Whitman Entrepreneurs seek to improve job prospects

amyhasson

Finding a job post-graduation can be more difficult than finding an open table at the library during finals week. With the right connections and an entrepreneurial approach however, Whitman students might be able to create their own jobs and turn their passions into a career.

First-year students Amy Shearer and Tim Reed aren’t wasting any time. This semester they created the Whitman Entrepreneurs group to begin building the skills and relationships needed to turn their ideas into reality.

Unsurprisingly, both Shearer and Reed are entrepreneurially minded. During a gap year, Reed spent six months in South Africa attending the African Leadership Academy, a two-year school that enrolls African students from all over the continent with the hopes of teaching them entrepreneurship and leadership skills.

At the Academy Reed started a photography business and felt invigorated by the entrepreneurial environment.

“Entrepreneurial people are amazing people to be around; they are a different breed to some extent. They are willing to take risks and go for it, which I personally really like,” said Reed.

Shearer’s entrepreneurial visions are quite different in nature. Ever since childhood, she has loved designing greeting cards. She hopes to turn this passion into a business by starting her own greeting card line.

Shearer and Reed were inspired to start the Whitman Entrepreneurship group after realizing how many other Whitman students were similarly interested in developing their entrepreneurial skills.

“Whitties are ideal entrepreneurs. They have such a broad range of skills in so many different areas, and they are really passionate about the things that they do,” Reed said. “So, it really just becomes a matter of really getting that going in a cohesive and conductive manner.”

Noah Leavitt, assistant dean for student engagement and faculty adviser for Whitman Entrepreneurs, insists that no matter what any student wants to do when they get out of college, they have to be thinking like entrepreneurs.

“There are going to be fewer and fewer positions out there that are established and set up that you can find and get yourself into,” Leavitt said. “It is going to be more and more the case that [jobs] are going to need to be developed, created, innovated and built.” Leavitt stresses that Whitman, despite not offering a formal business or accounting major, prepares students for entrepreneurship through its liberal arts education, encouraging students to approach problems analytically and creatively.

The Student Engagement Center, along with the college, seeks ways to further support students interested in entrepreneurship.

“Whatever Amy and Tim ask of us we’ll probably try to help make happen,” said Leavitt. “There isn’t a lot of focused attention [on entrepreneurship], and I think this student group will help change that.”

While Shearer and Reed have many ideas for future plans for the group, their primary goal is to support group members’ entrepreneurial ambitions and interests.

“The cool thing about this group is that we really want to cater it to the students’ interests that are involved. So the students are really helping us form the direction of the group,” said Shearer.

One of the group members, sophomore Kristen Whittington, is toying with the idea of starting a bakery or leading workshops centered around healthy cooking. Whittington joined the group in order to learn more about entrepreneurship and make connections with local, successful entrepreneurs.

“A lot of the networking is a big thing for me,” Whittington said. Whittington also looks forward to talking to people who have started their own businesses and succeeded. “They are kind of like little cheerleaders,” said Whittington.

With the help of the Student Engagement Center, the group already has a list of local entrepreneurs who are excited to meet with the group. Last week the group met with Director of Academic Resources Juli Dunn, one of the owners of The Sweet Putt. Local entrepreneurs that the group might meet with in the future include the owners of Graze Restaurant, the Director of Walla Walla’s recently reopened Small Business Development Center and a Whitman alumna who started her own winery.

Shearer and Reed say that the Whitman Entrepreneurship group is not just for students interested in starting a business. Students with any level of interest in entrepreneurship or who have a desire to turn something they are passionate about into a business or non-profit organization are encouraged to join the group.

“Entrepreneurship is about being really passionate about something and pursuing that full-heartedly,” Shearer said. “Entrepreneurship can be so many different things.”

Whitman Entrepreneurs meets every Friday at noon in the Jewett Hall Main Lounge.

Should Walla Walla do away
with glass recycling? This
was the question presented
to attendees of a Sustainability
Committee meeting on Tues.,
March 6 at the Walla Walla City
Hall. The committee accepted public
comment regarding the current
glass recycling program and resolving
to bring concerns and ideas
from the community before the
City Council to assist in their upcoming
decision for the program.
“The sustainability committee
vetted [the program] over the
course of about six months last
year and determined that the current
program really is not sustainable
by any definition of the
word: economically, environmentally,
or [from a] social equity
standpoint,” said Sustainability
Coordinator Melissa Warner.
The city of Walla Walla removed
glass from its curbside collection
program in 2008, instead
placing several drop-off points
for glass products around town.
Since then, the city has collected
almost 1000 tons of glass from
these depots, all of which has been
brought to the Sudbury Landfill
to be crushed and used as stabilizer
for asphalt roads. In past
years, the city sent the glass on
to a bottle manufacturer in Portland,
but rising gas costs and low
market value for glass have made
this economically infeasible.
“The glass market is low
and very stagnant. It has been for
probably the last 20 to 25 years.
There’s not really been any kind
of incentive for the glass manufacturing
industry to purchase
that material, particularly from
jurisdictions like [Walla Walla]
who have a collection [they]
need to get rid of,” said Warner.
Walla Walla is not the only
community in Washington struggling
with an excess of empty
bottles; Spokane, with a population
nearly eight times that of
Walla Walla, has also been stockpiling
its glass over the past few
years. In the nearby city of Yakima,
glass is ignored by the local
recycling system and ends up
in the dump with other garbage.
In Walla Walla, the inconvenience
of having to transport
glass to collection spots
discourages many businesses
and community residents
from participating in the system.
“If I had to guess, the majority
of glass in this community
is already going into the landfill,”
said Sustainability Committee
member Sandra Cannon.
Some local business owners
agreed that Walla Walla city policy
has given them little incentive to
go to the effort of recycling glass.
“The problem that we’ve
had over the years is that [glass
recycling] has been inconsistent.
It’s allowable at times, and
then they shut it down . . . It’s
so inconsistent we just kind of
dropped it,” said Jim Moyer, owner
of Fort Walla Walla Cellars.
Ron Williams of Waterbrook
Winery felt similarly.
“The great tragedy is that Walla
Walla does not [collect] glass.
. . We occasionally try to take a
truckload to the recycle [depot].
Even in that case they’re not recycling,
they’re reusing,” he said.
Williams noted that while wineries
currently have no financial
incentive to recycle their glass,
the moral incentive still exists.
“I think more wineries in
Walla Walla would really get behind
[recycling] just because of
the demographic. Many of us
come from places where recycling
is incredibly normal, so
it’s weird to come someplace
where you can’t recycle,” he said.
At the Sustainability Committee’s
meeting, residents came to
present their own ideas about the
program. Among the proposed solutions
were downtown glass art
installations and campaigning for
a statewide “bottle bill” which
would require a refundable deposit
on all plastic or glass bottles.
City Council member Barbara
Clark said she was encouraged by
the strong community presence at
the meeting, and hoped to receive
more public feedback in the future.
“From my own perspective,
the usefulness of having people
[at the meeting] is that there are always
a few members of the council
who think, why should we
bother with recycling at all?” she
said. “It is useful for the council
to see that a lot of members of
the public really want to see recycling
happen and would like
the city to at least keep looking
into possibilities for recycling.”
Walla Walla resident Kurt Othburg
said he makes use of the current
glass recycling system and hopes
to see it continued in some form.
“We’re dedicated glass recyclers.
We’ve liked this program
since they started it four years ago
. . . I think it’s a good idea [to recycle
glass], especially because
[Walla Walla] is the wine capital
of the state. Can you imagine
wine in plastic bottles?” he said.
Other residents have a personal
stake in the recycling program.
“When I was in college I
helped canvas to get a bottle bill
on the ballot, but outside money
from bottle manufacturers outspent
the public and got it defeated. I’d
like to see [the city] recycle more.
I want to leave our kids a better
planet, rather than lots of overfilled
landfills,” said resident Beth Powers,
also present at the meeting.
Whitman students also
had ideas for the future of glass
processing in Walla Walla.
“It would be cool if Whitman
offered jobs related to cleaning
out bottles [for reuse]. If you
could get students volunteering
their time that would make
things a lot easier,” said sophomore
Jenny Gonyer, who lives at
the Outhouse and recycles weekly.
At present, however, no
practical solutions seem imminent
and the glass reuse program
is still in jeopardy.
“Nothing’s really on the immediate
horizon to find a different,
better solution,” said Warner.
The council will deliberate
on the issue in April and implement
their decision in May.
In the meantime, they will continue
to accept comments on
its website through March 20.