Entrepreneurship and Sustainability: Not Mutually Exclusive
Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
By Tony Fontes, Assistant Professor, Professional Studies
Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, MA
This year, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) embarked on several initiatives to expand the spirit of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies across the BHCC campus. Specifically, some of these initiatives include creating cross-discipline entrepreneurship certificates, creating an Entrepreneurship Club, expansion of the Community Center for Entrepreneurship, hosting several entrepreneurial seminars, and developing an on-campus, student-run business.
One objective of the Entrepreneurship Club is to inform, support, and inspire its members to be entrepreneurial through enterprise creation. To that end, our goal is to create a student-run business, which entails building a mobile kiosk that will be the catalyst to help in vending school-themed apparel and related goods. Based on student research and feedback, the goal is to design BHCC apparel and related merchandise to market to the student population, faculty and staff. This venture will be operated, staffed and managed by members of the BHCC Entrepreneurship Club.
Additionally, our preliminary research has determined that there is an abundance of products we could offer that are specifically geared toward eco-friendly, sustainable living. We will identify those products that fit our business model and offer them at BHCC. With the advent of BHCC's strong sustainability initiatives, we feel this project will capture a key opportunity to marry the tenets of entrepreneurship with a sustainability approach.
Enabling entrepreneurial-minded students to execute a real-life business plan and work together to build a profitable, self-sustaining business will be a significant hands-on learning experience.
Incorporating Sustainable Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is more than simply "starting a business.” While the typical entrepreneurial approach tends to focus on those activities that lead to market penetration and bottom line profits, a sustainable entrepreneurial tactic will view market success and environmental innovations equally. Sustainable entrepreneurship in this approach will employ the fundamental aspects of creating and managing a business, coupled with educating and incorporating various types of environmental innovations.
Consequently, this sustainable entrepreneurship approach to the student-run business will foster the spirit of creating a viable business venture while providing environmentally beneficial products to the BHCC community at large.
Conceptual approaches to incorporate sustainable entrepreneurship into this venture are vast. Some examples that we plan to incorporate through this project include:
- The vending kiosk will be constructed from 100 percent recycled materials. We will promote the factual information regarding the materials used on the actual vending kiosk.
- The product line will offer a variety of organic/recycled cotton apparel. These materials are produced without the use of harsh chemical bleaches or dyes, and are allergy free. Recycled cotton is cotton fabric that has been made from recovered cotton that would otherwise be cast off during the production process.
- We plan to educate customers on the benefits of purchasing eco-friendly apparel as opposed to conventional apparel. Informational sell sheets will detail the garment's sustainable components.
- We plan on offering other suitable products that are eco-friendly, such as travel mugs, backpacks, pens, notepads, frames, journals, mouse pads, etc. These products are made from post consumer plastic bottles and containers and are made of either 100 percent or 51 percent post-consumer recycled materials.
- We will also design and promote BHCC sustainability and "green living” on a T-shirt design. This will tie BHCC, entrepreneurship and sustainability together in one product and will help convey the message of BHCC's commitment to sustainability.
With sustainability management a recognized priority at Bunker Hill, and entrepreneurship initiatives fast following, it is the perfect time to meld the two concepts to produce a business concept that would demonstrate how an entrepreneurial concept can be financially viable while also being environmentally friendly. Typically, most entrepreneurial ventures are focused on economic viability first and foremost, without regard to much else. This venture, from its inception, will be designed with a sustainability component at its core and will demonstrate how a business venture can be both commercially successful and environmentally conscious.
Once success of the venture is demonstrated, the sustainability concepts can be incorporated into entrepreneurship courses as examples of successfully creating an eco-friendly enterprise. We will prove that an enterpriser can create any type of venture while keeping sustainability at the forefront, and not have profitability as its sole motivator and primary driver.
Overall, this venture, unique in nature, will have an immediate, positive impact in teaching the link between sustainability and entrepreneurship. These practices can be relayed as fundamental to any business approach, and not viewed as a novelty. The underpinnings of this endeavor will aim to promote an awareness and behavioral campaign to support other sustainable initiatives at the college through the marketing and promotional efforts of the business.
It Doesn't Have to Be Just About Profits
This concept will teach our entrepreneurs that business creation does not have to be devoid of environmental considerations while pursuing optimal profitability. Our intent is to develop a business model that will illustrate financial success while delivering environmental value and sustainable attributes any business can employ. Development of sustainable business principles will be as important as implementing the business plan itself. Ultimately, successful implementation of this venture will allow us to:
- Educate students on how to develop a venture with significant sustainability components.
- Provide students with the hands on experience of operating an enterprise with a strong sustainable themed business model.
- Help to ensure that students understand the meening of the college's overall sustainability commitment, and work to manage this venture to that end.
- Relay through teachings and practical experience that profitability is a fundamental goal of any business effort, but does not have to be the primary goal. Implementing sustainability tenets should be an equal measure of business success.
Sharing Sustainability Wins
While a simple business concept in nature, many lessons can be learned from this experience. Measurable successes will be integrated into existing BHCC business courses illustrating the win-win created from this venture. We will have solid, practical evidence of a successful and profitable business model that will have been developed with the concept of sustainability as its hallmark.
Courses that these leanings can be integrated into include but are not limited to:
- Introduction to Entrepreneurship
- Principles of Marketing
- Entrepreneurship & Innovation
- Principles of Management
- Small Business Management
- Introduction to Business
- Operations Management
Additionally, as more interdisciplinary certificates are developed, these approaches can be incorporated cross discipline, and be relayed to other business models. For example, assume a BHCC culinary student embarks on a certificate in Culinary Entrepreneurship with the goal of opening their own bakery. Not only will they learn the principles of enterprise creation, on equal footing, they will learn how to build their business on a foundation of sustainable management policies. This will help the student to understand that incorporating sustainability components into a business is not a "nice to have” but an integral part of their business development. Ultimately, the goal will be to educate students that sustainability efforts are as commonplace in a business plan as any other factors to be considered. Integrating these teachings will not only educate the student in sustainable entrepreneurship, it will also strengthen their understanding of BHCC's overall commitment to college-wide sustainability.
Thinking Differently about Entrepreneurship
The traditional approach to entrepreneurship tends to focus primarily on identifying opportunities to exploit for the sake of profitability. A new and maverick concept of incorporating sustainability with entrepreneurship is becoming more commonplace with current business development approaches. Sustainability approaches combined with entrepreneurship can still meet the original premise of profitability, and in addition, yield benefits such as using renewable resources and reducing our personal and commercial carbon footprint in the process.
Emphasizing sustainability within an entrepreneurial venture makes the enterpriser think about the steps of business development and, in concert, helps to identify policies and procedures that will not be detrimental to environmental resources. Progressive thinking about sustainability concepts do not have to be difficult, and most entrepreneurs would probably not be reluctant to such approaches if they understood them. The main issue is to become educated in how sustainability works, and understand that it can be implemented without sacrificing progress and profits. Recognizing that both can work in unison and have the same, if not better, results is the goal of this effort. Ultimately, students should learn that entrepreneurship and sustainability should not be mutually exclusive.
This retail venture, early in its inception, has the promise of training and educating a new breed of entrepreneurs in sustainability approaches. A major win for Bunker Hill Community College will be illustrating sustainable entrepreneurship in a working form, and then relaying these successes across the curriculum through interdisciplinary teachings.
To learn more about the progress of this program, contact Tony Fontes at firstname.lastname@example.org