HOD students create a way for stories to bridge cultures
Trevor Burbank, BS’12, who majored in human and organizational development, shares Fenelon’s passion for using business ventures to improve the lives of those in need. He is the founder of Teach Twice, another venture born out of Peabody’s social entrepreneurship efforts. Teach Twice is a social enterprise that works to improve the living conditions of other cultures by sharing their stories and folktales through children’s books. He is just one of many students at Peabody who are turning their passion for social change into practice.
Burbank, along with co-founder Jason Wen, a 2011 Arts and Science graduate, and fellow HOD major Scott Church, BS’12, wrote the business plan for the venture while taking a class with Vicki Davis, assistant professor of the practice of human and organizational development, and director of the HOD internship program. The like-minded students set to work building a team of undergraduate and graduate students to help.
Soon Teach Twice was born, a small book publishing business designed to share the stories of people across the world. The books generate income for programs that serve the needy in the countries from which the stories came.
Two years after Burbank and company launched Teach Twice, the enterprise has published two books—one from Uganda called My Precious Name and one from South Africa, Tall Enough. The books are carried at the Teach Twice website and at Parnassus books in Nashville, with Ingram Book Group serving as distributor.
“We want to empower the people we are serving but also have something tangible to give them,” Burbank said. “We came to recognize that stories are the basic building blocks that tie communities together.”
Teach Twice has received recognition from a Dell Social Innovation Challenge Grant and was presented at the New York Stock Exchange by the Kairos Society, an international nonprofit organization of entrepreneurs and innovators from top universities, as a well-run, student-led business. The next milestone on the route is to become self-sustaining. That will include more partnerships and the creation of networks of support.
“We’ve built a nice framework,” Burbank said. “Our challenges are scaleability, distribution and sales.”
The organization recently hired its first paid staff member and CEO, Alyssa Van Camp, BS’10, MEd’13. Van Camp’s role with Teach Twice feeds into her dual passions for international education and domestic public school classrooms. She has spent time in Africa and Uganda and has been a teacher in public schools.
Van Camp acknowledges the publishing business can be challenging. “It’s hard to sell books,” she said. “The best thing to do is to diversify the revenue streams as much as you can and appeal to as many customers as you can.”
As the Teach Twice team looks to the future, it is building content and working hard to procure funding, recruit donors, create more partnerships and build distribution networks, both in schools and retail outlets.
This journey is not unfamiliar to Jim Schorr, an adjunct professor of management at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt. Through a partnership with Peabody, he has played an integral role in providing an outlet and sounding board for the students’ social entrepreneurship ideas. As part of his HOD course on social entrepreneurship, he assigns students to develop business plans and conduct feasibility studies.
Schorr has a personal history with social entrepreneurship. He helped launch Net Impact, a management education organization that has inspired MBA students at 200-plus business schools to leverage their roles in the business world to improve the state of the world. He also founded Mekong Blue International, a social enterprise that empowers impoverished Cambodian women by marketing their handmade silk products in America.
“Young people today are inspired by the idea that career and service do not have to be separate pursuits,” Schorr said. “Social entrepreneurship is a path that provides students an opportunity to make a living and make a difference in the world, and the course has proven to be a terrific complement to Peabody’s established excellence in service learning and merging theory and practice.”