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The Multiplier Effect: Entrepreneurship by Accident

By Colin Lauderdale, Contributor

Bridgett Blough ‘08 is the owner and operator of The Organic Gypsy, one of a growing handful of food trucks in Kalamazoo.  The Organic Gypsy straddles the realms of small-scale, local agriculture and downtown service industry, which allows Blough to make her living exactly how she wants: nourishing bodies and growing a resilient local economy in southwest Michigan.

Blough calls what she’s doing “living the multiplier effect,” and firmly believes that the growing local food economy in Kalamazoo is the city’s path to prosperity.  “Small businesses,” she says, “are what drive local economies.  Local communities stay together and healthy and vibrant through local small businesses.”

Blough graduated from Kalamazoo in 2008 with a degree in economics.  She looks back on college fondly, but can’t quite figure out how much of her success as a small business owner is attributable to her college education, and how much to her own identity as a “creative solution finder.”

K does not necessarily have a strong technical curriculum for entrepreneurship.  But, according to Dr. Tim Moffit, Associate Professor of Economics and Business, the College does have a strong tradition of producing entrepreneurs.  “Probably our most effective business outcome is entrepreneurship – by accident.”

Moffit chalks this up to strong self-selection (K students are motivated, hardworking risk-takers) and a global, liberal arts curriculum.  “Mix an ambitious, overachieving student with holistic thinking, and you get an entrepreneur.”

Moffit refers to Blough’s entrepreneurial way of thinking as “genetic.”  As much as she has used her K education as an asset, she brought an awful lot to the table when she came to college.  She comes from a large family with parents, aunts, uncles and siblings who have all started their own businesses.  “Career-wise,” she says, “it always made sense that I would become an entrepreneur.”

Many aspects of Blough’s K education haven’t contributed directly to her work.  Her economics degree didn’t include a single marketing class.  Much of the material covered in her courses was “a lot of fluff” – highly theoretical, lacking in technical skills or concrete details.  She estimates that, from all the economic terms she learned in her major, she uses about five on a daily basis.

But she also credits K for helping her develop into the entrepreneur she is today.  A small business owner needs a diverse skill set, creative problem-solving ability, and effective strategies for coping with stress.  Kalamazoo College was fertile ground for developing those skills.

Blough identifies one skill in particular as critical to her work: “Being able to see small, right in front of you, and then lift your head up to see big.  In my truck, I’m making an awesome tomato sandwich for you today and it’s nourishing your body, but it’s also part of something much bigger.  What I really learned at K is we’re part of something much bigger.”

This is the first installment in our series on the effects of Kalamazoo College’s education in the City of Kalamazoo.

StuComm Brief

By Allison Tinsey, Editor-in-Chief

During the executive reports, six first-years took their oath of office after being elected in last week’s election. Two subcommittees were created, business and residential life. The Business Subcommittee will deal exclusively with the Business Office and Vice President for Business and Finance Jim Prince. The Residential Life Subcommittee will work with RAs to gage student attitudes and sentiments as they interact with students more closely than the Commission. They will also work to formalize the relationship and mission between the Commission and residential life.

After Sophomore Commissioner Ogden Wright expressed concerns in the procedure of choosing non-commissioners to work on sub-committees, Secretary of Finance Kelly Ohlrich cited that due to a lack of continuity across campus groups, the people appointed are likely to change year to year, but the goal is to keep these members involved over the remainder of their time at K. Four non-commissioners were appointed to be involved with subcommittees including Community Council and the Student Life Advisory Committee.

Student Commission discussed buying BrandK compliant apparel for all the commissioners. Vice President Cameron Goodall questioned the efficacy and high cost of the apparel. Junior Commissioner Emily Sklar remarked that StuComm’s former apparel was noticeable on campus. More questions were raised about the transparency and elitism of the Commission.

“We are the student government of Kalamazoo College. There is a difference between what we do and what other student organizations do,” said President Camilleri. With a 13-10 vote, $1100 was allocated to spend on StuComm sweaters. However, the Commission is seeking a cheaper alternative.

Students Out of Work Raise Concerns

By Mireya Guzman-Ortiz and Viola Brown, Contributors

Left: Sophomores Edwin Salvatierra and Steven Sexton working for Facilities Management through work-study. Salvatierra works three-hour shifts. Sexton just began his work with FacMan. (Photo by Allison Tinsey)

Considering the large number of incoming first-years, questions have been raised regarding how Kalamazoo College has prepared for such an influx. Concerns have been raised regarding the availability of on-campus employment for those who are work-study eligible.

The Provost urged departments to add more employment opportunities if possible, citing that this should provide more than enough jobs for the students who are work-study eligible.

In past years the percent of students eligible for federal work-study was around 40-45 percent. According to Marian Stowers, Director of Financial Aid, this has not changed much. For the 2013-2014 school year, it sits at 41 percent.

With a high percentage of students eligible for work-study, K has made a visible effort to broaden the employment opportunities for students. This year there have been more than 580 hire requests directed toward the Human Resource Office, all coming from different departments across campus.

According to Joan Hawxhurst, the Director for the Center for Career and Professional Development, “Many campus employers are still in the hiring process, so there a lot of openings still being filled.”

Neither Stowers nor Hawxhurst has heard any concerns about the lack of jobs on campus. Such concerns should be announced to the Business Office. According to Hauxhurst, “…their frontline staff said they have not received more inquiries or frustrations from students.” This suggests that there are enough jobs to go around.

However, with this being only the third week, there is still a possibility that the unemployment rates on campus are bound to rise. Hawxhurst plans to “wait it out a little bit longer to find out if we have any issues on campus.”

State of the Campus

By Darrin Camilleri, President of Student Commission

Darrin Cemilleri

Fellow Students,

Here we are again on this fair Arcadian Hill for the 180th school year. Over these many years, things have changed considerably at the College, but one thing has always remained the same: the Student Commission President’s address at the beginning of each term. I am humbled and excited to have this opportunity this year.

Starting today, my administration promises to you a fundamental shift in the way Student Commission business is done. We are ushering in a new era of accessibility, transparency, and accountability.

To do that, we are piloting several programs this quarter. First, we are starting public financing of our elections. For the first-year election on Thursday, candidates are limited to $15 from Student Commission that can be used at the Copy Center. Second, we are working on a Student Commission fellowship program that will be open to anyone on campus who wants to work more closely with our committees, but who will not have the responsibility of voting. Finally, I will be hosting the first ever President’s Advisory Council to hear direct feedback from campus leaders on a regular basis. These changes will open up the Commission, and I’m very excited to see the ways that we can work together as a community.

However, these projects are not the only ones that we will be working on. In collaboration with the Provost and the President, we will continue to provide feedback on the hiring of the Mellon Fellow for Ethnic Studies. Additionally, once the process starts, we will have a hand in the search for a new executive director for the Arcus Center. Finally, we will be there every step of the way as we start the public phase of the Campaign for Kalamazoo College.

Expect and demand your Student Commission to be proactive and transformative this year. If you have any concerns, please let us know and we will work to find you a resolution. This job is never easy, but it is my promise to you that I will be a fighter for your best interests. I hope you’ll join me in that fight.

Go Hornets. Lux Esto,

Darrin Camilleri

Student Commission meets Mondays at 9pm in Hicks 111. Meetings are open to the public.