BOLIVAR—The story of TMB Recycling here illustrates the creative impact that the Southwest Baptist University (SBU) Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) team is having in its community concerning job creation in a bad economy.
Because SBU is so in tune with the business trends of its host city, SIFE leaders could tell that TMB, which began in October 2010, was well positioned to be the recycling leader in 2012. Armed with that knowledge, about a half dozen SIFE specialists went about the business of serving the owner, Mike Burrows.
“They spent a lot of time out here at first,” said Burrows, 45. “I’d see them three, sometimes four times a week. They were just seeing how the operation worked, standing back and looking at things. They didn’t ever tell me I had to do anything. They just gave me suggestions.”
Bolivar is too small for curbside recycling, so Burrows needs to make money by collecting recycled items from businesses. Both he and his wife, Belinda, worked at a local restaurant (as a cook and manager, respectively) before he was inspired to quit his job and become a small business owner. In the midst of him trying to do all of the work—a tiring process—the SIFE team showed up.
“They can throw a lot of ideas at you that give you different aspects,” Burrows said. “None of them think quite the same. That’s what they did here for me.”
Some of the students perused the company’s books. Based on what they saw, the students showed Burrows, who was old enough to be their father, how he could direct more money toward payroll and hire his first full-time employee, which is exactly what he was able to do in the early part of the year. Since then he has hired two more employees.
“I knew nothing,” Burrows said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, if they know more about it than I do, I’ll listen.”
Listening to the students tell him what businesses he could add to his list for recycling pickups has caused TMB’s workload to go “crazy,” Burrows said, to the point where “we can’t get it all done.” Although he must work long hours to service the city, the volume in his revenue stream increased approximately 40 percent in February and has remained very robust. Burrows said he is proud to be the owner of a thriving business.
“It makes me feel very good,” he said. “It’s a very viable business. We’re making money. I replaced the income that I had, plus a little. I’m my own boss and I put other people to work, and I like that. I want to see people succeed.”
Troy Bethards, who serves as SIFE co-advisor on campus with Angie Wright, said the project was important because it helped Bolivar establish a sustainable recycling option. Grant money was used to set up 21 pickup locations around the community, and a city-wide site for Bolivar and Polk County was also created. Advertisements and awareness efforts were also key to this project.
“I really appreciate what they did for me,” Burrows said.
SBU President C. Pat Taylor said that SIFE efforts like the one put forth on behalf of TMB really do demonstrate all that is excellent about the university.
“The most important thing is when a SIFE student graduates from here they have really developed that servant leadership mindset that we think is so important at SBU,” Taylor said.