BYU alumnus Davis Smith wanted to keep the commandment “to love your neighbor” and made a New Year’s resolution to do so. The night he set that goal, idea after idea came to him, and Cotopaxi was born.
The company has provided 42 grants in six countries, contributing a total of over $1 million this year to five nonprofit organizations according to Cotopaxi’s year in review journal.
Many BYU alumni like Smith are finding ways to give back in their careers, and BYU played an important role in inspiring and helping them do so.
Smith grew up in South America, where his desire to help others was born. When he moved back to the United States and attended BYU, he learned more about events happening in other countries, helping him better understand how to make a difference.
“My BYU education opened my eyes to what was happening in the world,” he said.
Smith specifically recalled a class in the entrepreneurship program that inspired him.
“I remember one of the people who came and spoke to us said it doesn’t matter what kind of business you grow,” he said. “It’s amazing because you’re building something, creating something that’s your own. To build, create, is an incredible feeling.”
Recent BYU graduate Keegan Darby has a similar story to tell. He originally chose to study entrepreneurship because of his desire to build and create but didn’t have a particular business idea in mind that he wanted to pursue.
Then on a trip to the Philippines, he was shocked by the poverty of the people and inspired by the local artisans who crafted jewelry for a living. “It’s really sad because they’re working so hard,” Darby said. “They don’t have a lot, yet they’re extremely happy and joyful.”
Darby was drawn to the people and impressed by their craftsmanship. He then developed the idea for Zubu Bracelets. The second time he went to the Philippines, he brought back around 400 bracelets crafted by the Filipino artisans. He sold them to local boutiques in Utah and set up an online shop for people to purchase them.
“They were a huge hit,” Darby said. “Coming from a business background and thinking that way, it was the margins that made a lot of sense. But more than anything, I was trying to figure out how to have an impact.”
At the time, Darby was still in the entrepreneurship program, which was valuable as he began to grow his business.
“The mentality of the program I thought was really special and unique,” he said. “We obviously are here to financially provide for our families and build the kingdom of God first and foremost, but also to have an impact. And if you’re able to mount those two together, that’s when you can create something really special.”
Now, for every 100 bracelets ordered, Darby is able to provide a job for someone in need in the Philippines.
Scott Petersen, the executive director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, explained that though the center’s purpose is to assist students in starting businesses, they also focus on teaching students to pay it forward. “When we’re in a position to give back, we should give back,” he said. “That’s why one of the biggest parts of our program is teaching values.”
According to Petersen, the most popular segment in the class he teaches is his lecture on how he measures success. He emphasizes the values of family, faith and ongoing learning, which he believes are important modes of giving back to society. Peterson said giving back is done in a variety of ways. “Doing one (thing) by itself isn’t enough, really all of them collectively is what makes us better human beings,” he said.
The Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology isn’t the only place helping students make a difference; the Ballard Center for Social Impact also brings together students, faculty and professionals to make a social impact. Last year alone, 2,900 people were involved with the center according to Director of Communications and Operations Alicia Gettys.
“We’ve had student teams give back to homeless veterans, help empower those with various disabilities and create a product for those in wheelchairs,” she said.
Gettys invited students looking to start their own business for a social cause to join the Ballard Center for Social Impact’s program, Social Venture Academy, which offers both support and funding.
“Donors are giving to the Ballard Center to give to students to give back,” Gettys said. “Students can receive consulting and cash to make their dream a reality.”
Smith advised students to stay committed to their desire to give back and to trust God in the process.
“Be patient,” he said. “Every single day ask the Lord and seek ways to do good and know that He will give you experiences throughout your career that will empower you to do so.”