“Creating awareness is huge. When you see a need for something, EIA has taught me to not stay back and let that need continue to be a problem. Why not step up and try to do something about it?” — Ben Thelen
From operating the Highland Java campus café to creating a composting project for leftover food from Hamilton Commons, Entrepreneurs in Action (EIA) helps students take initiative.
“Anybody can join,” says Benjamin Thelen, St. Johns junior and EIA president. “The common misconception is that you have to be a business major, and that’s not the case at all. We like to see different perceptions and students from different backgrounds. It’s good to have students from the sciences, arts, English, etc.”
EIA is the Alma College chapter of ENACTUS, an international organization that strives to bring together college students, academic professionals and industry leaders in order to create change in the world through entrepreneurial activity.
“Our organization helps students see the opportunity to be proactive, help the community and take action,” says Di Huang, assistant professor of business administration and faculty advisor for EIA. “That’s important for all liberal arts college students. Joining EIA is a unique experience you can’t get elsewhere.”
Currently, EIA is working on a compost project, an E-Plus initiative (a work-in-progress to help people stay positive), and the JumpStart competition, which awards $5,000 to help students bring their business ideas to reality. This year’s competition will take place on Monday, Feb. 8.
The compost project began last winter when a student recognized the need to help eliminate food waste on campus and decrease the college’s carbon footprint. EIA began working with the college to form a compost system to decompose old food to be used by facilities and taken to nearby farms for additional uses.
The E-Plus initiative began last fall to instill positive energy around campus. EIA plans to schedule community events and bring in a speaker to explore their positive message across campus.
“We have to align with certain criteria when we choose what projects we do,” says Thelen. “In March we’re going to the worldwide ENACTUS competition in Chicago. Colleges present their projects, and the idea is to meet different criteria like empowering other individuals to do big things to improving their communities and be sustainable.”
Highland Java, the campus coffee shop located in the library, was created in 2006 as a sustainable project. When students join EIA, they are required to work two hours per week at the café for a grade.
“The fact that EIA is both a club and a class means that you’re doing an extracurricular, but you get credit for your major or a distributive requirement,” says Connor Edwards, Climax senior and EIA member. “It gives you some sense of how you’re actually going to apply your business knowledge among students who are also learning.”
EIA projects are designed to introduce students to real-world experiences, says Huang.
“We want to serve the community and benefit young entrepreneurs,” she says. “Each project is unique in how we help the campus overall and impact it.”
“Creating awareness is huge,” says Thelen. “When you see a need for something, EIA has taught me to not stay back and let that need continue to be a problem. Why not step up and try to do something about it? You can find a need in any community.
“What I would like to see happen is to instill that initiative in students and take the next step and do something about it,” says Thelen “Why not bring a project like E-Plus on campus to instill happiness? The sky is the limit. It’s like a glass ceiling, once you get to the top you can punch through and keep going. Try to create a movement, a change. At the end of the day we’re just trying to make a positive change.”