They mean business: AU’s Enactus students headed to nationals

ANDERSON — As they built up Coal Ironworks, their Anderson-based hydraulic press manufacturing company, Andy Davis and Nathan Brandt were so busy blacksmithing, they were slow to set up a basic system for inventory, actively market their wares and develop a customer acquisition program.

“We were losing track of stuff all the time,” Davis said.

Then the pair was introduced through a mutual friend to the students on the Enactus team at Anderson University, and were able to increase their revenues by 138 percent five months later, according to the students.

“They were able to institute something that didn’t take time,” Davis said of the company’s new inventory system.

AU’s 27-member team was named champion at the Enactus United States Regional Competition in April in Chicago. The team will compete as one of more than 100 regional champions at the national competition on May 20 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Coal Ironworks was one of three local small businesses, including startup Creative Culture and coin and jewelry company Dragon’s Hoard, with which the team worked during the school year. Their live, multimedia presentation of the sustainable entrepreneurial projects they developed and implemented on behalf of these companies helped them win their regional competition.

Davis said he really had very few expectations going into the partnership with the students.

“We were going to come out ahead even if we had someone else to bounce ideas off,” he said. “It was good to have another set — or in this case seven sets — of eyes to analyze the problems and come up with some solutions.”

Though he hasn’t confirmed the students’ growth figures for his business, Davis said he’s confident they are on track.

“In the time that we’ve been working with them, we have increased our sales and our volume by a substantial amount,” he said. “We were able to go ahead and use their suggestions in our everyday business.”

Davis said he’s not surprised by the students’ win at the Enactus regional competition.

“I think they’re a group of exemplary students and they put a lot of passion and heart into what they did,” he said. “They were a pretty good group of kids and really cared about who we are and what we’re doing and really wanted to see us succeed.”

He also wouldn’t mind repeating the experience with a new team.

“I’m sure we’d get a totally different outcome based on the kids assigned to our business,” he said. “If we were in a position to hire a student for marketing, we would definitely hire one of these students.”

The Enactus team goes into action between October and March each school year.

Sophomores Sarah Rozzi and Claire Miller said many businesses understand their core product or service but have trouble taking care of the behind-the-scenes business tasks like accounting, developing websites or setting up online payment systems.

For instance, they said, Dragon’s Hoard was able to increase its online sales by 254 percent and increase its profits by 12 percent.

“The increase is directly correlated to the four months we helped,” said Rozzi, 19, a visual communications and business information systems major from Brownsburg.

She and Miller said they each felt like they gained practical experience by participating in Enactus and the competition.

“I really enjoyed being able to help the community in a real way through the business principles I am learning,” said Miller, 19, a finance major from Indianapolis. She received this year’s Enactus Leadership Award, given to the student who has provided exemplary service to AU’s chapter.

Dr. Greg Kaufinger, AU’s faculty advisor for the Enactus teams, said participating students get to put the principles they learn in the classroom into real-world situations. And one of those real-world situations is competition.

“Obviously, (Enactus officials) believe in free market principles, and part of the free market is competition,” he said.