Social Entrepreneurship Program
The mission of the Social Entrepreneurship Program (SE) is to create social value through entrepreneurship. Our vision of social value is rooted in Samford’s Mission . Our program emphasizes the application business concepts to objectives that extend beyond profit maximization. Examples include: environmental stewardship, education, crime reduction, reconciliation, and poverty alleviation.
I. The Social Entrepreneurship Curriculum
Students complete a traditional business major in (Accounting, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Management, or Marketing)
Students complete a guided internship in an established social enterprise (ENTR 487).
Students may choose an Urban or International emphasis.
The urban track includes coursework in entrepreneurship within a US urban context (MNGT 310).
The international track includes an international travel course which emphasizes the work of multinational NGOs (such as World Vision, Compassion International, or USAID). (ECON 394)
4. Students complete a Financial Management for Nonprofits course (ENTR 384).
5. Students complete a capstone Social Entrepreneurship course where they either: launch their own social enterprise or consult with an established social enterprise (ENTR 486). A recent list of course business projects can be found below.
Since our founding in 2008, over 300 Samford students have passed through the program. Many have launched their own social enterprises or work in major nonprofit organizations. Recent examples include:
Amplio Recruiting – SE alum Luke Keller helped found a job training/placement for-profit that works with international refugees around Atlanta to help them find long-term employment.
Karisimbi Partners – SE alum Chase & Rachel Carroll helped establish an investment bank/management consulting firm in Kigali, Rwanda to help Rwandan entrepreneurs access US capital markets.
Five Loaves – SE alum Madison Kerns is working to expand this Birmingham nonprofit, dedicated to racial reconciliation.
Compassion International –SE alum Kayleigh Hudson completed an internship with Compassion as an undergraduate, helping with strategic planning. Now she is employed by Compassion as an Experience Design Specialist in Colorado Springs.
While our core mission is to provide students with the skills necessary to establish new social ventures, many of our alumni use their SE skills to serve on nonprofit boards of directors.
II. Social Entrepreneurship Research
Social Entrepreneurship is a relatively new academic field. A significant investment has been made by the Brock Social Entrepreneurship program to contribute to the understanding of social enterprise in a Christian context. To that end, faculty members contribute to the global conversation on social enterprise by writing and publishing articles related to two main topics, religiously motivated charitable giving and competition among nonprofits in donor markets. Some sample work includes:
Kuan, J. & Thornton, J. (2021) Nonprofits as Multi-Sided Platforms. Academy of Management Review. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2019.0216
Thornton, J.; Stokes, C.; McCarty, S. (2019) An Evangelical Anomaly: Religious Observance and Intertemporal Choice. Religion and Education.
Thornton, Jeremy & King, David. (2017) Financing Social Enterprise in the very long run. ACRN Oxford Journal of Finance and Risk Perspectives 6.3 - Special Issue FRAM/SSFII: 29-70
Gayle, P.; Harrison, T; & Thornton, J. (2017) Entry, Donor Market Size, and Competitive Conduct among Nonprofits. International Journal of Industrial Organization. (50), 294-318.
Thornton, J; McCarty, S; & Stokes, C. (2017) Divine Restraint: An Experimental Analysis of Religious Preference and Intertemporal Discounting. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (67), 99-110.
A complete list of these publications can be found here.
The Social Entrepreneurship program also provides local expertise to Alabama, by publishing an occasional Alabama Nonprofit Report.
III. Social Entrepreneurship service and co-curricular activities:
Annually, the SE program hosts its marquis conference event on SU campus. The Lion’s Den, is an international two-day Business as Mission conference, which brings together investors with Christian entrepreneurs to educate and invest in faith-based for-profit ventures. Our most recent 2019 conference hosted over 800 visitors on campus, facilitated equity and debt investments in for-profit businesses with a specific Christian focus, and exposed our students to the possibility of combining their faith and business skills.
The SE program hosts the Alabama Association of Nonprofits on Samford’s campus. The AAN is the only statewide organization of nonprofits. Our program’s partnership with AAN provides students with valuable internships, guest speakers, and opportunities for board service. Moreover, our SE students provide valuable consulting services to many local nonprofit organizations.
Annually, the SE program raises funds for SE Fellowships. These $1,500 fellowships are awarded to select SE students to participate in high quality SE internships and consulting projects with existing social enterprises. Funded fellowships help local nonprofits compete with for-profits to compensate high quality interns for their work.
Annually, the SE program sends students to a national conference on Business as Mission. The Praxis Academy is a week-long accelerator program which focuses on undergraduates and recent graduates seeking to combine their Christian Faith and entrepreneurship.
The SE program maintains a dedicated Business as Mission scholarship, The Taylor M. Harsh scholarship, awarded annually to support students interested in Business as Mission.
Prior course business plans are available to SU students on request. Email me.
2020 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Bloom: Bloom is the leader in Red Tide Cleanup across the Florida Gulf Coast. Our goal is to utilize our specialized processes of Red Tide Cleanup each time a Red Tide Event occurs in Florida and spark a sense of ownership for Florida locals to take pride in their beaches.
Dale's Hero Foundation: To reduce criminal activity, drug abuse, and suicide rates of youths in single-parent households through mentorship programs.
Fresh: Empowering impoverished women and their children in Birmingham by providing employment, housing and rehabilitation programs for families to stand on their own two feet.
Jars of Clay: Jars of Clay is an organization built to tackle the growing issue of sex trafficking in the United States. More specifically we operate out of Mississippi offering a shelter and place of employment for women and children who are survivors of human trafficking.
House for Healing: House for Healing provides comprehensive mental health and overall wellness services to homeless individuals in order to promote independent living.
Local Island Company: Local Island Co. is a sustainable clothing company inspired by the Azores islands. Local Island produces and sells quality ethical alternatives to fast fashion in an effort to reduce fashion industry waste and pollution.
Patchboards: Patch Boards is a Surfboard manufacturing company that repurposes the floating debris and trash from the Great Pacfic Garbage Patch into Gold Standard Surfboards.
Reshirt: ReShirt’s mission is to develop environmentally conscious college students by enabling and rewarding them to do their part in reducing unnecessary waste.
Second Life Tradesman: Our mission is to teach formerly incarcerated men the art of woodworking to reduce recidivism rates in Middle Tennessee.
Seed to Sprout: Seed to Sprout is a restaurant with fresh, locally-sourced, and seasonal menu offerings and located in the historic neighborhood of Five Points, Birmingham, AL. We will have a four course dining experience that captures the heart of Southern cuisine, local community, and simplicity. However, our greater mission is to lower the recidivism rate of at-risk youth in juvenile detention centers within Jefferson County by offering mentorship and education in the culinary industry.
Soap for a Future: Our mission is to provide all-natural, antibiotic soaps that create supernatural smiles around the world. Soap for a Future exists to do more than simply sell a product, but to help aid poor hygiene sites around the world while at the same time educating on the importance of good hygiene practice and standards
2019 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
3 Fold Studio: exists to empower impoverished communities through building homes, relationships, and social responsibility. We believe the communities of North Birmingham lack quality, affordable housing that has not only led to physical deterioration of homes in the area, but has also affected the atmosphere of the community as a whole. Through renovating housing, we intend to eliminate financial, emotional, and physical distress caused by insufficient and unsafe housing and create a more hopeful, secure, and empowered community.
Max’s Mission exists to strengthen families affected by cancer through a supportive outdoor environment including counseling services with the intent of providing memorable experiences and forming community.
Fish Camp Media exists to mentor and equip inner city youth with valuable skills by connecting them to church bodies. Fish Camp wants to create natural mentorship opportunities through the provision of skills training to students. Fish Camp wants to help students compete for competitive jobs and college admissions, and aims to do this by training them on the use of cameras, audio/visual equipment, lighting, graphic design, and other mediums in production and creative capacities. Training may result in licensing and certification for students, while also giving them experience that can be listed on a resume. By enabling them to do this type of work, Fish Camp will aid students in differentiating themselves in the marketplace.
Stuff the Truck is to impact those who are involved directly and indirectly in the Foundry’s programs; we plan to achieve this aim through providing job training, volunteer hours to program enrollees, drug rehab, subsistence living and accommodations, and job placement. Our business model hopes to increase the financial freedom of The Foundry by opening up new and improved revenue streams.
True Vine Thrifting venture strives to adhere to the mission of “Empowering those who have struggled with substance abuse, through rehabilitation and community engagement.” The goal of this venture is to provide a thriving and sustainable thrift store to the Avondale area that will ultimately fund the True Vine Evangelical Ministries’ rehabilitation program for men recovering from heroin addiction in Birmingham.
Hope Horizons is a 501(c)(3) that works towards the revitalization of Fairfield, Alabama, through youth workforce development programs and through the renovation and leasing of apartment buildings. Falling into the industrial and educational sectors, Hope Horizons will partner with restoration Academy, a local private high school, as well as with donors and contractors, to provide Fairfield youth with low-cost opportunities for trade education.
Project Pure is a social enterprise focused on making the world purer by providing recycling opportunities on Samford Universities campus and beyond. The mission of Project Pure is to reduce waste by bridging the gap between college students and recycling opportunities. Our goal is to make recycling more readily available and to educate college students about the importance of maintaining a healthy earth and reducing unneeded waste.
NorthStar Soccer Community aims to build holistic, Christian community among inner-city youth in Birmingham through intramural soccer.
Possibility Program partners with the Accountability Courts system to provide tangible assets that will assist in the participants stability pursuits. These tangible assets include small car loans,in order to have access to reliable transportation, access to our in-house staffing agency, suit rental/purchase program, and career workshops.
2018 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Hope Heals:The HOPE Program extends the Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment Project by equipping partner organizations with tools and training to help young adults with disabilities begin their own sustainable herb enterprises after high school. The goal of this program is to empower these individuals with personal growth and professional skills by giving them the hope of an independent future.
K4Koffee: will provide quality coffee while creating opportunities for employment in Haiti through an ethical business model. We will do so through partnership with Kid4Kid, a non-profit in Port Au Prince, Haiti, who will educate young men and women to process the coffee, from planting all the way to packaging. From there, we will partner with churches and small businesses in the U.S. to purchase the coffee, with profits going directly back to K4K Koffee. Our goal is to provide employment and appropriate means for living to children who have aged out of the Kid4Kid orphanage, as well as the education beforehand to allow them to transition into an operational role within K4Koffee.
Organic ReGrowth: is going to serve formerly incarcerated men, those abusing drugs, and the homeless by planting spiritual and physical seeds and growing produce through the innovation method of Aquaponics to achieve overall restoration, fulfillment, and ultimately recovery.
Assisting Sozo in transforming Ugandan lives for Christ. We strive to create a culture of growth in Uganda both spiritually and physically. We seek restoration through sustainable solutions and by empowering the community. Locally in the United States we will raise awareness and support for the mission of Christ in Uganda.
Eden Community Village (ECV) will provide sustainable and low-income arrangements for rehabilitated members of Changed Lives Christian Center, who are struggling to find viable and affordable housing within the Birmingham area. Our housing seeks to create stability for those who are in need and ultimately help prosper individuals that will initiate growth within Birmingham’s poorest areas. ECV strives to meet the graduated members of CLCC needs when finding stable living environments, which allow them to flourish and offer their new-found resources to others in the community.
Noor Designs is a for-profit, LLC chartered under the Moroccan government in Sale, Morocco. Noor Designs exists to improve the lives of Moroccan women by offering quality employment, complimenting the preservation of traditional Moroccan rug weaving. Using an online platform like Instagram, Facebook, and Etsy, Noor Designs connects the stories of our Moroccan weavers to customers around the world. Our product is specifically targeted to upper-middle and high-class Millennials who are drawn to socially responsible goods. The result is a partnership between customers from around the world and our Moroccan weavers, allowing Noor Designs to strive for its overall goal of alleviating poverty in Sale, Morocco.
Bootstrap Ranch provides an enriched therapeutic work environment for individuals afflicted with drug addiction, alcoholism or co-occurring disorders to achieve permanent recovery, as well as providing guest with an authentic and joyful experience.
2016 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Steel City Fine Arts: To create wearable pieces of art, jewelry created from the re-purposed steel and iron from guns. There are currently thousands of weapons stored in our counties’ law enforcement facilities, and thousands more lay unused but unlocked in our neighbors’ homes. Through police donations and the operating of buy-back programs, we will gather these weapons and put them to a better use. By creating jewelry with a purpose and commissioned pieces of artwork, we can make Birmingham both a safer and a more beautiful city.
Magic City Food Hub: Will enable aspiring chefs to expand their businesses in a certified commercial kitchen space, avoid common pitfalls by taking basic business classes, and test market demand through special events and pop up restaurants.
Hand in Paw: To improve human health and well-being through animal assisted therapy. They aim to ultimately facilitate and achieve a healing process through the unique therapy they provide and perform services to all patients for no price to them. The social change that they hope to create is brought through empathy, an outward focus, acceptance, mental stimulation, entertainment, physical contact, nurturing, socialization, physiological benefits, and rapport.
Work4U: to provide meaningful work opportunities that enable Unless U students to foster life, social, and vocational skills.
Inspire: Inspire is providing young women from grades kindergarten through twelfth grade form low-income areas through curriculum and experiences to enhance their education. Our purpose is to inspire these girls to believe in the impact they can have on their community through learning. By investing in these young women, we are striving to break the cycle of poverty in the Birmingham communities, one girl at a time. We are broadening their worldview by introducing them to new ideas, cultures, and experiences that pushes them to dream bigger. We also seek to provide parents with an affordable after-school program that gives parents a product in which they can be confident. This curriculum will encourage girls to learn, grow, and lead in their community and beyond.
Feed the Change: A consulting business that reduces restaurants food costs and increases their profit margins while simultaneously preventing food waste and obesity. By using innovative techniques Feed the Change analyses a restaurants processes and portions to most effectively reduce food cost. Restaurant customers are then served a smaller healthy sized portion. This is a win-win situation the restaurant saves money, customers improve their health, and no excess food is unnecessarily wasted.
2015 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Fish Camp Films (FCF) seeks to target economic, educational, and artistic development among inner city Birmingham students while sharing their stories to promote change and unity among surrounding communities.
Bowo Uganda is a B2B social enterprise that delivers exotic Fairtrade® lumber to the North American market from Uganda. Off of this foundation the company sets the stage for proper harvesting and reforestation practices in Uganda, helps reduce poverty in the poorest sections of the country and provides extraordinarily attractive returns to investors. The Bowo model embraces a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit where lumber is sourced only from suppliers with guaranteed replanting programs; where employees are paid fair wages in a safe and secure environment; and where finished products are sold at significant margins in North America
Compassion Canopy is a dome-shaped greenhouse utilizing an aquaponics system that has been streamlined to be positioned in impoverished communities around the world. These systems will provide nutritious foods, jobs, and a source of revenue for the communities suffering from poverty and a lack of food sources.
Sisterhood Alliance aims to create a relational network between girls being rescued from human trafficking and professional women in the United States. Our mission is to create opportunities for women to forge mutually beneficial relationships with their sisters in crisis across the globe.
Connect Initiative equips impassioned social entrepreneurs with the strategic business education and practical business understanding that they need for their nonprofit and socially minded organizations to endure in the long term.
2014 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Work of Worth (WoW) seeks to improve the lives of people around the world through supporting international businesses. Our service is to connect international businesses to the American market by purchasing their goods. At WoW, we believe we can impact these needs through socially minded business practices. WoW will purchase from small businesses around the world that would not otherwise be able to have access to American capital. WoW will then sell the products to American businesses in order to generate a profit and additional capital to invest in more products. In the first year, WoW will solely focus on importing yarn produced from recycled saris in India. The company that we are in contact with employs women rescued from sex trafficking and gives them dignity in providing a stable job.
REV Birmingham Urban Food Project is working with food providers in food deserts to provide a source of fresh produce. These places are generally corner stores that have convenience foods that are largely processed and packaged for a long shelf-life and have approximately zero health value. The Urban Food Project purchases fresh produce from local farmers at wholesale price and sells it to the corner stores as no markup. They also provide technical assistance (purchasing, merchandising, marketing, data collection, etc.) to assist the corner stores in selling the produce that they purchase
Royal Sports and Therapy(RST) is a state of the art physical therapy and wellness clinic, located in Amman, Jordan. In Jordan there is a great need for physical therapy to help treat and heal musculoskeletal problems that are brought on primarily by a sedentary lifestyle. RST will utilize the newest evidence-based techniques of manual therapy to treat musculoskeletal problems that are currently going untreated in Jordan due to a lack of modern physical therapy techniques being used. In addition the clinic will provide a multidisciplinary approach with nutritionists, and athletic personal trainers.
Redemptive Cycles provides low-income individuals with one of the simplest forms of transportation – a bicycle. In an effort to build a community of learning, bicycle maintenance, and intentional cross-cultural relationships in Downtown Birmingham, Redemptive Cycles was opened in a storefront on 2nd Avenue with every intention to grow to a larger space. Offering quality new and refurbished bicycles, services to the community, and an earn-a-bike program where low-income individuals can contribute to the store’s needs in order to earn their own bicycle, RC has been a fully functioning organization for just under a year.
2013 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Eat Between the Lines: Eat Between the Lines is a mobile restaurant that utilizes the crops of local, urban gardens to provide healthy food options to those stuck in food deserts. A food desert is a district with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports numerous food deserts across the greater Birmingham area, specifically in lower income neighborhoods.
Red Mountain Theatre Company: Red Mountain Theatre Company (RMTC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that operate in Birmingham, Alabama and is now in its 34th Season. It was founded as Summer festival in 1979 but was later transformed into the organization it is today. In 2007 they change their name to Red Mountain Theater Company. It owns the Cabaret Theatre located in Birmingham’s Theatre District, and summer main stage productions are performed at the Dorothy Jemison Day Theatre at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.
Woodlawn Food Initiative: The Woodlawn Food Initiative is united to build a healthy community by partnering with local food providers to establish a source of healthy options in a food dessert and to support childhood nutrition education in an effort to reduce childhood obesity.
Swagger Sports Training: SWAGGER Sports Training will operate as two separate entities in order to achieve the same mission. One entity is the revenue producing subscrption-based website that will provide members with access to over 500 sports instructional videos. SWAGGER will operate under a similar model as that of Lynda.com which provides subscribers with access to thousands of computer software training video.
2012 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Map My City: MapMyCity is a geospatial mapping technology that provides customizable geographical information systems to nonprofit and for -profit businesses. The technology is designed to help social enterprises gauge the socioeconomic health of their communities. Users can visualize publicly socioeconomic data through heat maps as well as input crowd-sourced data to mark areas of need in their community. The technology will allow nonprofits to target their resources, increase their efficiency, and bring more effective social change to their community.
The Foundry – Recycling Program: Improving The Foundry's operational efficiency and environmental impact by reducing costs, focusing on improved disposal of unused materials and goods, and freeing up capital and resources to be used in other areas of ministry.
Invest IN: An online platform that gives students in the Brock School of Business to store, promote, and attract investment for their business plans.
Global Flavor: A restaurant that provides unique, high-quality global foods with a purpose - to sustainable eradicate hunger in the regions that these dishes come from.
2011 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Jones Valley Urban Farm: Helping Birmingham grow organic produce and healthy communities through urban farming and education. The Power Point presentation can be found here.
Dinotas Giftable Giving: Supporting the work of non-profits by creating innovative revenue and resource networks, specializing on tangibly recognizing social impact. The Power Point presentation can be found here.
Birmingham - 365: Birmingham365 strives to create a current, relevant, cultural, and easy-to-use universal calendar for the entire Greater Birmingham Community.
BMI - Mobile: Seeking to lower childhood obesity in Alabama by administering school-based BMI tests, while educating parents and students on the future health risks associated with obesity and encouraging them to take preventive action.
2010 Social Entrepreneurship Course Projects (ENTR 486)
Rent-able garden plots in Woodlawn. Community members will be able to lease a plot and equipment as well as purchase seeds. At harvest time, they can either eat their own produce or sell it at a local farmers market sponsored by the YWCA, Church of the Highlands, and Jones Valley Urban Farms. Jones Valley is also providing technical assistance and cooking courses to help promote nutritious eating in the community, which has limited access to grocery stores.
Nonprofit Merger Law Clinic. The AAN has partnered with Cumberland Law School at Samford University to study the feasibility of this clinic, which will be housed at Cumberland and provide subsidized legal council to promote consolidation and merger activity among the 19,000 nonprofit organizations in Alabama. Currently, only about five percent of respondents in the 500 organizations students surveyed had considered a merger as a way to overcome the financial problems many of these organizations currently face because of declining revenues and increasing community needs.
Nonprofit Incubator in downtown Birmingham. Students are working with a lease holder in Pepper Place to allow nonprofit organizations to jointly lease office space and share fixed infrastructure costs such as information technology, utilities, and administrative support. The model will be replicated at various sites across Alabama.
Decorative Brick-Making Business. Other cities have combined artisans and businesses to promote economic development in the inner city. Using this model Main Street Birmingham has partnered with Space One-Eleven to start a custom decorative brick-making business. The objective is to anchor an artisan business corridor in downtown Birmingham and offer both job-skills training and employment to the local community.