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Students use business skills to serve others


While on a study abroad trip to Thailand in December, FIU student Estela Lewin Huamani was struck by the poor conditions at an orphanage she visited.  When she learned that local women were selling handmade silk scarves to buy food and clothing for the children, she saw an opportunity.

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FIU Senior Estela Lewin Huamani discovered a business opportunity while visiting an orphanage in Thailand – selling handmade silk scarves in Miami to raise money for food and clothing for the children.

“They were selling the scarves for $3 or $4 on the street,’’ said Lewin Huamani, a senior in international business and management. “Here in Miami, people would pay $30 or $40 for these scarves. The stories over there are really, really sad. I wanted to do something to help.’’

Lewin Huamani, who graduates in May, devised a plan to ship the scarves to Miami and sell them online and at “scarf parties.” She also plans to distribute them to friends in Latin America to sell there, with all proceeds returning to the orphanage.

Her project to benefit the Baan ChivitMai “Home for Life” is one of several student initiatives that earned top honors at a regional competition in Atlanta this week.

The group, Enactus FIU, uses business strategies learned in the classroom to create projects to benefit the community.  This fall, Enactus FIU team members logged more than 500 hours in five projects.

The students worked with faculty advisors and members of a business advisory board to tackle issues ranging from financial literacy to healthy eating in communities as close as Sweetwater and as far away as Colombia.

The goal of the program, said faculty advisor and finance professor Dr. Deanne Butchey, is to enable students to use their entrepreneurial skills to “think outside the box” and develop solutions for communities in need.

In Sweetwater, students organized seminars on healthy eating and created meal plans for 50 children to promote better eating habits. They developed a “train the trainer” component so teachers and parents could replicate educational activities to teach kids about nutrition.

Working with the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless, students presented financial literacy courses at a homeless center, showing individuals how to budget, save, repair their credit and create a financial plan to improve their lives.

One Enactus student created a business that sends school supplies to children in Colombia with every purchase of women’s clothing. Another developed a business plan to help combat hunger and poverty in third-world countries.

The team presented its work at a competition in Atlanta on April 2 and was named an Enactus Regional Champion. More than 40 teams participated from Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. FIU faculty advisor Donald Roomes, a senior instructor in management and international business, also attended the competition.

“This was our first year so we basically went for the experience with no expectation of winning,’’ said team president David Kinne, a senior in finance and management. “We were really happy to showcase the work our students are doing.’’

FIU’s Enactus team is one of more than 500 Enactus chapters in the U.S. and has 36 student members. The team now advances to the 2013 Enactus U.S. National Exposition in Kansas City, Missouri in May. National champion teams then go on to compete in the Enactus World Cup in Cancun, Mexico.

Beyond the philanthropic contributions they make, students have the opportunity to present their projects to prospective employers during the annual Enactus competition, Butchey said. Several students lined up job interviews during the event and two received job offers on the spot.

“The judges are business leaders from Fortune 500 companies,’’ Butchey said. “Not only do the students have the chance to help the community and do something they have a passion for, they are also expanding their career opportunities.’’

To learn more about Enactus FIU, visit http://business.fiu.edu/enactus.

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