STORY BY ANGELA UFHEIL
A school built on stilts and supported by trash in a hurricane-ridden area sounds horrifying to students in the United States, but for students in developing countries, this situation is their reality. Four Drake University students are striving to change that.
Josh Duden, Sam Daley, Danielle Day and Daniel Finn are the brainpower behind Make Your Mark, their new start-up company designed to provide financial aid to schools needing financial support.
“We became really passionate about education and recognized that there are places in the world that don’t even have schools,” said Drake junior and CEO Josh Duden. “So often it seems that finances and support are what is holding education back. We want to give them the tools they need to succeed.”
But providing those tools is a complicated process. Planning for Make Your Mark began last summer. Danielle Day, the Chief Officer of Education and Outreach, established partnerships with schools in need. She and Duden hope to eventually travel to sites where assistance is needed.
The company name came in a burst of inspiration while at Smokey Row coffee shop.
“We decided we wanted to make our mark on something we care about, and that became the theme of the company. Allowing others to make their mark through our product and organization,” Duden said.
The students are planning to sell backpacks and other products that they design with the help of Guangzhou KingYeen Fashion & Leather Co. Ltd, a Chinese manufacturing company that respects human rights and offers fair wages to their workers. Finn, sophomore and Chief Financial Officer was essential to finding a reasonably priced manufacturing option.
Fifteen to 30 percent of the initial profits will go toward providing material for a proper foundation at a Belize school.
“We plan on increasing that percentage after recouping costs associated with starting the company,” Duden said.
Make Your Mark would also like to reach out to Africa, namely Burkina Faso, Uganda and Zimbabwe, where literacy rates are amongst the lowest in the world.
Associate Professor of Practice in Management and International Business Debra Bishop is excited to see students starting their own business while still in school.
“There’s nothing that says they have to wait until they graduate,” Bishop said. “In fact, we don’t want them to.”
Bishop, who helps mentor the Make Your Mark team, says that running a business while in school can be tricky.
“The academics as a student need to be important,” Bishop said. “But pursuing your dream is important as well.”
Duden explains that the company is designed to accommodate student life.
“We want to make sure we are able to not only meet this mission, but also meet our own missions of graduating with degrees,” Duden said.
The students hope to continue with Make Your Mark after graduation. “Drake has made me realize how lucky and how fortunate I am to have a world-class education,” said junior and Chief Operations Officer Sam Daley. “I don’t want to take that for granted.”
Make Your Mark kicks off on Feb 2. Go to http://www.buymym.com to buy a backpack or for more information about how to contribute