By Debbonnaire Kovacs, posted Mar 17, 2016

In my ongoing quest to find new ways that Adventists are working for God, one of the things I do is surf Adventist university websites. This week, on Southwestern Adventist University’s site, I discovered enough interesting news bits to keep me busy for weeks. Two items particularly intrigued me. One was the fact that the university’s annual Brain Games event will be hosted this year by Emmy Award-winning composer Michael Price, famous for his music for several well-known TV series, especially Sherlock. You can read more about this in our Arts News section. The other was the amazing community partnerships the campus Enactus team has been making. I spoke with Darcy Force, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, about this. First, I gained her permission to reprint her story about what Enactus is up to these days, which you will find below. Then I asked her for more general information about the Enactus team.

Enactus officers meeting with faculty of SWAU Business Department. Photo by Caressa Rogers, used by permission.

Enactus officers meeting with faculty of SWAU Business Department. Photo by Caressa Rogers, used by permission.

I learned that I might know it better by another name. In 2012, “Students in Free Enterprise, the world’s best-known and most successful program helping university students to create community empowerment projects, has changed its name to Enactus to reaffirm its long-standing commitment to using entrepreneurial action as a catalyst for progress.”

At SWAU, Enactus is a busy group. Here are some of their major projects:

  • Business in a Box—Enactus teams go to local elementary schools six or seven times over several months and teach classes on how to be philanthropists. At the end of the series, the elementary students invent business ideas and kits that will fit in a box. They then sell these boxes at a fair and donate the money.
  • Spoons for Change—These are community evening classes for women’s empowerment. They teach economic empowerment, healthful living, how to dress for success, budgeting, and so on. The team has received several grants from Walmart to help with this work.
  • Thrive Cleburne—Cleburne is the local town, and their Chamber of Commerce and several local banks have partnered with SWAU Enactus to give evening seminars that can help local small business or start-ups. The businesses then write a plan and present it to a panel of judges made up of local leaders and SWAU faculty, competing for prizes of around $1,000 to 3,000. The Chamber and banks have asked to partner with Enactus again this year to present seminars in financial literacy, among other things.
  • Rez Refuge—This is a safe haven for youth in Arizona. Enactus recruited the University of Montemorelos to work with them in coming up with designs for the T-shirts the refuge sells for fundraising. They also helped their community garden to produce more, using hydroponics techniques. (More at the Southwesterner.)

SWAU Enactus does some fine work. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Each year, Enactus USA hosts a competition of the community projects teams have created.The national competition involves Enactus clubs from colleges and university across the United States. During the four rounds of competition, students must make their presentations in front of 10 judges. The judges who grade the clubs are business professionals and executives from corporations such as Walmart, CVS, Microsoft and Home Depot. SWAU Enactus has won in their region eleven times. Last year, they came in second in the Nationals. Here is part of Force’s press release at that time.

“We are proud to announce that the Southwestern Adventist University Enactus Team placed 2nd in the Quarter-Final round of competition at the Enactus National Exposition,” says an elated Enactus sponsor and business professor, Ana Patterson.  “The presentation team highlighted four projects completed throughout the school year:  Business in a Box, Thrive Cleburne, Spoons for Change, and Rez Refuge.  They were awarded $2,000 in prize money and this recognition places the team in the top 32 out of 181 competing colleges and universities. It is wonderful to see all their hard work recognized.”

Adventist Today recognizes SWAU Enactus, not just for their business sense, but as a shining example of what compassionate and practical Christians can do in their communities.

Read on to see what they are doing right now.

Local Business Supports SWAU Enactus Club for Local Charity

By Darcy Dawn Force, Director, Marketing and Public Relations, Southwestern Adventist University, posted by D Kovacs, March 17, 2016

After winning several grants, Southwestern Adventist University’s Enactus club teams up again with local charity Community Opportunities, Inc. (COI), a non-profit organization located in Keene, Texas, that provides training services, pre-vocational programming, and supported employment for adults and teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Enactus will be helping COI with branding and creating new space for a project that provides skills education for their clients and additional revenue for the non-profit.

The Enactus team reconnected with COI when Pam Masters, COI Outreach Director, participated in last year’s Cleburne Thrive project and won third place for her community radio program, JOCO Community Radio. Masters shared with the Enactus team about an enterprise project, an industry under the COI management for the purpose of revenue and skills education, which COI staff had recently started for their clients.

Enactus member Bianca helps COI clients with their painting projects that will become project for Beeyond Designs.  Photo by Darcy Force, used by permission.

Enactus member Bianca helps COI clients with their painting projects that will become project for Beeyond Designs. Photo by Darcy Force, used by permission.

Enactus (then known as SIFE) first worked with COI in 2008 when they helped the organization develop a website, new marketing strategies, and update the Bumblebee logo, which COI still uses. “The use of the Bumblebee,” shares Masters, “came about as we told our clients that we would help them fly no matter the size of their wings. Bumblebees, with their relatively small wings, became the official mascot. The students from Southwestern helped us define that piece of our history into a logo and brand.”

As COI was looking for new ways to fulfill their mission of training, a local cabinet-maker dropped off a trailer full of scrap wood. The COI team started teaching their clients basic wood-working, creating a range of rustic art including Christmas trees, crosses, and Texas-shaped wall art. All clients are paid for their time as they learn skills they can then use to work outside the program.

The enterprise project started to grow as COI and their clients sold the art at local fairs and through their website. This year COI made $15,000 from sales, which helps pay the clients for their work and grow the enterprise project. While the project started in a storage warehouse space at COI, the production has now outgrown the space. The project also needed help developing a brand.

Ana Patterson (Enactus faculty sponsor), Gabriel Castillo (Enactus Student VP for Projects), and Stella (COI wood shop manager) discuss logo options for Beeyond Designs. Photo by Darcy Force, used by permission.

Ana Patterson (Enactus faculty sponsor), Gabriel Castillo (Enactus Student VP for Projects), and Stella (COI wood shop manager) discuss logo options for Beeyond Designs. Photo by Darcy Force, used by permission.

As the Enactus team took this enterprise project on as one of their grant projects, they helped COI develop a name, BEE-yond Designs, a logo, and a marketing strategy. Seeing the need for an improved workspace, Enactus reached out to Cleburne resident John Burrus, who works for Warehouse Rack of Fort Worth, to see if he could help develop the work area into a more productive space. Burrus visited the site and was so touched by the project that he arranged for Warehouse Rack to donate $3,500 worth of shelving and a team to install it.

This week Enactus team members are helping COI clean up the space in preparation. On Sunday, Burrus and his team will install the new shelving. “I was so impressed with what they’re doing to support people,” explains Burrus. “I wanted to help and I feel blessed that our company can be a part of it. It’s just a win/win for everybody when the community pulls together to make something like this happen.”

“It’s going to take our business to the next level,“ says Masters. “It started as a side project to teach our clients a real skill and generate revenue. Enactus and John Burrus are just transforming the space, which will help us continue to grow. The more revenue we can bring in, the more classes and service we can offer our clients. We’re just beyond excited, because service is what we’re about.”