Lipscomb’s new missional entrepreneurship program has vision for ‘business as mission’

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A year after its creation, Lipscomb’s new missional entrepreneurship program is empowering students from the College of Business and touching lives abroad through student projects.

Launched in January 2015, the missional entrepreneurship program allows students to focus on the principles of business as mission and provides opportunities for students outside of the classroom to unite their faith with their business profession.

“In many circles, ‘business’ is seen as greedy and singularly focused on profits,” said Ray Eldridge, interm dean of the College of Business. “We see business as a force of good, and we see work as worship. 

“Therefore, in the past year, we have tried to be even more intentionally focused on the intersection of business, faith and culture. We have created several initiatives to do this including the integration of business as mission or ‘BAM’ into our curriculum, our BAM chapel series and probably most notable, hiring Rob Touchstone to be our director of missional entrepreneurship.”

Rob Touchstone (’97) is no stranger to Lipscomb. Graduating with both an undergraduate in Bible and a Master of Divinity, he has taught the Story of Jesus and Story of the Church courses as an adjunct professor in the College of Bible and Ministry for more than seven years.

Touchstone has also spent 16 years as a local youth minister and may be most well known for dreaming up and co-founding The Well Coffeehouse, which opened in July 2012.

“The idea for The Well Coffeehouse came to me while doing a class project for my master’s degree,” Touchstone explained. “I wanted to create a space where we could love people toward the living water of Jesus and invite the community into something bigger than themselves.”

The Well Coffeehouse’s mission is to turn coffee into water. They do this by providing the funding for water wells to be drilled in countries such as Togo, Kenya and Malawi, Africa, as well as Haiti, to bring hope to countries that lack basic needs.

“The missional entrepreneurship program at Lipscomb desires a similar goal – to leverage business profits into hope, and to inspire students within the College of Business to join in movements bigger then themselves,” Touchstone explained.JamaicaTripSIDE3

Since being tasked with developing this new program nearly a year ago, Touchstone has helped Lipscomb’s College of Business establish a minor in missional entrepreneurship, teaches an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class as well as a Missional Entrepreneurship class and is helping to mentor and provide opportunities for mission-minded business students who are looking to live out their faith throughout their business careers.

One way the missional entrepreneurship program is providing opportunities for students to live-out their vision of ‘business as mission’ is by creating global opportunities for students to help individuals from impoverished countries start businesses in their communities.

“We are looking to give our students who are passionate about ‘BAM’ an opportunity to expand their education from the classroom to serving locally and globally in real world settings where they can make a specific, tangible impact,” said Touchstone.

The College of Business has recently partnered with two missional organizations, One53, a nonprofit ministry that helps start local businesses in Morant Bay, Jamaica, and Made in the Streets, a ministry that teaches basic business skills to teenage students in Nairobi, Kenya.

Lipscomb will send a team of about 23 students to Jamaica over spring break and a team of about eight students to Nairobi to teach individuals who desire to open their own businesses the necessary operational and financial plans to start a healthy and successful business in their native villages.

This past October, Touchstone took a group of four Lipscomb students from his classes to Jamaica to lay the groundwork for the spring break mission trip. JamaicaTripSIDE1

During this trip, the students were able to gain pertinent information about the Jamaican economy by meeting with officials from the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and head of the agricultural agency Senator Norman W. Grant. This helped Touchstone and the students better prepare for when they would meet the three individuals whom they would come alongside to launch their own businesses in Morant Bay.

Each with unique and inspiring stories, Borris Dixon, Chris Doyley and Marcia Thomas desire to open a business to help overcome their financial challenges and to contribute to a depressed Jamaican economy.

Dixon is working to open his own restaurant called Borris’s Back ‘Yaad’ Restaurant, Doyley is working to open his own art business with pieces made from broken glass and Thomas is working to open a small cook shop that will be a small roadside food business.

During their time with Dixon, Doyley and Thomas, the students critiqued their business plans, assessed the business locations and figured out what financing will be necessary to launch their businesses.

Dylan Greene, a junior business major, was one of the four students on the trip.

Greene explained how being a part of Lipscomb’s new missional entrepreneurship program is extremely significant because it allows him to live out his faith in an academic setting. 

“The Jamaica trip allowed me to do what I really want: exercise the business theory that I have been taught during my time at Lipscomb in real-life situations,” Greene JamaicaTripSIDE2explained. “With business as mission, the objective is to first and foremost establish a healthy business. On the trip, we worked directly with a few citizens to start legitimate businesses. How many college students have the opportunity to start a legitimate business that positively impacts people’s lives?”

Touchstone noted how the missional entrepreneurship program has allowed Lipscomb to better expand its reach globally, as students are able to pour into others what they are learning in the classroom.

“As President Lowry often says, ‘The city of Nashville is our campus and the world is our classroom,’" Touchstone explained. “By allowing students to come alongside other businesses in foreign economies, it is growing them in their knowledge and understanding of business.”

Although only four students were able to go to Jamaica this semester, Touchstone's entire missional entrepreneurship class is also working to bless these businesses.

“As a part of a class project, students in the Intro to Entrepreneurship class have started small businesses on and around campus that are earning profit that will eventually become the seed money necessary to get these three businesses off of the ground,” Touchstone explained. “It is important for our students to see how profits can be used to directly bless others and change lives.”

Aside from helping business leaders internationally, the missional entrepreneurship program also encourages students to invest in local businesses and nonprofits by writing social enterprise plans as class assignments and building relationships and local connections through internships, apprenticeships and jobs.

“Our vision has excited students, faculty, staff and our business stakeholders,” said Eldridge. “We want to become the ‘thought leaders’ for business as mission. We want to develop the very best business leaders we can, who embrace Christian values and virtues, whether they create their own missional enterprise, or work on Wall Street, or a big four accounting firm, or any corporation represented in Nashville and beyond.”