LOGAN, Utah — Several Utah State University students in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business were given an assignment that not only affected their course grade but also had the chance to impact those in need.
Students in the New Venture Creation course (MSLE 3510), taught by professional practice assistant professor Chalon Keller, were to join teams and were challenged to create microbusinesses with a seed fund of just $5. The goal of the assignment was to earn as much as possible in a specific time limit. Student teams were then given the option to keep their profits or donate them to the USU Inclusion Center’s Sub for Santa program. The students who chose to donate their earnings raised almost $3,000 for Sub for Santa.
Over the previous five years, Keller has been a major supporter of Sub for Santa. Her students in both the Entrepreneurship Club and now the New Venture Creation course have raised more than $25,000 for the program.
“The majority of support we receive for this program comes from Dr. Keller and her students,” said Michelle Bogdan-Holt, director of USU’s Inclusion Center. “We would not be able to provide the level of support for our Aggie families without their incredible generosity. This is the season for giving. Dr. Keller and her students embody the spirit of generosity and compassion. In addition, this group of students demonstrate that within a capitalistic society there is always space to ‘do well and do good.’ We are truly grateful.”
The students were divided into teams of five and given $5 in seed money for their business. The students could discuss their business plans for as long as they wanted but were only allowed two hours to launch their businesses and execute their business plans, with the goal of making as much money as possible. According to Keller, the assignment was given with the mission of the Huntsman School of Business in mind: “to develop leaders of distinction in commerce and public affairs.”
“I am very honored to have the opportunity to work with innovative, intelligent, energetic and kind students,” Keller said. “It was very gratifying for me to watch my students apply the business/entrepreneurial skills/tools I taught them to launch successful microbusinesses and consider the needs of their fellow students. Each of these students could have genuinely used the money they earned to benefit their own personal circumstances but chose instead to help others.”
Business ventures that were launched included a gourmet cookie business, a yard cleaning service, hip hop dance lessons, and even a puppy project that allowed customers to purchase cuddle time with puppies, just to name a few. The earnings from the businesses ranged anywhere from under $100 to more than $500 per team.
“We wanted to help someone in a meaningful way, so when we were given the opportunity to do exactly that, we were ecstatic,” said Akira Muramoto, a student who was a member of the “puppy project” team. “I feel like we get so distracted during the holiday season and forget that there are so many people silently struggle. It was empowering to know that we were able to give back and make a difference.”
USU student Ethan Rasmussen echoed those sentiments, saying the opportunity to give back to the community helped fuel the project and give it perspective.
“This project could easily become narrowly focused on making the most money possible, but because of the opportunity to donate the proceeds we were reminded that entrepreneurship has the capacity to help others in the community,” said Rasmussen, who helped create a landscaping business. “Being able to contribute all of our earnings to the Sub for Santa program really became a driving force for the whole project.”
Seeing the generosity of her students, Keller was proud to be a part of the venture. She sees her time in the classroom not only as a time to help students learn, but to help them develop into future leaders.
“I want my students to be wildly successful — but I also want them to understand that with success comes responsibility,” Keller said. “They are literally our future local, national and world leaders. I want them to develop a strong sense of stewardship and be confident in their abilities to support themselves, their families and society.”
The USU Inclusion Center’s Sub for Santa program is in its 13th year and works to help students and their families that are in need. Each year, the center aims to support around 15 families. For more information on the program and to learn how to get involved, visit www.usu.edu/inclusion/events/sub4santa.
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