Profit with a Purpose
Senior capstone program teaches
students real-world business skills
and the joy of helping others
By Sean Patterson
For years business professor Dirk Barram wanted to put his undergraduate students to the ultimate test – to charge them with creating a business and successfully executing it for profit.
Tragedy gave birth to his dream when business student Patrick Kibler, killed by a drunk driver in the winter of 2004, became the inspiration for the senior capstone business course. Today, each business major must successfully market a product or service in their final semester at George Fox.
John and Vicki Kibler, who wanted to honor their son’s legacy, established a fund that would support future business students. The Patrick Kibler Memorial Fund has financed more than 30 projects since his passing.
Each year, about 10 teams of six to eight members receive $700 to start a business. By semester’s end, they must pay the principle back. They are free to keep half the profits; the other half they donate back to the fund.
“The idea is to put them in a real-life setting so they get a sense of what it takes to own and operate their own business,” Barram said.
Following are profiles of four successful businesses.
Last March, Kyle Kuenzi and his team raised more than $5,000 through a Phil Wickham benefit concert to build a well in a small Ethiopian village.
The project, dubbed “Well Intentions,” used proceeds from the concert to build the first well in the town of Wondo Genet in southern Ethiopia. The group donated its profits to Senai Global — a nonprofit organization dedicated to social enterprise and humanitarian aid around the world — to construct the well in three days.
The 64-foot-deep well allows villagers to pump fresh water rather than travel three hours to retrieve it from a local river, where the risk of water-borne diseases is high. “That was the most satisfying aspect of it — to know that a project we worked on benefitted those villagers,” Kuenzi said. “It was a risky venture because we put all our eggs in one basket. If the concert had flopped, we would have flopped.”
Kuenzi and his team used the $700 principle and a donation from the Associated Student Community to cover Wickham and fellow guest artist JJ Heller’s appearance fees. With some 700 attendees, the concert had a net gross of about $7,000. “Both (team member) Matt (Wyckoff) and I had a baseball doubleheader the day of the concert, so my memory of it was rushing from the games to get there in time,” Kuenzi said. “We just sat back and enjoyed the concert, saying to ourselves, ‘Wow, this worked. We actually pulled this off.’”
A Juniors Abroad trip to Uganda in the spring of 2008 gave Ben Burgess an idea: Create a business to market handmade African jewelry and donate the profits to a Christian boys orphanage.
Burgess proposed his idea the following fall and his team, led by Warren Manning and Mike Yinger, coordinated an effort to have bracelets, earrings and necklaces — all made by youths at the orphanage — shipped to the United States for sale at a much higher profit.
Items that sold for $1 or $2 in Africa sold between $5 and $15 in the states. The team named its business “Awear” in homage to the fact their venture raised awareness of global poverty through the sale of wearable pieces.
“It’s a passion of mine to create a business that not only profits but promotes self-sufficiency and economic development,” Burgess said. “Thankfully, this went really well because Fox is such a globally minded community. People just snatched the items up.”
The Awear team sold more than 200 pieces — many of them at home basketball games — and netted about $3,800 in profit. The proceeds went to the orphanage in Africa to help fund educational, medical and agricultural needs, as well as economic growth.
Burgess reports that the orphanage, which originally housed 25 boys in one house, has expanded to include a second house that accommodates another 25 boys. “It’s gratifying to know we helped play a small part in seeing that happen,” Burgess said.
Community Saturday Market
A group of students this spring organized a monthly Saturday Market in an effort to showcase local businesses and promote community spirit. Vendors sold a variety of products, from jewelry, books and food to sweaters, scented soaps and art.
In light of a down economy, the team created a venue that specialized in authentic, one-of-a-kind products at bargain prices. The group also brought in food vendors and a local string group to provide a warm, friendly environment not found on a routine trip to the mall.
Love INC, which runs a women’s and children’s shelter in Newberg, benefits from the profits. “This is helping people in our own backyard who desperately need help,” team leader Anna Barram said. “(When we started), we had several complications that threatened the existence of the first market, but somehow we pulled it all together to make it happen.”
Team leader Caitlyn Bennett and her group started Universi(tee) Design, a T-shirt design and distribution company that served local businesses and organizations during the 2007-08 academic year.
The team contracted with a local screen-printing company and utilized the management, marketing, financial and design skills of team members to turn the original $700 capital into a $2,000 profit.
“The experience was definitely good practice for life after college,” said Bennett, now earning a master’s degree in education at Southern Illinois University.
Bennett’s advice to current students: Take full advantage of the college experience.
“Soak up all you can from your classes,” she said. “You might think a project isn’t relevant to your future career goals, but believe me, it will be the project you come back to at the most unexpected time.”