Ashley Blake, member of the Spartanburg Church, first joined the Southern Adventist University’s Enactus chapter during her freshman year. Housed in the School of Business, its mission is to engage the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders to use innovation and business principles to improve the world. During her sophomore year, she became a project manager and led a project that raised funding and increased sustainability for a doctor in India who performed cataract surgeries. During her junior year, she became the president of Southern’s Enactus team.
One Friday afternoon, Ashley received an email highlighting an interesting project. A student missionary from Southern had started the Akuna Soap Industry at Riverside Farm Institute in Zambia, which was helping to create local jobs. Riverside grows soybeans, among other things, and since soap can be made from soybean oil, the student had spearheaded a miniature soap production industry to benefit the community. The operation was very successful but very basic.The employees at the Akuna Soap Industry in Zambia would
make soap using buckets, mixers connected to electric drills, and molds. However, the team aimed to upgrade the operation by constructing a factory.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about that email,” Ashley remembers. “I loved that it was an entrepreneurial operation being propelled by a Southern student.”
She decided to use her position with Enactus to help with business development
and wrote a project vision charter to help Akuna Soap raise $135,000. She proposed
the goal of supporting the project while in its startup phase with the aim of helping the business become sustainable on its own. When Ashley and club sponsor Professor
Michelle Doucoumes presented the idea to a local alum serving on the Enactus
advisory board, and he was so enthusiastic that he helped them connect with
others until they achieved full funding for the project.
This past year, Ashley got the chance to go as a student missionary to Riverside
Farm. A business and accounting major, she was excited to have another hands-on opportunity through Southern to use her professional skills to assist others. She helped
manage all areas of the project, from running the new factory to helping grow the sales and marketing areas of the business. She especially focused on local women who needed jobs,
and their sales team grew from three women to 30.
Ashley was deeply impacted by the stark difference between the wealthy Zambians, residing
in opulence, and the impoverished ones, residing in huts made of grass with limited access to
clean water and opportunities. She was proud to be a part of an organization that made a significant positive impact on the lives of people who otherwise have limited access to basic necessities. In addition to creating many jobs, Riverside sponsors evangelism training, has
launched more than 50 churches, and sponsors the education of many local children.
“I grew so much as a person during my time there,” says Ashley. “I loved being a part of something that made such a positive impact in people’s lives.”
— Angela Baerg