Young Entrepreneur Finds Big Opportunities

by Hohna Hartley

Who would have thought a roadside vegetable stand started by a 10-year-old would meet with resounding success? Maybe no one. But Justin Powell took his first entrepreneurial leap as only a boy and landed on his feet. Fast-forward nine years, and Powell’s first vegetable stand, once stationed in his grandfather’s front yard, has expanded to four locations, operates six days a week through the summer, and generates enough income to cover the cost of his college education.

So when Powell started looking for a place to spend his college fund, he wanted a school that was fairly close to his home in Arcanum, Ohio, a community that shared his values, and a business program that would help him hone his burgeoning business skills.

During a visit to Cedarville, he met Dr. David Schmidt, associate professor of management in the business department. Schmidt, an entrepreneur as well as a professor, made a positive impression on Powell from the start, answering his questions in a way that Powell found especially helpful. So it was only natural that when the young entrepreneur returned to Cedarville as a student, he sought out Schmidt for guidance on his future business plans and educational career.

It was Schmidt who guided Powell through the development of a business plan that would further expand his roadside vegetable stand into a permanent facility. And when the opportunity arose, it was also Schmidt who helped Powell pursue the prestigious Witherspoon Fellowship in Washington, D.C.

The Witherspoon Fellowship is a semester-long internship hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization “dedicated to the promotion of marriage and family and the sanctity of human life in national policy.” Students attending the Fellowship undergo a semester of intellectual and spiritual formation in which they study together, work for the FRC, and develop a better understanding of faith and biblical worldview in the context of our nation’s political system.

Though only a handful of students are accepted for the Fellowship each semester, Powell was among those chosen for the fall class of 2008. In addition to the 200 to 300 pages of reading he does each week, he also attends classes, goes on field studies, and interns at the FRC, working with the department that develops and maintains relationships with the organization’s financial supporters.

The connection between a public policy internship and Powell’s love of business may not be obvious at first, but, he says, “I’ve learned how to develop contacts and have been able to see how good business principles are put into practice at a nonprofit organization like the Research Council. I’ve also learned quite a bit about the world and about myself, so it’s been a great experience.”

As for his future plans, Powell isn’t necessarily going to turn his roadside vegetable stand into a more permanent venture and is unsure what type of business he will pursue in light of the current economy. Not surprisingly, he has solicited Schmidt’s opinion on the matter.

For Powell, Cedarville helped provide not only a business education but also a business mentor and an internship opportunity that has challenged him and better prepared him for whatever his future holds.