Exchange Summer 2012 : Page 16

GR A D U A T E S WITH A 16 The Exchange Summer 2012

Graduates On A Mission

Kathleen Nalley

DOING GOOD IS GOOD BUSINESS<br /> <br /> There's a difference between making a living and making a life. "Making a living" implies work, that a person spends his time focused on making enough money to provide for himself and/or his family - to pay the mortgage, put food on the table and have enough disposable income to enjoy a few extraneous purchases, trips or events along the way.<br /> <br /> "Making a life" implies much more - a deepened awareness of empathy, of one's purpose, and perhaps, how one can infl uence, shape or help his fellow man.<br /> <br /> Since most of us need to work, to be able to provide financially for our needs, sometimes work becomes our primary driver, and giving to others and helping those less fortunate takes a backseat.<br /> <br /> There's a movement, however, that seems to be taking shape in young Americans - that of combining work with social responsibility, making both a living and a life.<br /> <br /> In his book Start Something That Matters, TOMS shoe founder, Chief Shoe Giver (and perhaps the leader who made social entrepreneurship popular with the One for Oneā„¢ business model), Blake Mycoskie writes, "People are hungry for success - that's nothing new. What's changed is the definition of success. Increasingly, the quest for success is not the same as the quest for status and money. That definition has broadened to include contributing something to the world and living and working on one's own terms."<br /> <br /> According to Dave Wyman, director of Clemson's Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a social entrepreneur, such as Mycoskie, "is driven by the opportunity to truly change our world by measuring entrepreneurial venture success beyond mere economic profit. Instead, social entrepreneurs embrace a wider definition of success in terms of the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. This focus on social and ecological opportunity is refl ected by the values displayed by our students and graduates."<br /> <br /> Clemson students are known for their service work during their undergraduate and graduate years. Each fall, hundreds participate in building a Habitat for Humanity home on Bowman Field; many more volunteer for worthy causes locally and globally. Clemson students have helped to create water systems in Haiti, restore homes for Hurricane Katrina victims, and even clean debris and trash from the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. In fact, 78 percent of seniors reported having participated in volunteer service activities while at Clemson (2007 National Survey of Student Engagement), a staggering number given academic responsibilities during senior year.<br /> <br /> Research indicates that individuals and organizations that help others can actually make higher profits. According to a 2007 Core Cause Survey, 80 percent of young Americans only want to work for enterprises that directly contribute to society. Conversely, companies that create social or ecological harm - think Enron or BP - incur a significant cost to their profit line.<br /> <br /> In the next stories, you will discover four CBBS alumni who felt compelled to action and now spend their lives doing work that matters to others. Whether via a for-profit company whose profits are donated back to a cause, or through a nonprofit that uses private funds to spur their operation, these graduates prove that doing good is good business.<br /> <br /> Bill Mitchell<br /> <br /> MARKETING '10, BILLIAMJEANS<br /> <br /> One day during Bill Mitchell's junior year at Clemson, and after discovering tailors too expensive for his meager college budget, he decided to hem a pair of pants that had become tattered. He didn't really know what he was doing, but tackled it anyway, figuring there's nothing that isn't learnable.<br /> <br /> That one hem turned into a desire to try to make a pair of pants. "I had absolutely no training in sewing or pattern making. It was completely a trial and error proposition," said Bill.<br /> <br /> Finding success with the first pair, he made more. Then friends asked him to make pants for them. From his apartment at Daniel Square, Bill began to sew and sell pants. Little did he realize at the time that his business venture was already well underway.<br /> <br /> "I never planned to make jeans. I never planned on having a business," admitted Bill. "It all started with the heart thing."<br /> <br /> The heart thing was Bill finding and confirming his faith. And it was that moment that changed everything. "I immediately knew my calling was to help broken people. I knew that my cause was to be woven into my business. And I knew that I needed to pull everything from my faith," said Bill.<br /> <br /> Bill launched billiamjeans in Greenville in 2010. Using high-end selvedged denim made on 200-year-old looms at Cone Mills in North Carolina, each pair is stitched with great care. Bill personally signs the inside pockets and includes a hand-written message that speaks to the company's driving cause: sex trafficking in America.<br /> <br /> "When you buy a pair of billiamjeans, you are not only buying a well-crafted product; you're helping out victims of sex trafficking," said Bill.<br /> <br /> Twenty percent of all profits go directly to end sex trafficking in America, a growing problem that plagues both small-town and urban areas. As Bill grows his business, he's also putting in place strategies to drive this message home. He plans to begin screenprinting individual stories inside the jeans so that "every time you put them on or take them off, you understand that your buying decision is helping a real person," said Bill.<br /> <br /> Billiamjeans also employs sex trafficking victims as its models, threading the mission throughout the company's actions.<br /> <br /> During the last holiday season, billiamjeans sold over 80 pairs, and the company averages five pairs per week now. This sort of volume has forced Bill to move out of the one-room production facility into a storefront and manufacturing facility closer to downtown Greenville. It's also caused Bill to grow his intern count from five to 15 by the end of summer. One of his longterm plans is to create jeans specifically named for each city in which the company is working to end sex trafficking. The Atlanta Pant is the first.<br /> <br /> Recently, Bill has expanded his offerings to include T-shirts, wallets, belts, and most recently, he's collaborated with a boot company in Germany to co-create boots that incorporate both leather and selvedged denim.<br /> <br /> But no matter company growth, partnerships and new product offerings, one thing is for sure: Bill will continue to be moved by his cause to help the broken.<br /> <br /> "My generation wants to see companies actually be effectual, not merely create a profit," said Bill. "And in my case, it's not about building my brand image up. It's about inspiring and helping others."<br /> <br /> "I want to see my generation roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. Let's not just be positive for the sake of being positive; let's be real and get things done."<br /> <br /> A New York native, Bill Mitchell came to Clemson as a transfer student from Greenville Technical College. To view his products and follow his blog, visit billiamjeans.com. To see the organization to which he gives 20 percent of his profits, visit wellspringliving.org.<br /> <br /> Woody Dantzler<br /> <br /> MARKETING '01, FOR THEM<br /> <br /> These days, Woody Dantzler really doesn't want to talk about football.<br /> <br /> Maybe it's because his record as the Tigers quarterback (1997-2001) speaks for itself: In 2001, he became the first player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season; he finished his Clemson career with a passing efficiency rating of 132.5, an all-time Clemson record. Woody set 53 records during his Clemson career. In fact, he owns more records than any other athlete in any sport at Clemson.<br /> <br /> But, these days, he doesn't want to talk about football. Instead, he wants to talk about truth and steering America's youth into a better direction than they've been led. "A lot of what kids do is because they have wrong knowledge. You may call the youth 'at-risk' or 'troubled;' I call them 'misinformed,'" said Woody.<br /> <br /> Woody, a devoted husband and father of two daughters (ages 9 and 3), focuses his attention on helping mold and shape the young people of his community. He serves as a role model and friend, a leader and, sometimes, a man who "fills the gap," explained Woody.<br /> <br /> "Most of society's ills can be traced back to fathers not assuming their roles. I want to help young people understand that even when life is unfair, even when you start at a disadvantage, you have to take personal responsibility for yourself and your actions," he said.<br /> <br /> Woody often speaks about empowerment at local schools and works one-on-one with troubled youth. But, he explains, "For me, my witness starts in my house. If I'm not doing right by my wife and my kids, then I can't go out and talk to anyone else. You start in your immediate sphere of infl uence."<br /> <br /> Woody believes that when a father or parental figure is not around, young people often look to celebrities, athletes and other performers to learn how to live. And that, to him, is a big mistake.<br /> <br /> "They look up to these performers so much, but these people are portraying a persona - they're not real. You take them away from all that and they're just regular people with regular issues. This sets up unrealistic expectations for the kids. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, their parents aren't there, so they're being raised by the T.V., by their surroundings, by what someone else said," he said.<br /> <br /> "Our kids are lost. They are growing up powerless to the powers of society," he contuinued.<br /> <br /> A staunch believer in education, Woody's fondest memories of his time at Clemson were those built in expanding his point of view, participating in a diverse culture and environment. He decided early on not to limit his experience to just football, so he participated in student government and was involved in multicultural affairs. He considered this diversity of experience just as important as his formal education or his time on the field. "I got to go out and see things from other views so I could make sure my views weren't clouded. I liked the diversity and the ability to forge relationships with all different kinds of people instead of just being labeled 'the athlete,'" admitted Woody.<br /> <br /> His Clemson experience has carried over to his philosophy of helping youth. "Knowledge is power. The more good stuff you know, the better you are to know when to weed out the bad stuff. You change the way a man thinks, you change the way his life is. Everything begins with a thought. So, if you start out with the right thoughts, it will guide your actions. You must have someone speaking the right things to you throughout your life," he said.<br /> <br /> Woody explained that the hardest thing about empowering youth is coming to the realization that not everyone wants to be changed for the better. "That's hard for me. My motto is 'I can do it.'"<br /> <br /> "I was told I'd never be successful playing quarterback. I was too short, too this, too that. But I didn't let the naysayers define me. I chose to define myself."<br /> <br /> An Orangeburg, S.C., native, Woody Dantzler now makes his home in Greenville, S.C., where he speaks to youth through school and church initiatives. He plans to expand his mission through a nonprofit and has a line of inspirational T-shirts coming to the market soon.<br /> <br /> Ryan McCrary<br /> <br /> GRAPHIC COMMUNICATIONS '07, GOAT<br /> <br /> Don't let the funny name fool you. GOAT is a serious operation, a 501c3 that runs like a business. GOAT has a board of directors, full-time staff and regular Clemson interns. It's based upon a unique business model: one for-profit enterprise, Mountain Goat, helps fund the nonprofit enterprise, GOAT. This summer, the organization will serve over 500 children through its outdoor recreational programs and over 500 through its climbing wall facility; in fact, each year, the amount of children the operation serves has doubled. So far, it's a model that works. And it's the brainchild of Clemson alum, Ryan McCrary.<br /> <br /> A graphic communications graduate, Ryan landed his dream job, working at an advertising agency in Greenville, shortly after college. "I absolutely loved it," beamed Ryan. But an internship in Washington state kept creeping back into his head years later, and the young man found that, ultimately, his heart was tied to helping children learn life lessons in the outdoors.<br /> <br /> In 2008, he started taking children on outdoor trips on the weekends, introducing them to nature and physical activity as well as life skills. Soon, he began receiving calls from more and more interested parties. The demand was there. The decision - to remain in a job he loved and commit himself part-time to the outdoor venture, or throw himself full-time into a risky enterprise - had to be made.<br /> <br /> "I knew in my heart what I had to do," admitted Ryan. "I knew the impact needed to be made in other's lives, not just my own."<br /> <br /> So, Ryan quit his full-time job and devoted his life in service for others. He legitimized GOAT (an acronym for Great Outdoor Adventure Trips) and began building partnerships with boy's homes, orphanages and other organizations to bring underprivileged, impoverished and troubled youth on outdoor adventures.<br /> <br /> "The outdoor activities are typically far outside of these kids' comfort zones, so it's a big push for some of these kids into developing confidence. Through our outdoor programs, we show them what they are capable of; we show them love and grace; we show them that we value them," said Ryan.<br /> <br /> "A lot of these kids need positive male role models. We are that for them," said Ryan. "We often hear from case workers that in a day outdoors, we gain the trust from the children that it takes them so much longer to receive. Having that trust helps us to really help them."<br /> <br /> Realizing the need for financing (over 80 percent of the kids Ryan serves do not pay a dime), Ryan took to the streets to find an angel investor, who committed to matching other gifts Ryan raised. In three short months, Ryan raised enough money to build a climbing wall facility in Greenville,which he named Mountain Goat. During the day, the facility serves at-risk youth; in the evening, the general public is invited to bring their children for a fun night out. The proceeds - along with private donations - help to fund outdoor trips for children.<br /> <br /> Since opening Mountain Goat, Ryan's team has been able to serve more high-risk youth, instilling confidence in those who may lack it, and giving them something to look forward to.<br /> <br /> Said Ryan, "We give these kids an avenue for all their energy."<br /> <br /> A Chapin, S.C., native, Ryan McCrary now lives and operates GOAT out of Greenville, S.C. To learn more about GOAT, visit goattrips.org. To view the hours of operation for Mountain Goat, visit mountaingoatclimbing.com. The climbing facility is located at 61 Byrdland Road in Greenville.<br /> <br /> Zack Mellette<br /> <br /> MANAGEMENT '08, GIVE US NAMES<br /> <br /> Asmall but very pregnant woman packs her kitchen one item at a time. She works alone, placing each cup, each plate into a burlap bag that she then hoists to the side of an old grey pack mule. She lights a fire, making a final supper for her guests. Nine-months along, she is tired from the four-mile hike through the Colombian jungle. She needs rest; for tomorrow, she must make the same grueling trek back to the city. Tomorrow, she's leaving home.<br /> <br /> "I wasn't emotionally prepared to witness displacement right in front of me," remembered Zack Mellette of the Atlanta-based nonprofit organization Give Us Names. "We were there to document displacement, to help end it. And, here we sat witnessing it. I felt helpless, but it gave me resolve in our mission."<br /> <br /> According to a 2010 United Nations Report, between three and five million Colombians have been displaced from their homes. At the core of the displacement issue lies two variables: one, the constant civil unrest and fighting in Colombia; and, two, the violent drug trade and subsequent government and military anti-narcotics efforts enacted in 2000. The United States has spent over $8 billion dollars on Plan Colombia, the primary focus of which is the eradication of the coca plant (where cocaine originates) via these fumigations. Unfortunately, there have been dire consequences.<br /> <br /> Abelardo and Olga Joya and their five children lived in La Floresta on a small farm where Abelardo grew plantains, cacao (chocolate plants) and yucca. Over time, he worked the land, gradually making it to where it could grow enough to accommodate his family and a little more to sale. It was a simple, but happy, life. But all of that changed quickly.<br /> <br /> "In just a few seconds, with one swipe of a plane, all of Abelardo's crops were destroyed," recalled Zack. Abelardo, Olga, and their five children headed into the city, to begin again, inside a one-room slum. Abelardo, a farmer for most of his life, took a job working in the sewers 12 hours a night, seven nights a week.<br /> <br /> "The U.S. sprays herbicide over this mountainous region near places where coca has been targeted; but legal crops such as yucca, cacao and others fall victim to these fumigations," explained Zack. "What happens, however, is that the coca plant can resist the herbicide; the legal crops cannot. So, over time, the volume of coca maintains or even increases despite the U. S.'s efforts, and many farmers are forced to choose between leaving their homes for work in the city or turning to illegal crops to continue living on their land."<br /> <br /> Zack and five of his high school and college friends (including Dan Roge, communications '09) decided to do something about Colombian displacement. They followed the Joya family and journeyed throughout Colombia for weeks and sometimes months on end to film a documentary and hear the stories of the displaced. The end result? The film Leaving La Floresta, and the development of a nonprofit and a fundraising initiative, The Sojourner's Fund, in an effort to raise awareness of displacement, to educate Americans so U.S. policy can be changed, and to restore home for displaced farmers so that their families can make a sustainable living.<br /> <br /> "Through film screenings in 2011, we were able to raise enough money to bring the Joya family back to protected farmland. For every $5,000 we raise, we can restore home for a family - provide shelter and seeds to begin new crops, and give them funds to live on until they grow enough food to be sustainable," explained Zack.<br /> <br /> As their efforts continue, Give Us Names focuses on two messages: resistance - resisting the causes of displacement by lobbying for improved policy; and restoration - restoring home for those who have already been displaced. They work with Colombian organizations to help in the latter.<br /> <br /> "We believe this is a human rights issue, and we want to tell the stories of the individuals it affects. Faces and names are more meaningful than numbers and statistics," said Zack.<br /> <br /> Hundreds joined Give Us Names in April for their "A Place to Call Home: Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia" event in Washington, D.C. During this lobbying event, Give Us Names hosted several education seminars, met with Congressional delegates on Capitol Hill, and partnered with Wangari Gardens to install a community garden space in downtown D.C., a symbolic act of restoration. Shortly after the event, they hosted a Congressional Call-In Day and urged supporters to talk with their representatives about halting the funds for aerial fumigations from next year's appropriations bill.<br /> <br /> "In this time of government spending cuts for education and other important domestic needs, it is imperative to quit funding programs overseas that aren't working," explained Zack.<br /> <br /> "We can't possibly tackle the return of millions of displaced," said Zack. "But we can help one family. And then another. And then another. And we can work to end the U.S.'s policy of aerial fumigations; we can do something. There is hope."<br /> <br /> A Gainesville, Ga., native, Zack Mellette now makes his home at the Give Us Names headquarters in Atlanta. Visit giveusnames.org to read the blog, purchase the Leaving LaFloresta movie and the !RESISTENCIA! Or RESTORATION T-shirts, sign up to donate, and to learn more about how you can help end displacement in Colombia.<br /> <br /> COMMON TRAITS<br /> <br /> THESE ALUMNI POSSESS A FEW UNCANNY SIMILARITIES.<br /> <br /> All felt called to their mission.<br /> <br /> Whether it was through their personal faith or through a study abroad trip in which they encountered true poverty, each felt that their venture formed out of a momentary call to action from something or someone greater than themselves.<br /> <br /> They all knew little to nothing about what they were doing.<br /> <br /> Each started on their mission learning as they went. They didn't think about or research these projects for years and develop appropriate models and business plans. Instead, they took action and have learned along the way.<br /> <br /> They didn't listen to naysayers.<br /> <br /> While each can cite various mentors and role models who inspired their journey, they didn't let anyone tell them they couldn't do something. Again, they merely just went out and DID it.<br /> <br /> They possess the attitude that they can learn and do anything.<br /> <br /> All agree that they were born to a generation that doesn't believe in failure. Moreover, they believe that while fear may be present, it never limits them from doing whatever it is their hearts desire. It's a can-do, will-do mentality.<br /> <br /> All use creative means to accomplish their goals.<br /> <br /> The guys at Give Us Names rent out their Atlanta loft to movie and video scouts. Actress Kate Hudson recently made a movie there; and rappers Tank and TI shot a music video. Their loft has nothing to do with helping displaced Colombians on the surface - but the revenue they make from renting out the space allows their nonprofit office to hum.<br /> <br /> All credit a Clemson experience with shaping their future.<br /> <br /> For Bill, it was the annual marketing class trip to New York City, which he calls, "hands-down the best experience ever. The faculty introduce you to the real world and make you hunger to be a part of it." For Zack, economics courses, studying abroad and traveling to South America during his formative undergraduate years all worked to inform his future. For Ryan, it was an internship during college and being a CBBS student, which requires undergraduates to take a basic business curriculum: "At the time, I didn't have a clue that the fundamental knowledge in marketing, accounting and management would set me up for running this operation."

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here