Seven Latino immigrants learn business skills through student facilitated business accelerator course

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Seven of Nashville’s Latino immigrants now have the skills and knowledge they need to start their own business in America because of the business accelerator course facilitated by two Lipscomb University business students.

The Lipscomb Center for Business as Mission is working with the Hispanic Family Foundation to educate Latinos who are interested in starting a business on the cultural differences of running a company in America.

Students like Leo Ramos Solis, who has a dream of starting a fashion business, have been studying with Lipscomb students Dillon Van Rennes and Lydia Baker for six weeks to learn about American business laws, accounting skills and access to capital for their business.

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At the end of the six weeks of instruction, the students competed in a business pitch competition for a monetary prize. Ramos Solis was awarded first place for his business pitch and received $1,000 to use toward the creation of his fashion business.

The Hispanic Family Foundation is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for Hispanic families in Middle Tennessee.” This foundation uses platforms like economics, education, social services, advocacy and culture to strengthen the Nashville Hispanic community.

Rob Touchstone, the director of Center for Business As Mission, said the connection with the Hispanic Family Foundation was cultivated by Brent Culberson, the director of community, neighborhood and government relations at Lipscomb. Touchstone realized Lipscomb could add value to what the Hispanic Family Foundation was doing for Latino immigrants by teaching business classes.

“Compassion is good,” said Touchstone. “Compassion plus strategy is better. Compassion plus strategy plus sustainability is life changing. We believe the most strategic and sustainable way to help someone is to teach them entrepreneurial skills as a means of equipping them far beyond the handout. Teach a person to fish? Yes. But teach them to start a fishing business and you’ve created sustainable impact that can help not only an individual but an entire community.”

Touchstone selected Senior accounting major Dillon Van Rennes and junior entrepreneurship and human resources major Lydia Baker to facilitate and teach this course.

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Van Rennes and Baker both said most of the students in the class already have business knowledge and even an idea for their business but are uncertain how to carry that idea out in America.

“We are effectively showing them how to take their idea and move it into a business plan to execute and the responsibilities and the time commitment tied to learning the marketplace,” said Van Rennes.

Business as Mission is, as it sounds, a marriage of business, mission work and faith. It is “an invitation to participate in profitable business as a means of leveraging the marketplace to create sustainable solutions for the common good of those in need both locally and globally.”

Because of their experience in the Center for Business As Mission so far and the experiences they had teaching business knowledge recently in Kenya, Africa, Van Rennes and Baker were able to develop much of the curriculum themselves.

Van Rennes explained that there are nuances in conducting business in America that are different than in other countries. Most of the business accelerator students have experienced cultural barriers such as language, accounting standards, American laws, and lack of capital.

“The stakes are higher in America,” said Van Rennes. “This is their livelihood. They don’t have access to education like Lydia and I have access to education. It’s something we had to recognize going into this course.”

“I think the experiential learning taking place here is such a win for Lydia and Dillon,” said Touchstone. “They learned the information on one level in class, which served as a foundation. But taking that information and applying it experientially in a real-world setting takes their learning to an entirely new level. As a professor it’s so rewarding to see students take what you’ve taught them and use it to both learn and serve others at the same time.”

Although Baker did not feel like she was ready to be a teacher, she said she quickly realized what a unique opportunity it was to teach this class and knew Van Rennes and herself needed to share their knowledge. 

“When we first talked about doing this, I thought I wasn’t ready to be a teacher, “said Baker. “Then I thought more about it and how blessed we are to be here at Lipscomb with the professors we have and the classes we’re taking. I am so thankful for the access I have to education, and we are in the midst of that access as college students. We may not have our degrees yet, and that is where the doubt comes in, but when I got there, I thought to myself, this is knowledge I just learned. We’re sharing it because we have realized how blessed we are to have this access.”