ODU Social Entrepreneurs Journey to Enactus Nationals
May 16, 2017
For the third year in a row, Old Dominion University's student entrepreneurial club, Enactus, has advanced to the Enactus United States National Exposition.
And this year's presentation - which will be delivered to judges May 22 in the quarter-finals of the National Expo in Kansas City, Missouri - reflects the growth and increasing reach of the organization, on the ODU campus and beyond.
The projects highlighted by ODU's Enactus team include a food pantry for the local community, personal hygiene kits for students on a very tight budget and corporate social responsibility partnerships with existing student companies.
Connie Merriman, associate dean of the Strome College of Business and faculty adviser for ODU's Enactus club, said comments from judges at the Enactus regionals in Washington last month validated the organization's multi-pronged approach to this year's submission.
"One of the judges remarked that the team has made an 'impressive contribution to a wide range of projects.' That's the whole point of Enactus. Entrepreneurial action enables progress for all of us," Merriman said.
The theme of this year's ODU Enactus submission is "Believe in the power of entrepreneurial action." And the six projects that make up the submission show that that power has been harnessed to help the community on the Old Dominion campus and beyond, Merriman said.
"Another of the judges remarked on our clear connection with the local community," she said. "That is something we have stressed right from our club's founding four years ago. We want to make a difference in our community first."
The six projects presented by the ODU Enactus team this year are:
"Food for Thought" - A new service project, Food for Thought is a partnership with the ODU campus food pantry. Sponsored by the non-profit organization Ignite Ministries, the campus food pantry opened in the fall of 2016 after a survey showed that a significant number of ODU students experience some form of food insecurity. ODU Enactus secured the donation of a refrigerator for storage of perishable food and launched an initiative to redirect surplus food to the pantry. The students are also holding fresh fruit and vegetable drives.
"PRIDE" Packs - Enactus members realized that if food security is an issue for students, some of them might not be able to afford personal essentials such as hygiene products. With funds from prize money that the club received and donations from several Target stores, the students acquired a large number of travel-size toiletries and placed them in canvas PRIDE (Personal Really Important Daily Essentials) packs and delivered to the food pantry for distribution to needy students. They plan to expand distribution to other sites around campus.
"Take Charge" - Take Charge was founded on the belief that everyone at ODU should properly recycle the dead batteries from their wireless mice and keyboards. The Take Charge project, now in its second year, encourages proper recycling of batteries through impact awareness and providing collection bins at convenient locations. So far, the club has collected more than 300 pounds of batteries to be properly disposed of, in partnership with the University's Recoverable Resources Department.
ODU Student/Alumni Entrepreneurial Cooperative - ODU Enactus has taken the lead on a proposed ODU student/alumni entrepreneurial cooperative, currently named "THE Monarch Way." Chief Operating Officer David Harnage has approved start-up funds for the renovation of a space on Monarch Way that will be provided rent-free for student entrepreneurs.
High School Mentoring Project - ODU Enactus has partnered with Virginia Beach City Public Schools and the non-profit Stand Up for Kids. Enactus members travel to Kempsville High School to mentor high school students identified by the school staff as at risk of dropping out. This year 12 Enactus members worked with 18 high school students.
ODU Enactus Student Veteran House - The club continues to make progress on plans for a project from two years ago, Student Veteran House. Designed as an accessible space for disabled military veterans transitioning to a college campus, the program, led by ODU alumnus and Enactus member Michael Thompson, will be part of the national nonprofit Student Veteran Houses.
A six-student ODU team, along with two faculty advisers, will attend this year's National Expo. Akeyla Barbour, who served as president of the ODU team while a master's student and is now a full-time transfer success coordinator at the University, serves as Merriman's co-advisor.
Team members who will present projects to judges include Andrea Brzoska, a sophomore international business major; Rebecca Loizides, a student in the Master of Public Administration program; Rahsell Owens, a junior double-majoring in business analytics and finance; John Royal, a junior political science major, and Aaron Washington, a junior communication major.
Also attending will be Robert Lamb, a May 2017 graduate with a bachelor's degree in graphic design, who was featured last month for his social entrepreneurial venture taking professional portraits for ODU students' social media accounts.
The Enactus team will also discuss corporate social responsibility efforts by Lamb's company, Apex Design, and Full Belly Delights LLC, the gourmet bacon treats company founded by ODU sophomore management student Janay Brown.
Social entrepreneurship is one of the thrusts of the entrepreneurial initiative aimed at spurring business startups at Old Dominion. The concept was given a significant boost with a gift of $11 million from the Strome Family Foundation in 2014, which was pivotal in the creation of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center.