Wofford College’s Launch Program Puts Student Entrepreneurs on Fast Track to Success

The Launch program at Wofford College’s The Space in the Mungo Center is a resume differentiator, student entrepreneurs say.

“I put Launch on my resume, and it’s always the first thing that gets talked about,” said Jeremiah Kubilus, a junior finance major from Gilbert, S.C. He is one of the five students in the newly formed Leadership Committee for the Launch program, which provides education, resources and support for students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Leadership Committee was created to bring Launch to the next level by putting student leaders at the helm of developing the culture, community and peer accountability within the four-year scholarship program.

Related: Learn how you can ignite social change in just three days at the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat.

“The main function of the committee is to be an advocate for the students in Launch,” says Grace Gehlken, a sophomore Spanish major from Charleston, S.C. “We are responsible for running meetings, leading cohorts of student entrepreneurs, having conversations about goals and responsibilities, and creating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus.”

In mid-August, the Leadership Committee—along with Tyler Senecal, entrepreneurial programs director in The Space, and Lynne Mullin, associate director of entrepreneurial programs—convened for a week of leadership development training and immersive learning about entrepreneurial culture and community. During the weeklong Leadership Summit, the group spent time on Wofford’s campus and in Boulder, Colo., one of the top entrepreneurial and innovation hubs in the world.

The leadership team of The Space includes: Front row: John Coleman, Director of Career Development; Lynn Mullin, Assistant Director of Entrepreneurial Programs; and Tyler Senecal, Director of Entrepreneurial Programs. Back row: Lee Smith, Career Specialist; Rebecca Parker, Director of Internships and Employer Relations; Curt McPhail, Executive Director; and Hannah Wofford, Office Coordinator.

While in Boulder, the committee visited University of Colorado Boulder, which ranks among the top entrepreneurial colleges in the country; BLD61, a makerspace; and a variety of start-up companies, including Techstars, Boomtown and Industrious Office. “Our students had the opportunity to engage with and learn from founders, thought leaders, investors, academics and other supporters within the Boulder start-up ecosystem,” Senecal says.

At Techstars, CEO and co-founder David Brown spent an hour with the team.

Related: Crystal Dreisbach’s Green-To-Go makes it easier for restaurants to kick the styrofoam habit.

“David Brown is looked at in Boulder as one of the people who helped build the entrepreneurship community and create the culture of ‘give first,’ which is one of Techstars’ core values,” a value that aligns exactly with the purpose of the Leadership Committee, says Mullin.

“It was encouraging to see there are a lot of people in Boulder innovating, coming up with great ideas and bringing them to market,” says Kubilus. “If they can do it, we can do it, too.”

Also on the Leadership Committee are Ella Jarrett, a sophomore Spanish major from Lexington, Va.; Dieran McGowan, a sophomore from Taylors, S.C.; and Jeremy Powers, a junior finance major from Spartanburg, S.C.

 

Crystal Dreisbach’s GreenToGo Makes It Easier for Restaurants to Kick the Styrofoam Habit

Styrofoam has bugged Crystal Dreisbach for years, particularly Styrofoam takeout boxes at restaurants. It’s no secret that Styrofoam—and expanded polystyrene in general— poses a threat to the environment and to human health, yet it’s the go-to material for meals to-go across the U.S. Now Dreisbach, a featured speaker at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Ignite Retreat, is using the power of social entrepreneurship to help restaurateurs kick the Styrofoam habit—and she’s going after single-use plastic, too.

As the founder of GreenToGo in Durham, N.C., Dreisbach runs an app-based social-impact business that provides reusable takeout containers for local restaurants. Once customers download the app and buy a subscription, they can order carryout meals in reusable containers from any of GreenToGo’s 26 participating restaurants and grocery stores. After eating their meal, they can drop the containers off at various return stations around the city; GreenToGo staffers then retrieve the containers, wash and sanitize them at a central facility, and redistribute them to the restaurants.

“We design waste out of the picture and keep resources local,” Dreisbach said.

this photo depicts both the GreenToGo reusable container and its creator, Crystal Dreisbach

Crystal Dreisbach developed GreenToGo reusable carryout containers to reduce waste and Styrofoam use in Durham, N.C.

In Search of Sustainable Solutions
Dreisbach’s success as a social entrepreneur certainly didn’t happen overnight. She previously worked as a public health researcher and began considering the problem of Styrofoam 10 years ago. “My job was to make sure that research didn’t just end up sitting on a shelf but was evaluated, meta-analyzed and applied to people’s real lives,” Dreisbach said.

“One thing that always bothered me was Styrofoam takeout containers. We had more than enough research evidence to justify not using them, yet we were still using them! It gave me a level of cognitive dissonance that actually kept me up at night. As I started reading more about Styrofoam, I learned how bad it is for human health, the environment and the local economy. I thought, ‘There’s gotta be a better way!’ Even though I was super-busy at my job, I decided that one thing I could do was write letters to restaurants.”

Dreisbach penned around 200 letters over two years, urging restaurant owners to look into alternatives to polystyrene-based containers. “When one restaurant wrote back to tell me that my letter spurred them to action and making a change, I knew I wanted to take it to the next level.”

Her solution—a reusable takeout container service—didn’t immediately catch fire. “I talked and talked about this to anyone who would listen,” Dreisbach recalled. “Most people told me it wouldn’t work, and some people even laughed. But I submitted my idea to a contest in a magazine in 2010 and won runner-up!”

The Durham Co-Op Market is a GreenToGo client, and Tobin Leigh Freid is also the newest member of Don’t Waste Durham’s board.

Feeling validated and motivated to keep working on her ideas to promote sustainability, Dreisbach in 2012 founded Don’t Waste Durham, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing consumer waste and encouraging sustainable practices. Durham’s own landfill has been closed for 25 years, so the city’s waste gets transported to another landfill in a different county. Anywhere between eight and 12 semitrucks make 200-mile round trips every weekday to haul off the garbage, with those trucks getting a measly 6 miles per gallon.

The only sustainable solution, Dreisbach realized, was to produce less trash—and Durham being a “foodie” town, reducing Styrofoam waste in restaurants was a good place to start. She worked closely with Durham County Health Department officials, business leaders and local citizens to fine-tune her idea for reusable food containers and, over time, won the backing of the community and the local restaurant industry.

To raise money, Dreisbach and her group of volunteers launched a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign in 2016. “When the campaign succeeded, we knew that the hardest part had only just begun,” she noted. “Yikes! We now had to actually design and implement the thing!”

To get community buy-in, she held public meetings at the Durham Co-Op Market and invited locals to contribute ideas for GreenToGo. “Everyone from city officials to taxi drivers to little old ladies were sitting in small groups designing each aspect of operations,” Dreisbach said. “What came out of these community meetings reflects how we run our business today.”

Promoting a Circular Economy
For all her success thus far, Dreisbach knows every service and product can be improved, hers included. GreenToGo’s containers, for example, are an off-the-shelf product also used in university dining halls, retirement communities and similar facilities around the country. “They are adequate for now,” she said, “but we know we can design and manufacture something better—containers that are designed specifically for a reuse system like ours, with superior durability and longevity, and made from safe, circular materials.”

GreenToGo currently has 26 restaurant and grocery store clients. That number should grow to 30 by the end of the year and will include a vegan meal-delivery service.

The company is working with materials scientists and packaging designers to design a product “that will help advance the circular economy,” she said. “GreenToGo believes that, whenever we make something, our obligation, out of respect for the limited sources we have on Earth, is to design it right, make it the best quality it can be, and use it again and again.”

Meanwhile, through her nonprofit, Don’t Waste Durham, Dreisbach also has her sights set on reducing plastic waste in Durham and is inching closer to that goal. She and her team have spent more than seven years researching and crafting legislation that would require most local shoppers to pay a 10-cent fee on single-use bags (both plastic and paper) at retail stores and restaurants. The goal is to encourage consumers to shop with their own reusable bags, thus producing less trash for the region’s landfills.

The Don’t Waste Durham team cleared a major hurdle last month when the local Environmental Affairs Board approved the ordinance, clearing the way for the city council to vote on it. But Dreisbach is playing the long game to maximize the legislation’s chances of passage. “If we chose to, we could now push this ordinance directly to the city council for a vote, no matter how long it takes,” she said. “We opt instead for first vigorously engaging other key stakeholders. From our experience, this produces the most buy-in and the highest quality result.”

Dreisbach believes city leaders will ultimately pass the proposed ordinance. “I expect success given the level of support among local legislators—after all, I’ve been talking to them about this for 7 ½ years!” she said. “I have high hopes that the bill will become a law. And as evidenced around the country, our community will get accustomed to this new economic signal, and trash prevention will result.”

And after Durham, Dreisbach hopes to take her proposal statewide. “We now have towns and organizations across North Carolina contacting us about formalizing their support. We intend to create a coalition or network of towns and groups that can use our Fee for Bags Package—the draft ordinance, advocacy tools, relevant research and any of our lessons learned—to start the work in their own municipalities! We believe that the best way to scale ideas that are good for people, economy and planet is to open-source them!”

GreenToGo customers can order their food in reusable carryout containers, which they can later drop off at designated return stations around Durham. The containers are then retrieved, washed, sanitized and redistributed to participating restaurants.

Raven Rock State Park Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Its Founder

Half a century after establishing Raven Rock State Park in North Carolina, Robert Soots, a former biology professor at Campbell University, is still around to enjoy the stunning views. The university celebrated his vision and his work with a special 50th anniversary event at the park’s visitor center on Saturday, Sept. 14, with live music, lectures, hikes and activities for the whole family.

Soots, who served as head of the Campbell biology department, was teaching a course on invertebrates’ natural history in the mid-60s when he first became acquainted with what is now Raven Rock State Park. He needed a place outside of the classroom to teach the laboratory portion of the class, and the large tract of land just a short drive from the university suited his needs.

Seeking permission to access the area for his classes, Soots had gotten to know some of the landowners. One—he calls her “Miss Lizzy”—became a good friend. She lived alone on the several hundred acres she owned along the Cape Fear River, and she often had Soots and his wife, Sharron, over for meals or to help in the garden.

When Miss Lizzy considered selling her property for mining, Soots asked her to consider learning what it would take to convert it into a state park. He researched the process at length and visited other nearby landowners, floating the idea and testing the waters. “Without exception,” Soots said, “everybody said they would sell their property for the state park if we could make it happen. I made it clear to them there was no guarantee I could accomplish this, but I’d try.”

Soots sketched out a plan and took it to the Harnett County Board of Commissioners, showing them slides of the beautiful area and discussing the benefits of having a state park in an area. He went to every town meeting and every garden club, bird club and scout club he could think of to get people on board.

Following months of hard work, in 1969, Raven Rock State Park was created with the passage and adoption of North Carolina Senate Bill 495. Today, Raven Rock State Park, which covers 4,810 acres along the Cape Fear River’s banks, is a popular destination for hikers, campers, anglers and canoeists, drawing thousands of visitors ever month The park also boasts horseback riding trails and beautiful overlooks.

At the 50th anniversary event, which was co-sponsored by the Sullivan Foundation, several speakers discussed the park’s history. Musical entertainment featured regional talent, and throughout the five-hour event, an artists village, food trucks, games and other activities were offered, along with guided nature hikes on the Cape Fear.

Dr. John Bartlett, an associate professor of biology at Campbell University, said the event was “a celebration of the park and the people who made it happen.” Of the man whose work helped create a state park and spare hundreds of acres from a potentially much different future, Bartlett is clear. “I think Bob Soots is a hero,” he said. “He’s a visionary, and he was way out ahead of his time on things.”

This story was adapted from the original article appearing on the Campbell University website.

Carson-Newman University Addresses Food Insecurity Among College Students

Sullivan Foundation partner school Carson-Newman University, located in Jefferson City, Tenn., has opened an on-campus food pantry to help students dealing with food insecurity.

Called The Store, the pantry will open officially with a ribbon cutting on Oct. 10, but the university’s Student Success Center will start accepting donations this weekend, as alumni and fans pour into town for the football game against Virginia-Wise.

“Student Success is thrilled to partner with our campus community and our athletic department to kick off our on-campus food pantry,” Amy Humphrey, co-director of Student Success, said in a press release. “Many people are surprised to learn that, nationally, over 48 percent of college students face food insecurities, which can have a direct impact on a student’s academic performance and overall success.”

The service is offered free to all Carson-Newman students. The Store is requesting donations for food items like canned meats and ravioli, soups, peanut butter, jelly, chips, Ramen noodles, mac and cheese and individual microwaveable meals.

As Inside Higher Ed reported in April 2019, researchers are struggling to get accurate statistics about college students who face hunger or food insecurity. A close review of multiple studies found discrepancies in the way hunger is measured, according to a paper authored by Cassandra J. Nikolaus, Breanna Ellison and Sharon Nickols-Richardson. Accurate numbers are needed “so we can effectively implement and assess the solutions,” Nikolaus told Inside Higher Ed. “These surveys are commonly used to assess need on campus, screen students for services and evaluate the impact of interventions. If the surveys aren’t accurate, then the endeavors to address college food insecurity are potentially being compromised at each of these steps.”

Many lower-income students have to give up regular meals to pay for books and tuition. “This is the new economics of college,” Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, told U.S. News & World Report in May 2019. “Yes, tuition has gone up, but, more importantly, the financial supports available to students have not kept up with the cost of living, which has also increased.”

Goldrick-Rab is also founder of Temple’s Hope Center for College. A recent Hope Center survey found that nearly half of all responding students in two- and four-year schools had faced food insecurity in the past 30 days. Seven percent of two-year-college students and 5 percent of four-year students said they’d skipped eating for a full day due to lack of money to buy food.

Food insecurity has become such a problem on college campuses in New York that Governor Andrew Cuomo last year mandated that all of the state’s public colleges and universities offer on-campus pantry services.

This story was adapted from the original article appearing on the Carson-Newman University website.

Mercer University Grad Focuses on HIV Prevention in Peace Corps Work

By Jennifer Borage

One year after graduating from Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University, Kayla Beasley is making an impact in Uganda as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Her work mainly focuses on HIV prevention among youth, adolescent girls and young women. But it’s wide-ranging, also touching on maternal and child health; water, hygiene and sanitation; and malaria prevention. “Every day is different, and each day brings something new to learn or teach,” said Beasley, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2018 majoring in global health studies with a double-minor in global development studies and history.

Beasley works with the Makerere University Walter Reed Project, a nongovernmental organization focused on HIV research and prevention in Uganda. She’s mainly working on two projects in support of the group—implementing the Grassroots Soccer program at primary and secondary schools and giving lessons as part of the DREAMS program.

Grassroots Soccer is an adolescent health group that uses soccer to educate and inspire youth to overcome health challenges. “It is a fun and interactive way to engage youth in HIV prevention and malaria prevention,” Beasley said.

DREAMS, which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe Women, aims to reduce HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan African countries. About 1.3 million adults are living with HIV in Uganda, and women are disproportionately affected, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, which leads the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat.

Over 59% of infected adults are women, according to UNAIDS, and new HIV infections among young women, ages 15-24, were more than double those among young men.

As part of the DREAMS program, Beasley gives lessons on sexual reproductive health, which oftentimes include discussing maternal and child health. She also teaches girls how to make reusable menstrual pads as a way of empowering them to not be embarrassed by menstruation. Embarrassment often leads to girls missing school and feeling ostracized in their communities, Beasley said.

Making the pads is also used as an income-generating activity and leads to discussions about water, hygiene and sanitation, which is essential to prevent infections and diseases, she said.

Beasley lives in Central Uganda in a district called Kayunga about 50 miles northeast of Kampala, the country’s capital. Every region of Uganda is distinct, she said, which makes traveling in her free time enjoyable. “Every region has different tribes which speak different languages, so you get to experience a variety of cultures in just one country,” Beasley said.

Beasley said her biggest challenge has been learning to take one day at a time. “Throughout Peace Corps service, there are specific points in service when volunteers are usually in a high point or low point in their service,” she said. “But what many people fail to understand is that … you have several highs and lows in just a single day. I am constantly reminding myself to keep putting myself out there because even if I can’t see it now, I am impacting someone’s life in some way or fashion by just showing up and being there.”

Beasley said her time at Mercer prepared her for the Peace Corps experience by giving her an understanding of the universal problems faced around the world, especially in developing countries, and how developed countries have contributed to and perpetuated those issues. The university also taught her how to “effectively, respectfully and positively contribute to the uplifting and development of those countries,” she said.

She said she’s grateful to her professors “for everything they taught me over my four years at Mercer and the tools and knowledge that they knowingly and unknowingly imparted on me, which have not only impacted my life but also the lives of the people I work with every day in my community.”

This story originally appeared on the Mercer University website.

Will and Jaden Smith Partner With Footwear Brand to Save the Amazon Rainforest

A new collaboration between footwear brand Allbirds and Jaden Smith’s JUST Water isn’t just for kicks—the proceeds will go to help protect the endangered Amazon rainforests.

The two social enterprises have joined forces to design new limited-edition sneakers inspired by JUST’s infused water flavors. The result: stylish new designs for Allbirds’ Tree Topper high-top sneakers and Tree Runner sneakers. The sneakers feature JUST’s signature aqua blue in various elements of the shoe, such as the laces, eyelets and soles.

Allbirds and JUST are both committed to sustainability and creating products out of natural materials. JUST’s responsibly sourced spring water comes in plant-based cartons, while Allbirds makes its sneakers with fiber material from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees. The latter also manufactures its SweetFoam soles using Brazilian sugar cane.

this shows jaden smith in action

Jaden Smith, son of actor Will Smith, is an activist and social entrepreneur.

The two companies have said they will donate 100 percent of the sneakers’ proceeds to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance Amazon Forest Fund. DiCaprio is also an Allbirds investor.

“There is only one Mother Earth, and it’s on us to protect her,” Will Smith, JUST cofounder and Jaden Smith’s father, told People.com in early September. Referring to the wildfires that have ravaged the Amazon rainforests, Smith noted, “We source JUST sugarcane caps from Brazil, so this hits especially close to home. Collaborating with businesses who are creating innovative, sustainable solutions are the key to our future, and it’s important that we support these brands who give back more than they take.”

Scientists describe the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest, as “the planet’s lungs” because it produces 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen. Preserving the Amazon rainforest is key to combating climate change.

this photo illustrates the attractiveness of the shoes

Allbirds’ shoes are made with fiber material from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees.

Allbirds and JUST are both certified B corporations. A certified B corporation is a for-profit corporation that has been certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that measures a company’s social and environmental performance against the rigorous standards in the online B Impact Assessment. B Lap uses a triple bottom line framework in assessing B corporations. Triple bottom line refers to a company’s standard of social, environmental and corporate responsibility—that is, the corporation not only turns a profit but it also provides benefits to society and the environment.

“We are legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on our team, customers, suppliers, community and the environment,” Allbirds stated in a Facebook post last month. “We’ve been a B corp since the beginning, and we are proud to be a part of the global movement of people using business as a force for good.”

Sullivan Ambassador Lori Kaitlyn Babb Aims to Use Social Entrepreneurship and Bioethics to ‘Change the World”

Steeped in history and brimming with bohemian allure, Prague has a famously romantic past, but for Sullivan Scholar Lori Kaitlyn Babb, it also offers a glimpse of a dazzling future in which innovative young thinkers like herself take the lead in building a better world.

A senior biology major at Campbell University who also serves as a Sullivan Ambassador, Babb spent the month of July in the Czech Republic’s capital city in a Sullivan-sponsored study-abroad experience offered by the Global Leadership Program. The program included two courses, Social Entrepreneurship + Global Change and Philosophies of Leadership, plus an excursion to Vienna, where Babb and her fellow students visited one of the four United Nations headquarters, and a weekend getaway to Budapest, Hungary.

Related: Learn how you can ignite social change at the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat

The scenery in Prague is nothing short of spectacular—towering Gothic cathedrals, magnificent castles plucked from the pages of fairy tales, an ancient astronomical clock with moving figures of the 12 apostles. But the coursework was equally eye-opening, Babb said, thanks to the tutelage of Heather McDougall, founder and executive director of Leadership exCHANGE; Sullivan Foundation President Steve McDavid; and Dr. Jody Holland, an assistant professor in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Public Policy Leadership.

this photo shows the subject's excitement to visit the John Lennon Wall in Prague

Lori Kaitlyn Babb, a Sullivan Ambassador and Sullivan Scholar, poses at the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

“On the academic side, I found the two courses to be incredibly formative in my thought-theory approaches to the ‘soft sciences,’” Babb said. “As a science major, a majority of my schoolwork is in the ‘hard sciences,’ but I loved exploring the social sciences, where methodologies have great variety and there isn’t always a concrete ‘right’ way to do something.”

While social enterprise and leadership were the key subjects of study, the focus “expanded outside of just the classroom and syllabus,” Babb noted, and included presentations by active social entrepreneurs who had gone through the study-abroad program in years past. “To be able to see and meet those who experienced the same program and who took those strides to ignite change and create social enterprises was incredibly inspiring,” she said. “It also emphasizes how life-changing this summer abroad can be if you utilize and maximize the skills and resources the program provides.”

Related: Judson College’s Marion Matters sends students out to serve their community.

Babb learned to expect the unexpected, too—and to embrace challenges to her viewpoint. “The greatest surprise (of the experience) would probably be learning that sometimes you don’t always get quite the answers you expect from the questions you ask,” Babb reflected. “Meaning you have to be expectant of the curveballs that not only business or academia throws at you, but, truly, life as a whole. I thrive in structure and long-term planning, but, realistically, no one can plan for everything.

this photo shows the beauty of Viennese architecture

As part of the study-abroad program in Prague, Lori Kaitlyn Babb and fellow students made a trip to Vienna, Austria.

“This is a life lesson that I didn’t foresee learning in a traditional classroom setting, but the classrooms were innovative on all fronts. Oftentimes, as we delved into project development or topic brainstorming, Dr. Holland would challenge our ideas with nonconventional ideals or devil’s-advocate perspectives. It helped shift my thought process to anticipate hardships and adapt when those inevitable problems arise.”

Babb also took inspiration from many Europeans’ commitment to protecting the environment, practicing sustainability and reducing single-use plastic. “Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about sustainability,” she said. “I loved seeing the strides Eastern European countries were making towards a more sustainable community. For example, when grocery shopping, most people either bring a reusable tote/bag or carry their groceries out in-hand because plastic bags must be purchased. They cost just a couple of crowns, the equivalent of about a nickel. But that small price promotes bringing your own means of transport, which lessens the need for single-use plastic.”

Related: Register here to attend the upcoming Sullivan Faculty Gathering in Asheville, N.C.

Many restaurant customers also do their part for the environment by supplying their reusable own takeout or to-go containers rather than pay an extra fee. They can even order smaller portions to cut back on leftovers. “Not only does this limit plastic usage, but it also helps lessen food waste,” Babb noted. “In similar efforts, within Prague, plastic straws are not readily available or distributed or, in many cases, the straws are eco-friendly. These changes are slight, yet the sum of each person’s efforts will make a difference. I would love to see American entrepreneurs and governmental policy move towards sustainability in a similar manner.”

Babb enjoys a visit to Prague’s famous astronomical clock.

As a biology major, Babb has a particular interest in bioethics as well as social entrepreneurship. She plans to pursue graduate-level studies in bioethics with a focus on science policy. “I would like to steer towards the creation of a venture that can facilitate social change through the intersection of science, art and entrepreneurship,” she said. “During our tour of the United Nations of Vienna, I was overtaken with inspiration from the interdisciplinary work facilitated at an international level within those four walls where I was standing.”

Prior to her summer in Prague, Babb had attended the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat. That event, coupled with her study-abroad experience, got her interested in representing the Sullivan Foundation as a Sullivan Ambassador on the Campbell University campus. “I recognized the greatness of what the Sullivan Foundation has to offer through its programming and events, and it feels almost selfish to keep it to myself,” she said. “I truly think these experiences shifted the big-picture trajectory of my life.”

Related: Saint Leo University gives kids school supplies and fresh, new looks

“I learned how to widen my scope when approaching not only academics or business but in all aspects,” Babb continued. “This mindset of igniting change and working towards a common good shifts your perspective on everything. During my year as a Sullivan Ambassador, I hope I’m able to be that pivotal link for other students who yearn to leave a mark on this world and the Sullivan Foundation, which can help teach them the skills to do so.”

So, all in all, what did she take away from her month-long adventure in Prague? “Never underestimate the greatness you hold within you,” Babb concluded. “Hone your skill sets, continually learn from the world around you and harness your internal power. You can change the world.”

University Faculty Learn to Support Students’ Social Impact Businesses at Upcoming Faculty Gathering

The Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Faculty Gathering will bring together university faculty and staff members to discuss innovative ways to address community problems through social entrepreneurship. The event, held in conjunction with the Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat, takes place Oct. 18-20 in Asheville, N.C.

The Faculty Gathering will provide know-how and networking opportunities in social entrepreneurship and social-entrepreneurship education to faculty from all over the southeast. Like the Sullivan Foundation’s spring Faculty Summit, the fall Faculty Gathering will offer workshops providing practical knowledge that faculty/staff members can take back to their campuses. Attendees will gain membership in a growing community of professional educators steeped in social entrepreneurship and related fields. Those new to the field will be introduced to some of the major approaches and ideas in social-entrepreneurship education, while both new and experienced participants will get the chance to engage in the event’s hands-on workshops. The workshops include:

Supporting Student Grant-Writing for Social Change: Sullivan has partnered with entrepreneurs from the Little Big Fund to teach participants about the tools and techniques required to support students needing to raise money for a project or social business venture. Faculty and staff will be instructed on how to review grant opportunities for students and explore ways to leverage non-monetary support for student projects. Participating faculty and staff also will be provided a list of potential funding sources for students and gain insight on how to write a grant proposal.

Related: How to Apply for a Sullivan Faculty Fellowship

Experiential Facilitation 101: Faculty Gathering participants will learn about some of the experiential learning tools Sullivan facilitators utilize when producing Sullivan Ignite Retreats. These retreats are designed to immerse students in a series of targeted workshops to assist them in “igniting” ideas for making positive change in their respective communities or developing a social business enterprise or event to solve or alleviate a problem.

Participants will also learn about projects from the latest cohort of Sullivan Faculty/Staff Fellows, including innovative classes and programs that are being developed under the mentorship of Sullivan Foundation staff.

Interested parties may purchase tickets until October 2. For more information about Sullivan’s programming, go to www.sullivanfdn.org/events or call 662-236-6335. To register to attend the Faculty Gathering, go to www.sullivanfdn.org/ignite/#tickets.  You may also e-mail questions regarding the events to admin@sullivanfdn.org.

This 12-Year-Old Social Entrepreneur Uses Bowties to Help Shelter Animals Get Adopted

Puppies are cute, but a puppy in a bowtie? That’s irresistible, and no one understands that better than 12-year-old Darius Brown, founder of Beaux and Paws in Newark, New Jersey.

According to Points of Light, the young entrepreneur hit upon the idea for his social enterprise in 2017, as he watched TV coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the devastation they wrought in Texas and Florida. Among the victims were countless dogs, cats and other animals left homeless and in dire need of adoption. As overcrowded shelters struggled to find new forever homes for the animals—and were forced to consider euthanasia—Darius turned to his trusty sewing machine for the solution. He started making handcrafted bowties specifically for shelter animals to make them more appealing in the adoption process.

this picture shows the cuteness of a dog in a bowtie

A dapper bowtie can make a homeless pet more appealing to potential adoptive families.

“My hope was that I would help the animals get noticed and be fashionable so that I could help them get adopted faster and find their safe, loving forever homes,” Darius told Points of Light.

Darius has since sewn hundreds of bowties for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens awaiting adoption in shelters—and the national media has taken notice of his hard work. He was featured on NBC’s Today Show in July. He has also appeared on CNN, the Rachael Ray Show and ABC World News Now as well as in People Magazine and the New York Post, among other media accolades.

Not many kids his age even know how to work a sewing machine, much less design and create stylish accoutrements. For Darius, learning to sew was a necessity. When he was two years old, he was diagnosed with speech delay, comprehension delay and fine motor skills delay. With help from his mother and older sister, Dazhai, he improved his fine motor skills by sewing and, over time, overcame the issues with comprehension and speech as well.

illustrates the appeal of a cat wearing a bowtie

This shelter cat got a fashion makeover from bowtie designer Darius Brown.

It helped that Dazhai was attending cosmetology school at the time and learning how to make hair ribbons for girls. “With his fine motor skills, (Darius) wasn’t able to really use his hands very well—tying a shoe was challenging,” Dazhai told Today. “My mother and I came up with the idea that if he helped us with things like prepping the ribbon or cutting it and sewing fabric together, it would help him. And it did. It worked!”

“I just feel like all this was God’s will,” his mother, Joy Brown, told Points of Light. “Him learning how to sew and his hands making the bowties, it developed his coordination, and it’s like there’s no problem, like nothing was ever wrong.”

Darius also started wearing the dapper bowties himself out in public, prompting people on the street to ask where they could buy them. He founded Beaux and Paws in 2017 and offers bowties for sale to people and their pets. Profits from those sales help him purchase materials to make more bowties for shelters, and he also donates a portion of every sale to the ASPCA. Meanwhile, his ongoing GoFundMe campaign, “Sir Darius’ PAW-some Mission,” started with a goal of $10,000 and has raised more than $19,000 so far, with donations still pouring in. Darius uses the money to visit other states and volunteer at shelters and adoption centers while outfitting homeless animals in snazzy bowties everywhere he goes.


Darius’ Instagram account has more than 52,000 followers, while his company’s Facebook page has 4,400 followers. He even received a letter from President Obama in 2018 commending him for “lifting up the lives of those around you.”

His next goal: He’d like to own a dog of his own, but pets aren’t allowed in the building where he lives. Over the long term, he wants to attend Stanford University and become a business attorney while continuing as a fashion innovator. “I want to have my own clothing line, such as blazers, vests, bowties, shirts, everything,” Darius told Points of Light. “I hope that I can expand my business into an empire.”

this photo illustrates why bowties make dogs cuter

Judson College’s Marion Matters Sends Students Out to Serve the Community

Sullivan Foundation partner school Judson College, located in Marion, Ala., knows how to get its students in the mood to serve others from the get-go. It starts with Marion Matters, an annual community-wide project that has been kicking off the new school year since 2004.

This year’s Marion Matters, held Aug. 23, brought Judson students, faculty and staff together with community partners to spend an entire day making a difference all around Perry County. About 129 Judson volunteers took part in the community-service initiative, which was coordinated by Judson College’s Office of Faith-Based Service and Learning.

Marion Matters volunteers worked on outdoor cleanup, maintenance and beautification projects at the Marion Cemetery and teamed up with Main Street Marion partners to clean sidewalks and flower beds in downtown Marion. Others partnered with local schools in Marion and Uniontown, where teams moved and reset playground equipment and fences at Marion Academy, sorted books for an after-school reading program at Uniontown Elementary School, and updated bulletin boards at Francis Marion School in Marion and C.H.O.I.C.E. in Uniontown.

this photo depicts the Marion Matters volunteers in action

Judson College students and Equine Science faculty members brought some four-legged friends to visit the Perry County Nursing Home.

Judson teams also visited and participated in activities with Perry County and Southland Nursing Home residents in Marion, while others visited with adults in Uniontown Adult Day Care Center. Still others spent time visiting homebound Marion community members. One Judson team sorted clothes and assisted with a clothing drive at Sowing Seeds of Hope’s Job Training Center, while some volunteers accomplished various projects at the Lincoln School Museum and Perry Lakes Park.

This year, seven staff members from The Alabama Baptist (TAB) newspaper also joined the Judson teams at a few project sites. Editor-in-chief Jennifer Davis Rash said that participating with Judson in Marion Matters was a “natural partnership” for the first of several service ministry projects The Alabama Baptist plans for the coming year. “Our team loved working alongside the students, faculty and staff [from Judson] and enjoyed getting to know people from the various communities,” said Rash.

TAB Communications Director Debbie Campbell said her team enjoyed interacting with high school students who passed their work stations at Francis Marion School: “One football player stopped to invite us all to come to the football game that night!” she said. “It was exciting to see the commitment and the willingness of Judson students to make a difference in their community.”

this picture shows students helping people in need

The Marion Matters volunteers helped sort clothes for a clothing drive at the Sewing Seeds of Hope Job Training Center.

Amy Butler, Director of Faith-Based Service and Learning at Judson and coordinator of Marion Matters, said that, in addition to the completion of meaningful service projects in Perry County, Marion Matters is often freshman students’ first introduction to the community where they will spend the next three or four years.

Judson freshman Lauren Hicks of Anniston, Ala., enjoyed hearing the stories of the two long-time Marion residents her group visited, and the students in her group quickly realized the mutual benefits of their investment, she said. “Neither of the ladies we visited gets much company, so they loved having a group of women come to talk with them for a while. We definitely left a mark on these two women—you could see it on their faces as we spent time with them—but they also left a mark on us.”

Trinity Littleton, a freshman from Jemison, Ala., said she gained a deeper understanding of this year’s student life theme, “Leave Your Mark,” through her Marion Matters experience. Her group updated bulletin boards at C.H.O.I.C.E Uniontown, a non-profit organization working to build a network of charitable and educational resources for underserved communities in Perry County. “I didn’t realize the impact a bulletin board could have until we actually started talking to the ladies at C.H.O.I.C.E. and understanding more of their perspective,” said Littleton. She added that the staff at C.H.O.I.C.E. had been so busy serving their community with clothing and school supply drives that their bulletin boards, which provided valuable information and community resources, “just needed a little love and attention.”

this photo shows how large the Marion Matters group was

A group shot of this year’s Marion Matters volunteers from Judson College

“After finishing what seemed like such a small project, the reward was much more than I expected,” Littleton said. “The ladies were so appreciative and could not stop taking pictures of our boards. It was the sweetest! I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to participate in a project that interested me and didn’t feel like a chore. It gave me a chance to bond with other girls who share some of the same interests, and, in the end, we all shared the same amount of love and pride for our little bulletin boards. No matter how small it may seem, we all left our own unique mark in Uniontown, and I have no doubt we will always remember the impact!”

In addition to learning about service opportunities that exist in Perry County, Butler said new student participants in Marion Matters can, like Littleton’s group, “learn about their own gifts and talents that they can use to serve people wherever God calls them.”

Judson President W. Mark Tew quoted Mark 10:45 at the Marion Matters debriefing session Friday afternoon, reminding students that in the same way that Jesus “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many,” the motivation for service “isn’t just the act of service—it is how service is combined in our total giving of ourselves.”

Butler hopes Marion Matters participants will continue to volunteer during and after their time at Judson. “Service to your neighbors is about so much more than just Marion Matters today; it’s a way of life,” Butler said. “As you figure out what talents or skills God has uniquely given you, consider how you can utilize those gifts to be change agents, not only in this community but after you leave this place.”

This story has been edited and shortened from the original version appearing on the Judson College website.