Brandon Study still remembers the oppressive sunshine beating down upon his back last summer. Study had been crouched atop a home in El Salvador as he applied the final bolt to a repaired rooftop.
Handiwork is just one element of Study’s plan.
The junior Entrepreneurship major at Temple University’s Fox School of Business is the co-founder of Into The Nations, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower artisans in developing countries.
During the summer of 2014, Study met Amparo del Carmen Valle Velis, an El Salvadoran hammock weaver. Study, a Littlestown, Pa., native who has worked in El Salvador on a volunteer-basis for four years, credits Amparo with inspiring him to create the business model for Into The Nations.
Study is an amateur photographer with an appreciation for artistry. He admits he was amazed more by Amparo’s life story than with the beauty her hand-woven hammocks.
“She has a second-grade education,” Study said. “El Salvador had a war when she was in grade school, so she was constantly getting pulled out of school. I wanted to create something that would help an individual. I don’t mind if the impact we have doesn’t grow exponentially, but as long as we can help one person in a huge way, that’s really all I care about.”
In The Nations uses a small team of volunteers to identify an artisan. Then the team alleviates the artisan’s pressing needs, like Amparo’s dilapidated roof, before they develop a business model to help the artist sustain his or her work and bring it to the market.
Study will visit El Salvador over an upcoming holiday break from the Fox School to discuss with Amparo his vision for her business model. He said he plans to develop a supply chain by sourcing materials, before setting up necessary distribution channels to sell her work both in the United States and in El Salvador.
“We plan to work with her for about a year, sell her hammocks on our e-commerce site for a year and then, after that, really allow her to take ownership over it,” Study said.
Study’s ability to create a business model, he said, stemmed from his experiences within the Fox School and last year’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl®. In BYOBB, a university-wide business-plan competition for students, faculty, staff, and alumni, one of Study’s ventures advanced to the finals.
“I would really not know where to start if I had not gone through some of the curriculum at Fox, as well as the BYOBB,” Study said.
Study entered the Be Your Own Boss Bowl® with his Fox mentor, senior Entrepreneurship major Tim Mounsey. Their now-dissolved business, Cycle Clothing Co., used non-exploitative production and zero-waste manufacturing through a producer in Cambodia. Mounsey said Study’s passion for social impact was visible as they worked together for the competition.
“Helping people and making sure people’s wellbeing comes first is important for him,” Mounsey said. “I think he’ll carry that through anything he does in his life, especially with Into The Nations.”
Mounsey and Study are working with a team to create an innovation-themed festival for the Spring 2016 semester that would collaborate with several schools and colleges at Temple University.
“I’ve found that when you are willing to learn about people and really invest in what they need and walk alongside them, it is more of an empowerment than an investment,” Study said of Into The Nations. “In business school at Fox and in entrepreneurship work, I’ve started to understand that empowerment can come through creating a business.”