Rutgers introduces Enactus community service through entrepreneurship
Founded on the ideology of teaching a man to fish rather than giving him one, a new international organization on campus is seeking to create long-term solutions to community issues through the leadership of driven undergraduate students.
The Rutgers chapter was created to fulfill an entrepreneurial, service-based void, David Shah, co-founder and president of "Enactus," said.
“We found that there was a need for an organization on campus that encompassed both service to the community as well as entrepreneurship and business ventures,” he said.
Shah, a Rutgers Business School junior, said his aim was to find a group of ambitious students with an interest in business, but more importantly, the creative energy to begin and sustain a project of their own.
“Everyone has an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “If they’re willing to take risks, through 'Enactus,' they can gain invaluable real-life experience.”
During the past few months, the organization developed various projects to improve challenges faced by impoverished or unemployed individuals in the New Brunswick community, said Justin Liu, a Rutgers Business School sophomore.
By partnering with the Second-Reform Church on College Avenue, the organization was able to begin work on their thrift shop, which provides clothing and household items to those in need, he said.
Along with the thrift shop, Liu said the students have also been working with the church’s food pantry, which has been feeding hundreds of community members monthly.
“Both organizations suffer from operational, marketing, funding and staffing issues, which is where we come in,” Liu said.
Members of "Enactus" step in as advisors to help the businesses thrive, he said.
“We enter as consultants utilizing business concepts and entrepreneurial mindsets to solve these issues and expand their audience in order to create a sustainable change,” Liu said.
The students plan to create a network of businesses by linking these two organizations so the revenue gathered from the thrift shop will eventually go into the food pantry to provide for all low-income families of New Brunswick, Liu said.
Another "Enactus" project that is currently in progress involves the Youth Empowerment Services (Y.E.S.), a small non-profit organization on George Street that also suffers from management issues, Liu said.
“We hope to expand the impact of Y.E.S., which has multiple youth development programs such as tutoring and summer camps,” Liu said. “We hope to develop a stronger marketing platform and recruit a larger and more sustainable pool of volunteer staff.”
Lakshmi Kalluri, a School of Management and Labor Relations sophomore said along with community service experience, she also gained crucial professional development skills that will further her business career.
“We’re learning about marketing techniques, finance and people management skills, all necessary for the working world,” she said.
Shah echoed this sentiment and said although he uses skills such as management and leadership from his classes, he finds that passion cannot be taught.
Even the smallest efforts can have an impact on a large amount of people, he said.
“Being passionate about something you want to change is important, especially in this organization,” he said. “Something like a thrift shop might seem risky but it’s something that can be very successful in the end and help a much larger community of individuals.”
As one of only two entrepreneur organizations on campus, Shah said he hopes the club will attract passionate students who, regardless of their academic interests, are interested in making a difference and changing their mindset about community service.
Liu said being part of "Enactus" constantly reminds him to see opportunity where people would otherwise see problems.
“Anyone walking down George Street sees mountains of trash and cardboard piled up on the sidewalk,” he said. “The question 'Enactus' guides us to ask is ‘What can we do to somehow make use of it?”
With both projects they are currently working on, as well as those they plan on pursuing in the future, Liu said longevity is key.
“At the end of the day, our team’s focus is to create self-sustainable projects that will benefit the community, both Rutgers and New Brunswick alike, for years to come,” he said.