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Students use business as mission to support family after tornado devastation

A student-led company in the Intro to Business class raised a record amount of profit selling personalized bracelets online and used proceeds to give back

Cate Zenzen  | 

I Am bracelets

After the city of Nashville and surrounding areas were hit with devastating tornadoes and severe weather, the community came together to help their neighbors in need. While many students at Lipscomb University assisted in yard cleanup, donated supplies and volunteered with local relief organizations, a group of students in a Center for Business as Mission course taught by Lauren Pinkston and Rob Touchstone found a clever way to give. 

Monica Duff, Claire McCarter, Erin McCarthy and Amy Wu are students who learned about entrepreneurship in this semester’s Intro to Business course. The group developed a business idea that made a record amount of profit, even with a semester cut short by COVID-19. They chose to donate this amount to a family in Cookeville who was devastated by the tornadoes earlier this year. The family lost their four year-old child in the storm and their home was severely damaged.

The Intro to Business course is designed to be experiential in nature. A required class for all business majors, the objective is to challenge students with the many facets of starting and maintaining a business. The College of Business provides a loan for each group of students to develop, launch and maintain a company for the semester. The goal is to make enough money to pay back the loan and donate additional profits to a non-profit organization. In this sense, students also recognize the philanthropic capabilities of business. 

“A lot of students come in with mixed feelings about the business world as a Christian. We display business from a redemptive standpoint to show students that Business can be part of God’s plan in protecting society and creating value,” said Pinkston, assistant professor of Business as Mission. Profits raised by other student groups were donated to a social business Pinkston helped launch in Laos. 

Each group chooses a student to act as company CEO throughout the semester. In this particular group, the position was held by a student who had served in the military. Her idea for a product came from personal experiences in the service when she felt her confidence wavered. This student and soldier found comfort in remembering who she was in God’s eyes, and wanted to share this method of assurance with others through bracelets.

The bracelets were labeled “I AM” on the outside and the customer could choose a personalized message to be printed on the inside. The idea was for the message to be from God to the wearer, reading phrases like “I am loved,” “I am redeemed,” or “I am cherished.” The words would be literally against the skin of the wearer as a physical reminder of their true value in Christ. 

While most groups chose to sell their products to other students on campus, the “I Am” company identified a unique target market, what they deemed “Facebook Moms,” and took operations online. Not only did the virtual marketplace allow them to reach a broader audience, it also enabled operations to continue even after campus was closed. 

The students completed their project with over $1,000 in profit, a record-breaking amount that accounts for half of all profits made by the Intro to Business course this semester. 

“We talked a lot in class about looking for a target market with disposable income and connections. Halfway through the semester, when things shifted online, they reigned in more time and kept selling,” said Pinkston. 

Not only was the group able to provide physical products of encouragement to their customers, but they also showed great selflessness in helping a family in need. The success of this class certainly proved that business can be centered on hope and healing rather than money and selfishness. 

Business as Mission can be thought of as a holy collision of business and mission, work and faith, and kingdom and culture. The Center for Business as Mission within the College of Business serves as a hub for for connecting students to local and global opportunities to engage and apply what is being learned in the classroom. Known as BAM, the center is an invitation to participate in profitable business as a means of leveraging the marketplace to create sustainable solutions for the common good of those in need, both locally and globally.