Brett & Emily Mills, Jesus Said Love

“Know your purpose and don’t deviate.”

~Emily Mills


Just taking a shot in the dark here, but chances are that most folks have entertained the thought of being their own boss at least once, maybe even twice. After all, entrepreneurship sounds like a pretty stellar gig.

Forbes.com recently posted an article listing the four benefits of being an entrepreneur as 1) you’re always learning and growing, 2) there is never a dull moment, 3) you decide what to do with time, and 4) everything depends on your choice.

But when Baylor grads, Brett and Emily Mills booked their entrepreneurial gig, they were looking at entrepreneurship from a different angle. In early 2003 the couple was leading a worship band at a conference focused on ministry to sex workers. At this event, they listened to first-hand stories of women who felt trapped within the sex industry. Heartbroken and determined, the couple was burdened for the exploited women in their hometown Waco, TX.

As Brett and Emily tried to dissect the stories they noticed that gender violence was a consistent and common thread among the women. That spring, they honed in their focus to strip clubs in Waco. They decided to bring Easter to the women trapped in the Waco sex industry.

Like an army platoon on a mission, a small group of women went into two strip clubs armed with nothing more than gift bags filled with practical, high-quality gifts. Brett and Emily are very particular about the gift bags. They feel that if Jesus can give His life…then they should be able to give a nice bag. Jesus gave his best. They will then give their best.

Amazingly, the outreach was welcomed with open arms by both the bag recipients and the club managers. The bag giving became a bi-annual endeavor at Easter and Christmas. By 2007, Brett and Emily felt the need for a bit more structure and organization for their outreach. Jesus Said Love (JSL) was then adopted under their existing worship and ministry nonprofit 501c(3) Bartimaeus Ministries, Inc.

According to Emily, eighty-nine percent of commercial sex exploits say that they want out but have no other means of survival. The next step in this outreach was Lovely Enterprise. Lovely Enterprise (Lovely) is a retail storefront that serves as a social enterprise of JSL aimed at reducing demand for commercial sex exploitation by providing living-wage jobs and launching micro businesses. The goal of Lovely is to provide economic empowerment opportunities to domestic, commercial sex exploits.

Dictionary.com defines entrepreneur as a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

Organizes, the JSL way…

Brett and Emily saw a systemic issue with a lack of employment opportunities for those trying to break away from the sex industry. They faced two immediate hurdles:

  1. Finding employers willing to hire JSL ladies – most ladies either have a criminal background or have been in the industry for so long that they had large resume gaps.
  2. Securing transportation – many of the ladies’ driver’s licenses have expired.

When the realization hit that outsourcing jobs was a daunting and seemingly impossible task, Brett and Emily decided to create their own storefront space with Lovely.

The idea is that women who have gone through JSL will move on to work at Lovely. The products sold through Lovely include handmade items, leather jewelry and Lovely Buns. Lovely Buns are  mouth-watering, cinnamon rolls made with love and Emily’s Aunt Mammy’s secret recipe. The Lovely Buns lead baker has personally overcome the industry with the help of JSL and wants to eventually start her own food service business. Lovely is providing her with the stepping stone to do just that.

The Lovely goal is all about empowerment, not enablement.

Manages, the JSL way…

JSL operates under six basic financial principles:

  1. Cash only (no debt)
  2. Have a savings
  3. Operate on a budget
  4. Give generously
  5. Spend less than we take in
  6. Financial transparency

Enterprise, the JSL way…

Brett says, “The more you’re around people who need Jesus, the more you realize that it’s not ‘them and us’, but it’s really just ‘us’.”

JSL encompasses what they refer to as their three-part method:

GO – Visit commercial sex establishments on a consistent basis, bringing high-quality gifts to employees.
LOVE – Offer authentic relationships to commercial sex exploits, no strings attached. We love them where they are.
CONNECT – Offer access to community and spiritual resources, awakening hope and empowering change.

Business, the JSL way…

Overhead is a necessary and normal component to every business, charitable organizations included. For JSL, the approach to overhead expenses is to maintain a positive return on investment, and at the same time enhance the effectiveness of their programs. Ultimately, Brett and Emily spend what it takes to accomplish their mission.

Initiative, the JSL way…

Neither Brett nor Emily had a traditional business background. They relied on the input of others who forged a path before them with successes like World Cup Cafe and Perpetual Help Home. At the urging of right-arm, staff member Jersey Schmidt, they even embarked on a field trip to Los Angeles to visit Homeboy Industries and The Giving Keys for additional insight.

Emily says, “Most people start business with a product in mind, but we started with people in mind.” She continued, “People will always be number one for us.”

Risk, the JSL way…

Emily explains that the work she and Brett do is messy; because, simply put, people are messy. She stresses that working a job that you love and are proud of helps establish value. But creating those jobs and helping women in recovery requires money. With that in mind, JSL is always looking for those who have a passion to give to innovative solutions to poverty.

Brett and Emily feel their calling is that they “are called to something much greater than ourselves. Loving God, loving others, worship, and justice motivate everything we do. In this calling, we are compelled with a ferocious resolve to do what must be done and stop what must not be done.”

Jesus Said Love…a company with a social impact, humbly serving Waco, Dallas, Bryan/College Station, San Antonio, Temple/Killeen and Houston. It’s entrepreneurship at it’s best. A mighty stellar gig, indeed.


For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/

Karen Tyler, Propel Education Strategies

karen-tyler

“I believe the only way to be ready for change is to always evaluate products and services and to find ways to innovate in a constantly shifting field.”

~Karen Tyler


Jimi Hendrix once said, “I wish they’d had electric guitars in cotton fields back in the good old days. A whole lot of things would’ve been straightened out.”

Regardless of one’s interpretation of when exactly the good old days occurred, Jimmy is right about one thing. The good old days embody a simpler time. A time free of social media, Xbox games and apparently a time free of electric guitars in cotton fields. And if you ask any uber-motivated high school student today, the good old days represent a time before Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

Created in the mid-1950s, AP is a program that allows high school students to take specific courses that will earn them college credit, without even leaving their high school campus. The AP class culminates with an exam that covers everything the students learned in AP class. The exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with many universities offering college credit for a qualifying score of 3 or above.

Every year, there are more than 2.4 million students taking AP exams in 38 different subjects. And many of those students are taking multiple AP exams because they are enrolled in more than one AP course.

The Princeton Review lists the benefits of taking AP classes as follows:

  • Prep for college
  • Rise to the top of the pile
  • Strengthen your transcript
  • Study what you love
  • Get a head start on college reqs (and save some tuition dollars)

Indeed, a lot of weight is put on the AP exams. So much so that the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual State of College Admissions survey finds that “student performance in college preparatory classes is the most important factor in the admission decision.”

With so much weight riding on these AP exams, wouldn’t it be nice if students had a way to prepare? You know, their own electric guitar. Oh, but wait. They do. Baylor graduate, Karen Tyler started Propel Education Strategies to offer innovative strategies and solutions that guide teacher instruction and increase student outcomes as they prepare for college or career.

But Propel didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t even Karen’s career aspiration when she was a student. After Karen received her undergraduate degree in 2006 with a B.A. in English, she moved to Dallas to pursue graduate studies in humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas. It was while Karen was in graduate school that she worked with several non-profit organizations that provided Texas students with a cash incentive for each qualifying score achieved on an AP exam.

While working with the non-profit organizations, Karen realized that the organizations were doing admirable work with AP students, but there was still a larger group of AP students not being serviced. Karen felt that students and teachers in schools outside of the support area for the financial incentive programs also deserve the benefits of superior classroom instruction and exam-prep materials.

Karen launched Propel in 2014 and has since worked with more than 20,000 students across seven states. Propel offers practice tests to prepare students for AP exams in the courses of AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Calculus and AP U.S. History.

Propel currently contracts with more than 100 consultants from across the U.S. who are responsible for writing original, AP-style questions, editing exam and supplemental materials, developing classroom-ready lessons and training AP teachers. The consultants are both current and former classroom teachers who have personally achieved notable successes with AP students.

Karen feels that there are two very specific components of the Propel business model that set Propel apart from other test-prep companies: 1) Propel works directly with classroom teachers in school districts and does not market to parents or students and 2) Propel provides an evaluation of students’ free response or essay portion of the mock exam that is scored and evaluated by national experts.

Admittedly, Karen is not an educator, which is why she relies so heavily on her corps of consultants and she gives credit to the consultants whom she affectionately refers to as the heart of the organization.

Karen manages Propel with what she calls the PIE method: Plan, Implement and Evaluate. Afterall, what’s considered the latest-and-greatest today may very well be old news tomorrow.

The biggest challenge Karen faces is getting the word out and making school districts aware of services Propel can provide. However, she also has to be cognizant of the districts with limited funding. Karen’s ultimate, long-term goal is to expand beyond seven states and to work with students in all 50 states. She also wants to expand the course offerings to include additional disciplines, especially science. These are big goals, but Karen is up for the challenge.

If you think about it, these may be the good old days and Propel may just be the electric guitar in a field of AP tests.

Sources:
PrincetonReview.com
USNews.Com
CollegeRaptor.com
Blog.Prepscholar.com
Professionals.Collegeboard.org


For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

Rob Curnock, Dub-L Tape

rob-curnock“The desire to better oneself is the most powerful incentive to innovate.”

~Rob Curnock


After a long, hard week there’s nothing like firing up the VCR and pulling out your old home VHS movies for the best throwback movie night ever. Movie snacks…check. Favorite blanket…check. Oh yeah, let the movie binging begin. But then the unimaginable happens. The VCR won’t work.

Once the wailing subsides to a subtle moan, you realize the evening’s not a complete loss. You make a quick dash to the local 24-hour superstore to pick up another VCR. Problem solved.

Wah?

When did the come-as-you-are superstore where you can buy anything at any time stop selling VCRs? What about all of the VHS tapes — Grandma Betty’s 90th birthday party, Beth’s first ballet recital and Uncle Sam’s heart-felt, yet somewhat perplexing rendition of “I Will Always Love You” at last year’s family reunion. Hours and hours of priceless memories recorded on VHS tapes, reduced to nothing more than mere dust collectors cast aside on a shelf.

It’s at this very moment when Rob Curnock at Dub-L Tape is transformed from an ordinary, everyday entrepreneur to an outright superhero. A champion for the disenchanted. A warrior to the defeated. Armed with nothing more than a flash drive and a pretty snazzy UFO this superhero can defeat your dilapidated VCR blues and turn defunct VHS movies into memory-making keepsakes.

Never heard of this guardian to the distraught? We’ll break it down for you.

WHO: Rob Curnock (a.k.a. the superhero) graduated from Baylor in 1981 with a communications degree. After graduation, Rob started his career as a news reporter and sports anchor at a local television station. While working at the television station, Rob introduced central Texas to Dub-L Tape in the back room of his house with $200 and two VCRs. Dub-L Tape is an audio/video production, duplication and conversion company that has evolved drastically through the years as technology has changed. Rob worked double-duty between the television station and his budding business for six years until he was able to expand Dub-L Tape to a stand-alone shop.

WHAT: A big chunk of Dub-L Tape’s current business is converting old films, slides/photos and video/audio tapes to digital formats such as DVD and flash drives. As DVDs are slowly phasing out, Rob is converting more memories to flash drives. But Rob didn’t want to hand customers their precious memories with just a plain ol’ flash drive. He wanted something nice and keepsake-ish. Rob worked with a mechanical engineer and after a couple of rounds of trial and error he created the fabulous UFO (Unidentified Flashdrive Organizer). The UFO is a protective case that will uniquely label, secure and protect almost any make and model of flash drives on the market today. Determined to keep UFO production in America, Rob found a company in Wisconsin that can construct the plastic injection molds that are needed to make the cases. With the UFO design and production successfully under his belt, Rob is currently charging fast-forward after his most difficult obstacle and short-term goal of marketing. Rob has always depended on word-of-mouth to grow his business and that’s proven to be quite a savvy and successful business plan. But Rob is taking a different approach with the UFO. He recently partnered with a company that specializes in marketing and promoting unique products, and he’s optimistic and even excited at the possibilities.

WHEN: Dub-L Tape has been in business since 1985 when Rob started off duplicating VHS tapes. Then in 1997 VHS tapes started phasing out to DVDs and Rob adjusted his business accordingly. As flash drives started to replace DVDs, Rob created a second ancillary business in 2012 called Abundant Supply Company that handles the sale and administration of the UFOs.

WHERE: Dub-L Tape is in Waco (the heart of Texas), Texas.

WHY: Simply put, Rob wants to give customers a quality product and service at a good price. Rob explains, “Contrary to popular belief, I am not my boss. Every customer that walks through the Dub-L Tape doors, is my boss.”

Rob’s biggest fear since day one has been that customers would just stop using Dub-L Tape. Every superhero has his kryptonite. But with Rob’s uncanny super power to save the day just in the nick of time, we think this superhero may just obliterate his kryptonite…one flash drive and UFO at a time.


 

For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

 

 

Tierra Barber & Denitia Blount, Oh My Juice

tierra-barbar-_-denitia-blount

“We see that there’s a real need for our products,
so that drives us to work harder to stay around as long as we can.”

Tierra Barber


We are living large in America. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than one-third of US adults are obese. We all know it takes regular physical activity and a healthy diet to tackle this weighty nemesis.

Physical activity is easy. It can be anything from walking, biking, swimming or even Prancercise if you’re so inclined. Eating healthy may be a bit trickier, and in some cases just downright ugh-inducing. Basically, we should aim for a rainbow on our plates. What that means is the more colorful fruits and veggies we have on our plate, the better.

But what if you could drink your rainbow? Or what if you could eat your rainbow…from a bowl…with a spoon? Well, that would definitely bring a splash of fun to the fight.

Baylor grads Denitia Blount and Tierra Barber firmly believe that your rainbow can indeed be fun, tasty and nutritious. And anyone who has had an acai bowl or a cold-pressed juice from Denitia and Tierra’s Oh My Juice (OMJ) knows that this dynamic duo means business. Colorful, healthy and deliciously-fun business.

OMJ is a  #WACOTOWN eatery that offers juices, smoothies, acai bowls and other healthy treats. All menu items are made to order with fresh ingredients with no added sugars or preservatives. Nothing is prepackaged or processed. The end result is the ultimate rainbow of healthy goodness.

But the tale of Denitia and Tierra is one of two very distinctly different journeys that came together at one very gloriously yummy final destination. While Denitia and Tierra both ran track for Baylor, their paths never actually crossed on campus. Denitia majored in education and graduated in 1988, while Tierra majored in health science studies and wrapped up her MSEd in exercise physiology in 2004.

These two Baylor grads actually met in Arizona at the 2014 Fiesta Bowl where Baylor took on UCF. The outcome of the game itself was ultimately not-so-great for Baylor football fans, but for Wacoans who love a yummy healthy-food alternative…the game was definitely something to celebrate.

When Denitia and Tierra met they realized there was a shared passion for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As former athletes, they certainly have the know-how for physical activity. But there was also a mutual zeal for healthy eating, specifically juicing. It was then and there that these two decided they were going to bring Waco its first juice bar.

The juicing duo first introduced Waco to OMJ by selling cold-pressed juices from a vendor booth at the popular Waco Downtown Farmers Market (the Market). The Market is open from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm every Saturday morning and features locally-grown produce, cooking demos, live music and awesome artisan vendors. The Market is the place to be on a Saturday morning in Waco.

If you think about it, launching OMJ at the Market was an act of pure brilliance. Absolute, unadulterated, magnificent brilliance. What better place to launch a product line made up of local, fresh ingredients than a local, hot-spot farmers market?

A perfect storm is a rare phenomenon where a collection of circumstances come together in a way the result is of such magnitude it’s beyond description. Let this sink in for a minute. You have two passionate Baylor grads with entrepreneurial hearts…a desire to be healthy and to help others be healthy…a yummy product line…a high-profile retail location that promotes local, home-grown produce… Pretty close to the perfect storm, but in a marvelous, non-weather kind of way.

Initially, Denitia and Tierra set out to simply survive. Neither had much business experience and they really didn’t know exactly what to expect. The goal was to build a large enough customer base to survive a year. But they dug in and with a little trial and error they figured out what worked well for OMJ. The duo also reached out to other local Waco businesses for guidance, mentorship and support. Denitia explains, “This venture would have been nearly impossible without the help of a lot of talented people.”

For the next year and a half, the juicing aficionados provided Market goers with a product that was not only unique to Waco, but it was also fresh, healthy and indisputably delicious. As this small, cold-pressed juice operation set up at the Market to gauge public interest, it didn’t take long for OMJ to become a popular Market stop.

An all-natural, Saturday morning juice fix became a must-have for many Market goers. But soon once a week just wasn’t enough and eventually those who partook in the deliciously juiced delicacies were wanting more. And they wanted it every day. So, when Denitia and Tierra had the chance to move into a downtown, store-front location they jumped at the opportunity.

The new brick and mortar location kept the duo in the heart of downtown Waco in the popular River Square Center. This was a game changer though. When customers only had access to OMJ once a week at the Market, they could be a bit more forgiving. Now that OMJ had somewhat of a cult following with everyday access, the pressure was on.

The cool thing is these two juicing dynamos didn’t falter. Not even a bit. They successfully navigated the array of industry, state and local regulations for juice bars. And what started out in a Market vendor booth with two passionate entrepreneurs is now a store front with a staff of twelve. All the while, they continued to put out consistently delicious smoothies, salads ‘n such’ to the delight of their customers.

The acai bowls have hands-down been the most popular item at the store front. Especially, the Berry Blend (acai, berries and apple juice) and the Nutty Coco Bowl (acai, almond milk, cacao and banana). They’re oh-my-goodness delicious!

Regular Market goers needn’t worry though. OMJ is still at the Market on Saturday mornings providing fan-faves like Fruit of the Spirit (pineapple, apple, kiwi, orange, lemon and lime) and Hulke (apple, cucumber, celery, parsley, lime, spinach, lemon and ginger).

A recent post on the OMJ Facebook page says it best, “Because when you stop and look around, life is pretty amazing.”

Without a doubt, OMJ is adding a sparkle and energy to downtown Waco…one colorful, amazing  juice at a time.


 

For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

 

 

Andy Wiltz, Woof’s Play & Stay

andy-wiltz

“If your heart isn’t in your project,
the project isn’t going to succeed.”

~Andy Wiltz


Roger Caras once said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

Dog owners everywhere wholeheartedly agree that there’s nothing quite like coming home after a long day to be greeted with hap-hazard, knock-you-over tail wags and slobbery, you’re-finally-home kisses. Dogs become our companions, our confidants and…and well, they become our best friends. There have even been studies that suggest that dog owners tend to look like their dogs. Now to be completely honest, that’s not exactly good news for the owners of a wrinkly shar pei or a  frowning and somewhat grumpy-looking bulldog. Nonetheless, dogs become part of the family.

And just like you wouldn’t take your human-form loved ones to just any care facility or salon, you wouldn’t take Spot and Princess to a shabby, hole-in-the-wall either. And that’s exactly what Andy Wiltz was counting on when he purchased Woof’s Play & Stay in Kansas City.

Andy grew up in Kansas and had always aspired to someday be his own boss. Growing up with in a family of entrepreneurs, Andy knew entrepreneurship was in his blood. He double majored in entrepreneurship and real estate finance at Baylor, and after graduation accepted a position with the global consulting firm Accenture. He spent more than ten years in the Change Management / Strategy practice, initially in the Accenture New York City office, then South Africa, the Philippines and finally back in the US.

In November 2014 Andy received a stellar annual review, but he realized it was time to be his own boss. Andy had been consistently contributing to a savings account with the ultimate goal of either starting his own business or buying an existing business. He decided to purchase the assets of a business that was closing and continue the operations under his own name. Enter Woof’s Play & Stay.

Woof’s Play & Stay is a family-owned doggy daycare, dog boarding and dog grooming facility. The website states,

As dog lovers, our commitment is to your dog’s health, well being and happiness.
We take pride in the trust you place in us to care for your friend, companion,
and beloved family member.

Andy and his team get it. They really get it. They get that it is completely acceptable and not weird at all for a dog owner to have two-sided conversations with Spot or to dress Princess up in ridiculously, over-priced accessories or to ask for a “doggy” bag and literally mean it. They just get it.

Going from a global consulting firm to a doggy daycare wasn’t easy, but Andy quickly realized that a willingness to get out of one’s comfort zone is one of the biggest contributing factors to ultimate success. He learned that doing something new and unfamiliar is always an opportunity to learn.

Andy started off by setting goals. His initial goal for Woof’s Play & Stay was to simply maintain the revenue the previous owners experienced, with the expectation of a modest growth. But he soon realized that there was actually a lot of room for growth in the company. So, Andy expanded the goals and set more extreme weekly and monthly goals. For Andy, the process of setting and meeting goals is never complete. It’s always an ongoing process.

One critical component to meeting those extreme goals was having the right team in place. Andy inherited a staff when he purchased Woof’s Play & Stay and he worked tirelessly to train each team member to do the best possible job he/she could do. His philosophy is he would much rather help develop someone to do a better job than to have to let someone go. Andy’s methods have paid off since he’s experienced very little turnover.

There are also a few regulations that Andy has to abide by. Every state regulates dog daycare and boarding facilities differently. For Kansas, he had to acquire a license to run the facility and he has to adhere to common-sense measures to ensure the safety of the dogs.

But the real challenge isn’t at the state level. It’s at the federal level. Andy is concerned that the federal push to increase minimum wage will hurt his business, as well as other local small businesses. Andy doesn’t currently pay his team minimum wage, but instead gives raises when he can. He is concerned that a mandatory increase in minimum wage to $12 or even $15 will wipe out his profits and take away incentives to add additional locations.

For the time being, Andy will continue to spend most of his days greeting customers and dogs at the Woof’s Play & Stay front desk, taking care of office work and making sure that his 22 team members are keeping the doggy guests safe and happy. All it takes is a quick look at the Woof’s Play and Stay Facebook page or Jameson’s dog days of summer video to see that the tail-wagging visitors are quite happy when they visit Woof’s.

Two paws up to Woof’s Play and Stay for doing a dog-gone good job at taking care of man’s best friend.


For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

 

Clay Clark, TrackSculptures.com

Clay-Clark

“Absolutely the biggest contributor to my success is
I realized that I am an entrepreneur at heart.”

~Clay Clark


Don’t you just love walking into a room and noticing a wall piece that only a select few will actually understand the significance and you just happen to be one of those few? For example, not every Baylor graduate will understand a framed photo of a dancing bear circa 1996. And not every football fan will appreciate a framed Dallas Cowboy number 22 jersey.

After noticing the anything-but-ordinary adornment, you quickly size up the room. You make a mental note of the telltale eye sparkle of someone who gets it. There’s a mutual head nod as if you’re members of an exclusive, secret society.

Clay Clark understands the passion, the spirit and the loyalty one can experience as a member of these elite societies. He just happens to be part of a unique society of enthusiasts who hold a deep-rooted appreciation for race tracks from around the world.

This Baylor grad with an MBA from Acton is the brain-child behind TrackSculptures.com, an e-commerce, niche company catering specifically to motorsports fans. TrackSculptures.com manufactures and sells wall-piece art that replicates more than 650 different race tracks from around the world.

Clay explains, “Most people don’t get it when they see our products.” He continues, “We make products that only our customers can understand and fully appreciate it.”

Ever since he was a teenager, Clay has had a fascination with fast cars, specifically Formula 1. And while working as a product manager at BuildASign.com, Clay also developed a passion for e-commerce. It was then that he realized that the two passions didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Clay combined his experience in manufacturing and internet marketing from BuildASign.com with his passion for motorsport to create TrackDecals.com, an e-commerce business specializing in automotive race track and road course decals and stickers.

The initial goal was to sell just one product to just one customer. Specifically, the customer had to be a stranger. The day after TrackDecals.com was launched, Clay made his first business transaction. Since that very first decal sale, this just-for-fun, side gig has grown into a bonafide revenue building, e-commerce success that eventually expanded to what is now known as TrackSculptures.com.

The website boasts that there are more than 600 crafted wooden sculptures of race tracks and road courses from all around the world. And then there are also wood murals, art prints and decals. Racing fans are like the proverbial “kid in a candy store” when visiting this website.

To Clay, it’s all about fulfilling a dream and living out a passion. He explains, “It really makes me happy to produce a product that I would want to buy myself, as a motorhead.”

Clay infiltrated an entire underground society by simply creating really cool art pieces that he would want to buy for himself. He found a niche with an unmet need and he found a way to meet that need. That’s ingenious entrepreneurship.


 

For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

 

Adam Smith, Bike Pipe

Adam-Smith

“Every day is a new day with new challenges. As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly overcoming those challenges to move your business forward.”

~Adam Smith


One playing card… CHECK

One wooden clothes pin… CHECK

A playing card and a clothes pin are all you need to transform an ordinary, every-day Schwinn into a noise-making, neighbor-annoying Harley Davidson-esque bike. You know exactly what we’re talking about. That undeniable thup…thup..thup..thup that comes from the bikes of pre-teens who happen to think they’re cooler than ice cream on a hot, summer day because of their newly created two-wheeled, hot rods.

But playing cards inevitably bend, rip and otherwise wear out with prepubescent neighborhood cruising. This is exactly why Adam Smith created Bike Pipe. Bike Pipe is an easy-to-attach bike exhaust system that amplifies sound and can be turned on and off with a simple kick of the foot. Truly an epic mic drop concept.

But how in the world did this twenty-three year old, 2015 Baylor graduate become a bonafide entrepreneur so quickly? One might say that entrepreneurship is in Adam’s blood.

It all started in southern California after Adam and his brother ruined one-too-many expensive baseball trading cards for the sake of the beloved thup…thup…thup…thup. Adam’s dad, Terry, worked to create an alternative for his boys. He developed an exhaust system for the bikes made out of spare motorcycle parts that had been tossed aside. It was in that moment that Bike Pipe became a real thing, but Terry ran out of resources before Bike Pike could become a household reality.

Terry eventually moved his family from California to Texas to own and operate an RV park, putting Bike Pipe on the back burner indefinitely. But with an entrepreneurial dad, Adam was exposed to life-lessons that would have a tremendous impact later on.

After high school, Adam went on to study entrepreneurship at Baylor. He started a few service-based businesses that never really took off for no other reason than geographical limitations. But in the back of Adam’s mind there was a reoccurring thought of thup…thup…thup…thup. It was time to bring Bike Pipe  back to the front burner.

Fortunately Adam could bypass all of the labor-intensive, savings-draining research and development because his dad had already created a successful prototype. The focus was now on MVP (minimum viable product). Essentially the MVP Bike Pipe prototype allowed Adam to satisfy customers but still gain important feedback for improvements and modifications.

The initial goal was to get this rumbling product online as fast as possible, so website development was on the forefront. But there was also a lot of back end work to modify the product, develop a marketing plan for the brand, design retail packaging, and set up a supply chain from manufacturing to shipping.

Adam learned early on that having the right people around and tasking them with the right responsibilities was paramount to his success, especially when it comes to government regulations. Regulations for each country are different. Every manufacturer must meet specific certifications, pass inspections and uphold to certain standards. Ultimately, Adam sought out a third party testing facility near the manufacturing operation in China to ensure compliance.

Adam acknowledges that his short-term goals seem to change almost daily, but he remains unflinching on his long-term goal to grow a successful company. Gleaning from his entrepreneurship classes at Baylor and his dad’s business prowess, it looks like Adam is well on his way to forging his own entrepreneurial path.

And if you think about it, the Bike Pipe  is brilliant. It’s ideal for bike riders and parents alike. For bike riders, their cool factor is increased exponentially with the thunderous, muffler-like attachment. For parents, the here-I-come rumble gives a little peace of mind by providing increased awareness with pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Plus, the kiddos are outside rather than glued to an electronic device. It’s a win-win and we have Adam Smith to thank for the practical and yet ingenious noise maker.

Three cheers for the thup…thup…thup…thup with a thunderous attitude.


For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

 

Cory Dickman, Waco Escape Rooms

Cory-Dickman

“In my eyes, success can be boiled down to an idea and timing.”

~Cory Dickman


Try to think of one commonality with a game of hide and seek, a Where’s Waldo illustration and the board game Clue. Give up? All three conjure up the thrill of a hunt.

With a good bit of intellect and a sliver of luck the most audacious can ultimately catch the holed-up hider, find the wandering Waldo and solve the menacing murder mystery. You may be thinking that these are nothing but frivolous, childish games. Very true, but do we ever actually outgrow the adrenaline rush of a good ol’, thrill-seeking quest to find the unfindable?

Seriously, doubtful. After all, there’s a little bit of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes in all of us. You may have to dig deep to find your inner sleuth, but it’s there. And once you find it, there’s no way to put it back. It’s virtually impossible to suppress the “must solve mystery — now” urge.

Thank goodness for Waco Escape Rooms (WER). According to the WER website, WER builds rooms around a story or theme and invites you to test your wits against the challenging clues, perplexing puzzles, and maddening mysteries embedded in the rooms. Basically what that means is that they lock a small group of people in a themed room and the group has 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles and clues that will help them escape the room.

What kind of insidious mastermind could come up with such an ingenious idea? Oh, just your average, run-of-the-mill Baylor grad. That’s right. Baylor graduate Cory Dickman is the top dog behind WER. This communications undergrad (2010) with a master’s degree in sports management (2013) concocted the idea with his trusted business partner Jared Dauenhauer.

Cory grew up in a small town just outside of Portland, Oregon. He made the trip south to attend Baylor and it was during the time at Baylor that Cory and Jared had the dream to open a business in Waco, Texas.

After graduation, Cory went back to his hometown for a while and Jared landed in Tennessee where he and his wife launched an escape room there. In July 2015 Cory and Jared decided it was time to turn their college dream into a reality. It was time to open an escape room in Waco.

If you were to ask Cory why he chose Waco he would most likely respond with something like, why not Waco. Cory explains it like this, “Waco deserves to have some fun and exciting businesses.” He continues, “As a Baylor graduate, nothing made me more excited than the idea of moving back to Waco to start a small business.”

The WER soft opening was October 31, 2015 and the official grand opening was the following  weekend on November 6. WER opened with three theme rooms — The Waco Room (4-6 players), Child’s Play (5-8 players) and Code Breaker (6-10 players). And for Valentine’s Day 2016, WER debuted the Dinner for Two Room, a two-person room ideal for first-time WER visitors.

The short-term goal for WER was simply to get people to play. Cory wanted as many people as possible to know about WER. Social media was a key factor in gaining a loyal following. By utilizing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram WER slowly became a local, household name.

One thing that makes WER so unique is that the business concept appeals to customers wanting to have fun on a Saturday night as well as companies wanting to promote team building with employees. Participants need communication, critical thinking and teamwork in order to beat the 60-minute clock and unlock the door to freedom. Cory likes to use the term EnterTrainment when describing WER.

But one unexpected twist for this premier EnterTrainment business is Cory has been a cohort in two escape room marriage proposals. Fortunately, both proposals had happily-ever-after endings. Could promposals be next?

It’s obvious that the local community is embracing WER and all that WER has to offer. Cory’s now looking at the big picture vision for his business, which is actually two-fold. First he wants to help make Waco a destination city. He wants people to include WER in their “we have to do” list when visiting Waco. Second, Cory wants to help the Waco community foster a growth for small business.

WER is definitely going places, literally. WER will be moving to a new downtown Waco location in late June. The new location at 711 Washington Avenue will be twice the size of the existing location. What a great addition WER will be to the #WACOTOWN movement.


For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.

Gib Reynolds, Urban Produce

Gib Reynolds

“It makes me laugh thinking how a guy who grew up in the suburbs of Dallas now owns a farm…but I love what I do.”
~ Gib Reynolds


Salads have become the epitome of healthy eating these days. There’s nothing quite like digging into a big  bowl of veggie-filled goodness. Toss in some grilled chicken and even the carnivorous can reap the health benefits of the bountiful greens.

But with recalls becoming more prevalent, there’s an understandable lack of trust in the safety of supermarket produce. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way for farmers to safely grow leafy greens without harmful pesticides and exposure to all of the unhealthy yucks that make people sick?

Gib Reynolds and his dad have done just that with Urban Produce. Together, this father-son duo have founded a large scale hydroponic lettuce farm where everything is controlled and grown indoors. The greens are grown “under glass” on floating rafts in nutrient rich ponds. This method provides a pesticide-free environment, and also eliminates the possibility of toxins and other environmental junk from making their way to the growing greens.

It’s quite an innovative idea. The funny part is that Gib grew up a city-boy in Richardson, Texas. He’s an Eagle Scout who flew model rockets competitively all around Eastern Europe. When Gib came to Baylor in 2008, he did study Entrepreneurship as an undergrad, but farming wasn’t his end goal.

Gib was interested in developing a portal that could connect investors and entrepreneurs, something similar to the Baylor Angel Network (BAN) where investors provide early-stage capital to entrepreneurs with business plans. Gib was highly involved in BAN as an undergrad and even became an analyst, so this seemed like a perfect fit.

After his Baylor undergraduate work, Gib continued his studies in the MBA program at Acton. He tossed around a couple of business ideas, but as he researched controlled environment agriculture and food production Gib realized there was a unique opportunity. And the idea for Urban Produce became a reality.

Gib’s long-term goal with Urban Produce was to build a huge lettuce company. Go big or go home is an underlying motto for all entrepreneurs, but with ninety-eight percent of lettuce in the US coming from California building a dominating lettuce company is a daunting mission. But with his self-proclaimed stubborn nature, Gib dug in his heels for the long haul.

Before any produce could even be sold, it was imperative for Urban Produce to receive certification for GAP/GMP (Good Agriculture Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices). The certification provided a layer of accountability to help customers trust this new startup company.

One of the initial challenges Urban Produce  faced was finding those trusting customers and ensuring that distribution processes were in place to get the greens to customers in a timely fashion. Careful not to bite off too much too quickly, father and son built a loyal customer base one customer at a time. Confident in their product, the duo simply lets the lettuce do the talking. And the lettuce has been talking…a lot. So much so, that  Urban Produce has expanded distribution beyond the confines of the Waco area. With regular deliveries to San Antonio and Houston, this lettuce is outright screaming.

Urban Produce trudges through the normal layers of regulations and inspections that come with being a food producer. Inspections and annual audits from the USDA help ensure proper growing and handling techniques. Gib feels that food safety is a paramount concern, so while the regulations may be at times be an annoyance, they’re all necessary in order to keep food safety on the front burner.

All-in-all, the proof is in the pudding… or maybe it’s better said, the proof is in the lettuce. No herbicides – no insecticides – no pesticides, but loads of tasty deliciousness. Gib’s hopes of putting Waco on the map as the “Lettuce Capital of Texas” may not be too far off.


Click here for a great article about Gib Reynolds and his success with Urban Produce.

For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.