Business from the bottom up

October 3, 2012

Sales for Social Impact course prepares Baylor grad for global impact

Just days after graduating from Baylor in May with a degree in economics, Austin Barnes, BBA '12, got his chance to make an impact.

Upon graduation, he was hired as chief technology officer by Vendevor, a start-up company that develops e-commerce software for underdeveloped countries. As CTO, he manages and participates in the web, software and application development for the Vendevor platform.

A degree in economics and a background in IT prepared Barnes for his new role, but it was his experience in Baylor's Sales for Social Impact course that made him stand out to Vendevor.

"Sales for Social Impact (SSI) prepared me for the job market by making me a more well-rounded candidate," said Barnes. "Through SSI, I was able to delve deeply into market research and develop a business model from the ground up, which made me an extremely attractive job candidate."

Baylor's Hankamer School of Business integrates classroom and hands-on learning opportunities in the context of values-based decision making to prepare students to make a global impact.

Baylor's Sales for Social Impact course, funded by a generous grant from 3M and taught by faculty in Baylor's Center for Professional Selling, engages students with bottom-of-the-pyramid markets and then teaches them how to take a common good and turn it into a traded good as a sustainable approach for market development. Students learn about the intersection of business, marketing and poverty and demonstrate their understanding by creating a business model to bring social and economic benefit to an impoverished region.

In fall 2010, the SSI project involved grain grinding in Uganda. In fall 2011, the SSI course created a model to bring clean water to rural Nicaraguans. Partnering with a couple of former 3M research scientists who developed a solar water pasteurizer that could pasteurize four gallons of water an hour using only the sun, Baylor's SSI team crafted a feasible business plan to provide Nicaraguans with clean water in a sustainable way. Course participants traveled to Nicaragua for five days to conduct primary research and later presented their business plan to 3M executives in St. Paul, Minn.

"The SSI class showed me that marketing can be used to give people a better life and solve real-world problems," said Barnes. "The course was an excellent synthesis of all the things I learned in the business school. It shows [prospective employers] you have the brains to tackle problems outside your subject area and that you can work well on a team."

Students in the fall 2012 Sales for Social Impact course have the opportunity to make a similar impact on another developing country.

"We are excited to sponsor the SSI course again this fall," said Dr. Andrea Dixon, executive director of Baylor's Center for Professional Selling. "Austin is just one example of the influence that this course is having on our students, their careers and on the world around us. The outcomes of SSI extend far beyond the classroom, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to learn, grow and contribute alongside our students."

Vendevor provides proprietary software to businesses in Third World countries to help facilitate sustainable, e-commerce-based product exportation. While Vendevor's for-profit business model profits from processing these sales transactions, the ultimate goal is to help entrepreneurs in developing countries support and expand their businesses internationally.

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