put things into motion. He wants to make it happen, and in the process, to make money. He’s the personification of an entrepreneur. With this table project he’s a craftsman, but he has connections at a gaming resort in Montana from working up there for several summers, and he also has ideas to create a business around those connections as well.”

Sloan introduced Howard to real estate developer and entrepreneur Adam Hart, “who is also an idea guy—and they’ve since created a partnership. James is interested in nontraditional housing and in real estate development. You get a sense about some people that they are going to be very successful, and James is one of those people.”  

Howard’s Instagram profile simply says “Entrepreneur.” We think that’s perfect, and The Waldron Center will follow his future projects with interest. 

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a custom piece for your home or business, you can find Howard’s creations online.  

Are you a Harding alumnus who owns a business? The Waldron Center is always looking for new stories to tell. Email psummers@harding.edu

Guest Blogger David Kee: Dispelling the Myth of the Young Entrepreneur

Dispelling the myth of the young entrepreneur
Dr. David Kee is assistant professor of business and director of the MBA program. He writes for us from Australia, where he is resident faculty for the HUA program this semester.

One would think entrepreneurship is common among young people these days. After all, Harding now has the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business, a management concentration in entrepreneurship, a minor in entrepreneurship and a Christian Entrepreneur Organization (CEO) student club. We hold high the successes of young people who start businesses out of their dorm rooms. We celebrate the 30 under 30 top entrepreneurs. The vigor of youth and the creativity of our newest venture-starters fills us with excitement for what the future holds.

The average age of successful entrepreneurs, however, is 45 years. The reason we hear so much about successful young entrepreneurs is because they are rare. In fact, recent statistics point to fewer startups among 24-to-35-year-olds in 2018 than in 1970, 1990 or even 2010. Entrepreneurship among young people may not be common, but is it truly a myth?

The success rate of young entrepreneurs is not high, but neither is it high for 45-year-olds. And that’s okay. These failures allow resources to be redistributed for more effective uses. One thing young entrepreneurs often don’t have is financing. They simply haven’t had time to build up the capital from personal savings that 77% of successful entrepreneurs use to launch their businesses. Add to that the urgency to pay off student debt, and you can see how it’s counterintuitive to think that young entrepreneurs are likely to successfully launch a venture.

Here is the good news: 

  • The internet and app world have made it cheaper than ever to start a business. 
  • Globalization has increased the availability of and the market for many products and services.
  • The consuming youth market is growing as millennials and GenZs are getting their first paychecks — and who understands their needs better than young entrepreneurs?
  • The retiring of successful baby boomer entrepreneurs has made available the largest number of potential mentors ever.
  • Entrepreneurial education is now prolific, and knowledge that past entrepreneurs wish they’d had is now being taught before someone takes the leap.

What is the ideal setup, then, for young entrepreneurs to squelch the myth? I say it can be summarized as “learning as much as possible to prevent mistakes while taking advantage of opportunities.”

It seems the solution for aspiring young entrepreneurs is to get an entrepreneurial education, discover what globalization has to offer, and team up with an experienced mentor. This is what Harding’s entrepreneurship program and the Waldron Center aim to help students do. Come and see us. We’ll work with you to dispel the myth and help smooth your path to success.

If you’re a student interested in the study of entrepreneurship, we’d like to answer your questions. The Waldron Center is located in Mabee 202.

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. 

Mozambique Road
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. 

Pedestrian Bridge in Moz
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?

Sustainable Agriculture
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? 

Howell family
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.”

phiil waldron

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.

estela-cake8.jpg

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.”
estela cake

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.