Missional entrepreneurship students create business model to support LIFE program

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This spring, a group of business students are getting a unique opportunity to put skills learned in the classroom into practical use to benefit another university program.

Rob Touchstone, director of the Business As Mission program in the College of Business, is giving students in his missional entrepreneurship class an opportunity to learn how to use their knowledge and talent to help others. Students are creating a model for a business that creates profit to support Lipscomb’s LIFE Program.

The LIFE Program (Lipscomb Initiative for Education) provides Lipscomb University students an academic and service-learning experience like few others. Up to 30 traditional students (“outside students”) each semester enroll in a liberal arts course held on-site at the Tennessee Prison for Women TPW, located in Nashville, and study alongside residents of the prison (“inside students”). The mix of students and specifically designed coursework provides academic and character-building benefits for both students at the prison and students from campus.

Touchstone said his students are working directly with Kate Watkins, LIFE Program executive director, who comes to class once a week to collaborate with them.

“This class of 17 students is doing an amazing job creating both a product and a business model that will be handed off to future BAM classes and essentially be under the LIFE Program,” said Touchstone.

The product the team of students has developed for this project is a hand-crafted leather journal. 

“We’ve had a craftsman demonstrate how to make them while I’ve simultaneously taught them a BAM framework and strategy,” he said. “We already have a prototype that the students have created.” 

Lipscomb’s Student Government Association has committed to buying the first 50 journals, said Touchstone, which gives the project a “great boost.”  

“We’re considering a $30 price point and each journal has about a $24 profit margin,” said Touchstone. “So in our very first major sale to the SGA the students have profited $1,200 that will be given to the LIFE Program. Now, of course, they have to produce the 50 journals.”  

The class is divided into four teams — artisanship, marketing/sales, production and accounting/finance — that is responsible for their specific part of the business plan.

Touchstone said the team is going to push hard in April to produce and sell as many as possible. He said his goal is to make this a sustainable business project that will benefit the LIFE Program in the future.

“After the work is done this semester, the model these students have developed will be passed on to next semester’s class who will pick up the torch, advance and keep passing it on,” he said. “It’s been really neat to see this work.”

For more information about this project or about purchasing a journal, contact Touchstone at rob.touchstone@lipscomb.edu.