entrepreneurship

Drury grad turns passion for design, business and travel into career

By Jessie Roller

A master’s degree in business, another master’s degree in architecture, plus a passion for travel led 2013 Drury graduate Danny Collins to become a successful entrepreneur, launching his new company, Project Latitude, at age 28.

While at Drury, the Springfield native earned his undergraduate degree and both master’s degrees all in six years – no easy task given the rigorous nature of the programs. He recently returned to Drury to speak to business and architecture students about his ever-changing career path.

After graduation, Collins landed a job at an architecture firm in New York City. After working there three years, he realized the corporate world of architecture just wasn’t for him and he began forming the idea of combining the two passions in his life, architecture and travel, into what became Project Latitude.

Collins in Guatemala with the Waxpi duffle bag.

Collins in Guatemala with the Waxpi duffle bag.

“I’ve always been a person that desired to be a larger part of something small rather than a small part of something large,” Collins says. “I am a firm believer in passion in the workplace and the concept of living to work not simply working to live.”

Collins founded Project Latitude with his partner and friend, Javier Roig. Its products fund needed improvements in small towns and communities within Latin America, and potentially around the world. Each unique product is solely created in these communities, with earnings going back into the communities funding needs such as infrastructure improvements. Volunteers who travel to the community do much of the physical work.

Project Latitude has seen initial success with its first project and product: the Chaski backpack made in Ecuador. It began as a crowd-funded project on Kickstarter. A second product, the Waxpi duffle bag, is also made in Ecuador.

Collins describes the brand identity as “the urban adventurer.”

Danny Collins

“These will be items for the person who has an office job from 9-to-5, but also likes to get out and do some exploring,” he says. The products will continue to be made and produce revenue for its community even after the Project Latitude team of volunteers complete their improvements.

Collins attributes much of his success to Drury. “The liberal arts program was very fitting for someone like me,” he says, “where I could learn what it was that I wanted to do, but I didn’t have to go straight in having no other choices than the degree I had chosen.”

In addition to tackling two master’s degrees while in school, Collins was also a member of the men’s soccer team and was involved in the vibrant everyday life Drury offers. He says that intense blend of opportunities led to his desire to combine many different concepts into one career — which was really the underlying idea of the company.

During his recent talk with Drury students, Collins encouraged them not to settle for just any job, but instead to go out and find what they truly love and then make it into a career.

He also advocated for all students, and people, to study business in some way.

“The world is a business and everything we do is a business, in some fashion or another,” he says.

The Chaski backpack

The Chaski backpack

Collins says his MBA has helped him immensely with his business, and in his personal life. His business knowledge has been helpful to him with issues such as mortgage agreements, for example, which is why he believes business education can benefit everyone, no matter their career.

Collins and Roig have big dreams for their company. They hope to one day have their own Project Latitude storefront, but for now they are working on placing products into existing retail stores, such as 5 Pound Apparel in Springfield (a boutique business started by another Drury graduate, Bryan Simpson). The goal is to sell about 50 percent of their products at retail and the other 50 percent on their own online platform.

But the true endgame is about more than sales.

“The goal for Project Latitude would never be to just sell products,” Collins says. “We want it to be a lifestyle brand and a lifestyle in a community of people who just want to do cool things and do some good while they’re doing it.”

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Winners named in annual Startup Drury business plan competition

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 7, 2014 — Following weeks of hard work, the winners of the “Startup Drury” competition were recently chosen. The competition is sponsored by Drury’s Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and is open to students of all majors who think they may have “the next big idea.”

Ten teams made live pitches before the judges in April, following five weeks of working together to form an idea for a business and create a business plan. Teams could have one or more members and each team was assigned a mentor from the community. The mentors met with their teams in person or electronically throughout the process.

The winners were:

Overall winner  – Teleigh Martinez, for “Elektro Sustainable Dance Club;” $1,000 prize

Runner-up – Ali Barnes, Isaac Weber, Grant Brallier and Josh Avers, for “Yoga U;” $500 prize

Honorable mention – Melissa Buckner and Jake Jobes, for “Audio Vortex;” $250 prize

Broadest Appeal – Audio Vortex. This project will have the opportunity to raise capital via CrowdIt, the Springfield-based crowd funding website.

Best Green Business Model – Elektro Sustainable Dance Club

Best Social Business Model – Cody Stepp, Dakoda Trithara, Albeejohn Hummel and Rudy Daus for “EcoFin.” This project will represent Drury in the Barrentine Value and Ventures Business Plan Competition at Texas Christian University in 2015.

Judges for the competition were Rob Wheeler, owner of Marbeck Appliance Parts; Christine Daues, owner of Granolove; Jason Graf, founder of CrowdIt; Kailey York, partner at Clayton, York & Hopp, CPAs; and retired entrepreneur Leon Combs.

The presenting sponsor was Marbeck Appliance Parts. CrowdIt, Engineered Packaging and Chuck Banta were supporting sponsors.

Team mentors included Steve Nurnberg, Chris Jarratt, Chuck Banta, Hallie Sale, Terri Thornton, Brad Moulder, Lyle Foster, Loa Freeman, Jim Conley, Paula Adams, Terry Reynolds, Brenda Jackson, Sara Cochran and Katie Henderson

For more information, contact: Dr. Kelley Still, Director of the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, (417) 873-7458 or kstill@drury.edu.

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Physics Major Has Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Bag

Physics major Ebenezer Obasiolu never knew he had an entrepreneurial passion until he came to Drury and began pursuing an entrepreneurship minor. It was in these classes where he gained the knowledge and support to officially launch his business, O’Bazzië Classics.

Obasiolu, also known as EB, was motivated to start his business after his grandmother died in 2012.

“I was 12 years old when I left Nigeria, and that’s the last time I saw her,” said Obasiolu. “She had cancer and my family wasn’t able to fly her here for treatment, and I wasn’t able to go there to visit her before she died. After that, I thought, ‘What can I do right now to make sure that I can travel and make money?’”

ObazzieClassics

Obasiolu says he likes to “dress nice” and has always had a love for fashion. His first product reflects that — he has created an all-purpose, leather satchel that both men and women can use for causal or business activities. These hand-made bags are made in the U.S., come in a variety of colors, and come in three different sizes to fit books, a laptop, tablet, and other items.

Obasiolu said it took him about 8 months to perfect his design. He asked many of his friends for their opinions, made changes, and then sent his design to a factory for production.

“I have about 29 designs that no one has seen,” he said. “I’m a huge perfectionist and I wouldn’t make something that I wouldn’t wear.”

O’Bazzië Classics is preparing to launch a website this spring as part of the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship’s “StartUp Drury” Business Model Competition.

Obasiolu currently has an 8-person team working for him, helping him to manage social media, sales and marketing. Three members of the team attend Drury. Obasiolu has already created 46-page marketing plan and an 80-page business model. He is also planning to tour the West Coast this summer to Vancouver, Los Angeles, Portland and even Brazil for marketing and sales events.

Although Obasiolu wants to make a profit, he also has a philanthropic mission with his company. For every bag sold, O’Bazzië Classics will send a bag filled with school supplies to a child in Africa. O’Bazzië classics also plans to collaborate with an international humanitarian organization in the future. The idea of using O’Bazzië Classics to solve a social problem came out of taking a class called “Social Problems/Entrepreneurial Answers” with former instructor Kay Osborne.

“I will always be thankful to her,” Obasiolu said of Osborne. “That’s where I really realized my entrepreneurial potential.”

By next year, Obasiolu hope to sell at least 10,000 bags. You can currently view the products from O’Bazzië Classics on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To purchase the products, customers can email obazzieclassics@gmail.com or message one of the company’s social media outlets.

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Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, English and writing major at Drury. A version of this story first ran in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Winners crowned in Startup Drury competition

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 24, 2013 — Weeks of hard work finally came down to competition day for teams of Drury students working on “the next great idea.” The overall winner of the Startup Drury competition was Parker LiaBraaten with his company idea WaterWatch. LiaBraaten was crowned the winner on Thursday, April 4.

LiaBraaten is a sophomore and received the Curt Strube Cup, named for the late Director of the Breech School of Business Administration. His business idea also won Broadest Appeal, allowing him the opportunity to raise capital on CrowdIt, a new crowd-funding platform. In addition, LiaBraaten earned $1,000 and now has the opportunity to attend the College Entrepreneurship Organization’s National Conference and compete in the Elevator Pitch competition. “This is a venture that I actually want to pursue and bring to the market,” said LiaBraaten. “I have put a lot of hard work into this and I’m excited for my next big break.”

First Runner-up and winner of $500 was Corey Wiley and his idea of the Wiley House. Honorable Mention and $250 went to Jeremiah George, Elena Ferris, Kevin Daroga, and Dakota Trithara with their start up idea, Little Momma’s. The plan with the best chance of high growth was IVision, developed by Blake Worland, Kyle Kiely and Brett Stiffler. This group will now have the chance to present their idea to the Springfield Angel Network.

This was the first Startup Drury competition and students of all majors were able to participate. “What is so great about university-wide business model competitions is that we get students with all kinds of majors involved – it pushed entrepreneurship beyond the business school,” said Dr. Kelley Still, executive director of the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship. “The level of engagement and quality of ideas truly exceeded my expectations and it was a very exciting competition.”

Judges for the competition were:

  • Leon Combs, retired entrepreneur
  • Jason T. Graf, founder, CrowdIt, LLC
  • Brenda Ryan, founder, Alliance Technologies and Ryan Industries, Inc
  • Rob Wheeler, owner MarBeck.com
  • Kailey York, partner, Clayton, York and Hopp, CPAs

Drury University’s Edwrad Jones Center for Entrepreneurship would like to thank judges, sponsors and team mentors for assisting with the Startup competition. Over 20 professionals from the community mentored teams in the competition. MarBeck.com was the presenting sponsor. Engineered Packaging, Chuck Banta and CrowdIt were supporting sponsors.

Drury University’s Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization, the C-Street Business Resource Center, and the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship all co-hosted Startup Drury.

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Drury recognizes Entrepreneurship Week with kickoff of Idea Competition

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Feb. 13, 2013 — On Thursday, Feb. 14, some of Drury’s most entrepreneurial minds will begin a quest to create Drury’s best business model and win a $1,000 cash prize. The Startup Drury Idea Competition will culminate with final presentations on Thursday, April 4. The event is on the eve of National Entrepreneurship Week, which runs Feb. 16-23.

The competition is open to current Drury undergraduates or December 2012 graduates. Teams will be made up of one-to-four students and each team will be assigned a mentor from the community and the teams will be required to meet with the mentor at least three times as they develop their business models.

Besides the $1,000 cash prize for the winning team, that group will also have the opportunity to attend the College Entrepreneurship Organization’s National Conference and compete in the Elevator Pitch competition. The second and third place teams will win $500 and $250 respectively. Additionally, the idea with the best chance of starting up quickly will have an opportunity to present to the Springfield Angel Investors Network. The idea with the broadest appeal will have an opportunity to raise capital on Crowd-It, and the top “green” business idea will attend the Missouri Environmental Initiative.

When students meet in the Breech School of Business to begin the competition, they’ll hear from Drury freshman Jerrod Harmon. Harmon co-owns EDJy, an extreme sports apparel company that focuses on skateboarding, surfing and BMX. Harmon owns the company with his brother and cousin and works with Skate for Change to provide food and water to low-income and homeless people.

Drury University’s Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization, Drury on C-Street and the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship will co-host the Startup Drury Idea Competition.

Media: The Startup Drury Idea Competition begins at noon on Thursday, Feb. 14, in the Breech School of Business, Room 200.

Media Contact: Dr. Kelley Still, Director of the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, Office: (417) 873-7458, Email: kstill@drury.edu

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Drury’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium is Saturday, Feb. 2

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 17, 2013 — Drury’s annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, (WES) sponsored by The Edward Jones Center forEntrepreneurship, is Saturday, Feb. 2 in Reed Auditorium of the Trustee Science Center. The conference runs from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The $25 registration fee includes breakfast and lunch.

There will be two keynote sessions:

  • Morning: Pamela Hernandez, owner of Thrive Personal Fitness, will talk about her experience and successes in blogging for her business.
  • Afternoon: Susie Farbin and Diana Hicks, owners of Mama Jean’s Natural Market will tell attendees how they became successful entrepreneurs with three locations in Springfield.

Attendees will also have the choice of several breakout sessions, which will address the following topics:

  • The Self-employed need retirement, too!
  • The Necessity Entrepreneur.
  • Working alone, but not lonely—shared workspaces.
  • Social Business versus Nonprofit.
  • Protect yourself—Business liability issues.
  • Startup on the side.
  • Become more bankable.
  • In business for yourself, not by yourself—Startup in an established network.

This year, for the first time, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium will give awards for the Women’s Entrepreneur of the Year and the Women’s Start-up of the year.

Registration for the February 2nd Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium is open at www.drury.edu/ejc/wes.

Media Contact: Sara Cochran, Assistant Director, Edward Jones Center, Office: (417) 873-3014, E-mail: scochran@drury.edu

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Keynote speakers for 2012 Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium announced

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 10, 2012 — Drury’s annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, (WES) sponsored by The Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, will feature two keynote speakers. Adrienne Kallweit and Shannon Wilburn are two women who started their own companies. The fourth annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference (WES) is on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Kallweit is president and owner of SeekingSitters Franchise System, Inc. Based in Tulsa,

Adrienne Kallweit

SeekingSitters applies the stringent background screening Kallweit learned working in her family’s private investigation business to the process of screening childcare workers. Kallweit is a mother of three who saw a problem, finding reliable childcare, and turned the solution into a multi-million dollar company. For more information visit: www.seekingsitters.com.

Shannon Wilburn is Co-Founder and CEO of Just Between Friends Franchise Systems, Inc. Just Between Friends is the nation’s leading children’s and maternity consignment sales event. Established in 2004, the company has grown from just eleven franchises in its first year to 121 franchises in 24 states, with several under development. For more information

Shannon Wilburn

visit: www.jbfsale.com.

Registration for the February 4 WES Conference begins on Jan. 17 at www.drury.edu/ejc/wes.

Cost of the conference is $25, which includes breakfast and lunch. The conference runs from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. in Reed Auditorium of the Trustee Science Center. Besides the two keynote speakers, there will be presentations and breakout sessions with accountants, attorneys, bankers and other business experts.

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