EARTH, ethics, and entrepreneurship are more than alliteration. Over the years, the University had seen blossom an array of student business projects, which is one of the main pillars of the college experience at EARTH. Few institutions in the world, including business schools, offer students the possibility of running a real company with all of its real world challenges.
Karibu, a company created to “provide quality tourism services with innovative activities,” has distinguished itself as one of the most profitable student enterprises in EARTH’s history. Established by six students from the Class 2014—Aloyce Gonzaga Lekuton (Kenya), Amos Montreuil Jean (Haiti), Karina Paola Poveda Coto (Costa Rica), Marisla Patricia Rivera Paz (Guatemala), Marybell Muñoz and Julio César Gómez Palacios (Colombia)—they operated this agro-educational tourism company during their second year at EARTH.
Offering tours in both English and Spanish of the ethnobotanic and peri-urban gardens on EARTH’s Guácimo campus and activities such as aromatherapy and relaxation treatments, the project made enough money to pay off the initial loan given by the University, interest, expenses and labor, and generate a net profit of $1,300 for each of Karibu’s members.
Recognizing that in an ethical business, it’s not just about money and profits, Karina Paula, member of Karibu, explains, “We tried to take care of our surroundings by planting 100 trees in Volio, located in the area of Talamanca, and we always had a strong social commitment. We gave free trainings and donated materials for local schools. We also shared our experience with groups of indigenous women in Talamanca.”
The members of Karibu share the secrets that made this company an example for the next generation of ethical entrepreneurs developing their business acumen at EARTH.
In the multicultural environment on EARTH’s campus, which is not so unlike what you find in today’s globalized world, respect plays an important role. As Aloyce explains: “Within Karibu, we were six partners from different countries, with different cultures and habits; therefore, respect was essential”.
2. Decisions based on strict market analysis
Amos says that “the big mistake made by many entrepreneurial projects inside the University is ignoring the market analysis completed as part of the feasibility study. We, as an agro-tourism company, identified the months in which the international demand for tours and workshops was low at the University. During those months, we focused on attracting local tourism, with more accessible prices for retirement homes, local schools and so on. In that way, we were able to keep generating income and not depend just on the University’s educational tourism program.”
“We did everything together and no one was more important than the other; we are all the same and we get along like brothers and sisters”, says Aloyce, reflecting on the relationship with his coworkers.
Karina Paula agrees with this point: “More than a group, we were a team, in which each of us had specifics tasks, but we all supported different areas of the company in order to learn and balance the workload.”
Related to teamwork, each student assumed responsibility for the company’s success. As Amos explains: “In the beginning, we assigned each member a managerial responsibility to make sure everyone had an active part.”
However, in Karibu they decided to go further and rotate positions, giving them the opportunity to be in each other’s shoes and to build trust. “We rotated the roles each month, so we could learn all the company’s aspects,” explains Amos.
Along with their individual responsibility to the company’s success, Karibu also exemplified social and environmental responsibility. As Karina Paula shares, “We always believed that everything we did needed to have a positive impact. That’s why we decided to focus on spreading knowledge of alternative production techniques like hydroponics and the ancestral knowledge of medicinal plants. Besides that, we supported small-scale artisans by buying their crafts at a fair price and showing their work to our customers.”
Karibu’s members decided to maximize social networks and blogs as an essential part of their marketing strategy. Aloyce explains that he and his partners created a Facebook page (Karibu Company) and a blog to communicate with their customers. “People who had never heard about EARTH decided to come,” says Amos. He adds that social networks served as a place to receive feedback: “Customers shared their impressions of our tours and workshops and gave us ideas to improve.”
6. Acknowledgment of the efforts of company members
Amos explains, “The most important thing in our professional relationship was opening a space to acknowledge a specific effort of each Karibu member during every meeting. That created a good work environment and helped us to reach our goals.”
“That was something basic,” agrees Karina Paula. “The constant communication and feedback by the whole team helped us improve day by day”.
7. Love what you do
There is no better guarantee that you will always give your best than loving what you do. “We had a good organization and committed people, but because all of us were in love with the project it made everything we did that much better,” says Karina Paula.
Aloyce agrees: it was the love for the agro tourism which made the difference. “In Karibu, each of the members loved what he or she did, and that made each person the ideal one for the job.”
Want to start your own company while still in college? Study with us at EARTH. Apply here.
You must be logged in to post a comment.