Ashley Blake, member of Spartanburg, S.C., Church, first joined Southern Adventist University’s Enactus chapter during her freshman year. Housed in the School of Business, its mission is to engage the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders to use innovation and business principles to improve the world. During her sophomore year, she became a project manager, and led a project that raised funding and increased sustainability for a doctor in India who performed cataract surgeries. During her junior year, she became the president of Southern’s Enactus team.
One Friday afternoon, Blake received an email highlighting an interesting project. A student missionary from Southern had started the Akuna Soap Industry at Riverside Farm Institute in Zambia, which was helping to create local jobs. Riverside grows soybeans, among other things, and since soap can be made from soybean oil, the student had spearheaded a miniature soap production industry to benefit the community. The operation was very successful but very basic. Employees would create soap using buckets, mixers attached to electric drills, and molds, and the team wanted to upgrade the operation by building a factory. “I couldn’t stop thinking about that email,” Blake remembers. “I loved that it was an entrepreneurial operation being propelled by a Southern student.”She decided to use her position in Enactus to help with business development, and wrote a project vision charter to help Akuna Soap raise $135,000. She proposed the goal of supporting the project while in its startup phase with the aim of helping the business become sustainable on its own. When Blake and club sponsor Michelle Doucoumes, professor, presented the idea to a local alum serving on the Enactus advisory board, he was so enthusiastic that he helped them connect with others until they achieved full funding for the project.
This past year, Blake got the chance to go as a student missionary to Riverside Farm. A business and accounting major, she was excited to have another hands-on opportunity through Southern to use her professional skills to assist others. She helped manage all areas of the project, from running the new factory to helping grow the sales and marketing areas of the business. She especially focused on local women who needed jobs, and their sales team grew from three women to 30.
Blake was struck by the sharp contrast between the very rich Zambians, who live in luxury, and the very poor Zambians, who live in grass huts with no clean water and no opportunities. She loved being a part of an organization that made such a positive impact on the lives of people who otherwise have very limited opportunities. In addition to creating many jobs, Riverside sponsors evangelism training, has launched more than 50 churches, and sponsors the education of many local children. “I grew so much as a person during my time there,” says Blake. “I loved being a part of something that made such a positive impact in people’s lives.”
Carolina | December 2022