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K-State Today

July 25, 2012



Giving back: Student entrepreneurs showing more interest in charity than profit

By Communications and Marketing

Abbey Brown wants pearl earrings to be more than an accessory. Her vision is to make them a statement piece.

"Similar to the idea of a tiny pink ribbon helping unite millions in the fight against breast cancer and a yellow wrist band symbolizing living strong, Absolute Design will sell pearl earrings that will create hope for women who mean business and introduce a multitude of job opportunities for young females across the country," Brown said.

Brown, from Topeka, is a senior in entrepreneurship at Kansas State University and has already started building her business, Absolute Design. The earrings aren't about making a profit, but about making a difference.

"The proceeds from the sales of the jewelry will go toward grants for women who are starting their own businesses or have started their business and need resources to help it grow," she said.

Brown is one of the many students at K-State showing an interest in social entrepreneurship, which prioritizes the social mission of an organization over profits.

"Social entrepreneurship is the hottest topic in entrepreneurship today," said Chad Jackson, associate director of the university's Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship. "This interest in social entrepreneurship is worldwide and is changing how we view business in many ways."

Social entrepreneurship is becoming very popular with K-State students. To meet the demand, the College of Business Administration offered its first Social Entrepreneurship course in spring 2012.

"Cultural values are shifting, and students understand that they will need to have a greater understanding of social and environmental issues in order to advance in their careers," Jackson said.

For Brown, the desire to join the growing field of social entrepreneurship started when she first came to K-State. She learned about the student-led K-State Proud Campaign, which has raised more than $550,000 to help students in financial strain.

"My freshman year was the first time I was introduced to the students-helping-students' story, and ever since have wanted to make a difference, too," Brown said.

Dave Dreiling, a Manhattan business owner who prodded the university to start a program in entrepreneurship, believes the rise in social entrepreneurship is because of increased social awareness in the current generation.

"I think they care more for people, period," he said.

Dreiling is a K-State alumnus who started his first business the day after he graduated. He has more than 23 years in the entrepreneurial field and owns 14 restaurants, two gyms and GTM Sportswear in Manhattan. His most recent venture is in social entrepreneurship.

"The whole key to happiness, the whole key to life, is all of us realizing that it's not just about us," he said.

Dreiling opened a restaurant called Local food and friends. The monthly profits go to different nonprofit organizations in the area, but the benefits aren't just monetary.

"Our employees realize that they're not just working for a paycheck -- they're contributing to something beyond themselves," Dreiling said.

It is mentors like Dreiling and K-State faculty who have helped Brown's dream come true. She hopes the trend of helping others and being in business for a greater purpose will be the mission of most businesses and thinks more colleges should offer classes like those at K-State.

"I believe this field is more than a long word that is spelled kind of funny -- entrepreneurship truly just means find your passion, trust yourself and go for it," Brown said.