Asbury Project Conference Explores Faith and Business
November 14, 2016
WILMORE, Ky. — “Profit, people and purpose” formed the triple bottom line at a business conference co-hosted by Asbury University last week (Nov. 10-11). Featuring guest speakers, panel discussions, a student business plan competition and more, The Asbury Project conference explored how business can drive positive social change and build the Kingdom of God.
A collaboration between Asbury University’s Howard Dayton School of Business and Asbury Theological Seminary’s Office of Faith, Work and Economics, The Asbury Project drew a record attendance, with more than 250 registered guests. Check out our photo gallery below!
“Impacting the world is a theme that is dear to our heart here at Asbury,” said Mike Kane, dean of Asbury’s Howard Dayton School of Business. “We believe that the purpose of a business is to alleviate poverty in all its forms — economic, social and spiritual. This conference is the ‘leaning out’ of that with our students, seminarians and people in the community.”
During the Student Business Plan Competition, contestants presented their ideas before a live audience, competing for a total of $10,000 in prizes to use to launch their businesses. The following students won prizes in this year’s competition:
- Grand Prize — Josh Moon ’17 (“DigiBooks”)
- Asbury University First Place — Austin Blevins ’19 (“First Step Recycling”)
- Asbury University Second Place — Emmaly Gillis ’18, Ted Amstutz, Stephanie Beltran, Amber Lewis ’17 and Jonathan Wilson ’16 (“My ID”)
- ATS First Place — Milton and Synolve Craft (Sow Green)
- ATS Second Place — Deb Adams (“Gracie’s Place”)
- Audience Choice — Austin Blevins ’19 (“First Step Recycling”)
The Asbury Project’s Student Business Plan Competition takes a unique approach. In addition to creating a business that will fill a need and make a profit, contestants are required to meet a social need as well.
“Lots of universities emphasize entrepreneurship in general, but Asbury really focuses on social impact,” said Moon, who won Grand Prize with “DigiBooks,” an interacitve digital publishing platform. “The Asbury Project is a great opportunity for students to explore what social entrepreneurship is and how it correlates to our faith, and to see how others are using business to impact the world.”
Blevins says he was inspired by prayer to create First Step Recycling, a curbside recycling company that would hire and mentor people recovering from drug addictions in his hometown of Greenup, Ky.
“You always hear negative things about Greenup, how terrible it is with drugs and poverty, but I want people to be able to see the goodness of it,” Blevins said. “I want to be the change that makes people say, ‘Oh, that’s where First Step Recycling is from — I can go there with my business.’”
For Lewis, The Asbury Project was also a valuable opportunity to polish her professionalism and pitch her business idea in front of a live audience.
“It’s a really good warm-up to what competition looks and feels like,” Lewis said. “And if you want to take your business idea to the next level, you’ve already experienced what it feels like to be on stage at The Asbury Project.”
Throughout The Asbury Project, conference guests enjoyed perspectives on social entrepreneurship from speakers including Dwight Gibson (CEO, The Exploration Group); Chris Horst (Vice President of Development, HOPE International); and Lonnie Riley (Director, Meridzo Center Ministries).
For Gibson, The Asbury Project is a powerful reminder for students that business can be used — and ought to be used — to impact the world for Christ.
“A lot of times, people think that when it comes to doing something that makes a difference in the world, you can be a pastor, you can be a youth ministries person, maybe a missionary,” Gibson said. “But what they don’t always recognize is that, by creating a good product, you can do something that is lasting in people’s lives, something that brings joy into families in a community.”
Guests also enjoyed “Making Good[s],” an art exhibit exploring the connection between entrepreneurship, art and human flourishing. Curated by Asbury University Art Professor Keith Barker, the exhibit pairs artists and entrepreneurs to create the artistic expression of an entreprenurial idea. One collaboration involved Asbury alumni Alison Mason ’15 (an entrepreneur who developed a sustainable, compostable landscape cloth) and Kristin Richards ’05 (an Art major at Asbury and graduate of Yale School of Art). The exhibit is still on display and can be viewed in the Asbury Art Gallery.
To learn more about Asbury’s Howard Dayton School of Business, visit: asbury.edu/business.