A biblical approach to business
Brian Morris spent his entire 40-year career in the business world helping upstart businesses open new franchises and troubleshoot problems. Now, he does the same work, but for free.
Morris is one of the mentors in the Incubator program with Liberty University’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Like many of the mentors, he is paired with a Liberty student who has a business idea they want to pursue in the Lynchburg community. Morris is paired with Lillian McSweeney, who is starting a crochet business.
The Center for Entrepreneurship’s mission is twofold, to benefit both the student and the local community, according to Assistant Director Alexandru Barker.
“We want to help people solve problems and change the world,” Barker said. “For students, they benefit by being paired with local mentors, and the community also benefits because the mentors come from the community, and the businesses provide services for the community.”
Part of the benefit of being paired through Liberty’s program is the business and spiritual mentorship young businesspeople receive.
“I always start with Scripture,” Morris said. “Values like being truthful, having integrity, honesty, hard work, … are practical in the business world, but are also found in the Bible.”
Liberty alumnus Jason Alford is another mentor in the program. He stayed in the local community and currently works at Davenport and Co. Investment Firm. He sees the Incubator program as a way to give back to the university that benefited him so much.
“I believe everybody has innate wisdom,” Alford said. “You have to give students the right context to pull it out of themselves and give them time and space to think about what they are doing, why they are doing it and is there a better way to go about it.”
While other universities are willing to support businesses based on how profitable or likely to succeed it is, Barker has a different idea of what he looks for.
“I want to see a student who has vision and passion, shows maturity and can commit to the hard work,” Barker said.
By focusing less on the profitability and more on developing successful young businesspeople who are pursuing their dream, Barker and the Center for Entrepreneurship have seen both growth and success in its first year.
Looking forward, Barker hopes the center can help further integrate students into the community and give them the desire to take their businesses to the next level even after the student graduates. He hopes by starting these students on the path to success in Lynchburg, they will want to stay and be part of the community after they leave Liberty.
“Lynchburg is such a great startup area,” Barker said. “It really could become the Silicon Valley of the East Coast if people invest in it. I don’t see why any student would not want to start a business here if they could.”