FLAME flickers during pandemic and membership drop

Georgia Lodewyk—Staff Writer

Contributed Photo

On Thursday, April 16, Dordt University business students packed their bags and hit the road at 6:30 a.m. Those in attendance were all involved with Dordt’s business club: FLAME, which stands for Future Leaders and Missional Entrepreneurs. Their road trip took them to Rapid City, SD, where the group toured Mount Rushmore, received an inside look into the local businesses, and partook in Wall Drug scavenger hunt.

For many business majors and minors, the weekend getaway proved to be a great opportunity to bond with people of the same study.

“When you spend time and a trip with people, it’s just fun. You always get to interact with those people more, because we’re all business majors, and we’re all excited about this,” FLAME member Sara DeYoung, a sophomore, said.

Some trip highlights come from the fun memories and friendships built on the trip—from impromptu snowball fights, to escape rooms, to inside jokes shared during the drive. For DeYoung, the trip was a great weekend to build relationships and also to learn more about her future career. 

The group met with national park members about Mount Rushmore’s finances and advertising strategies, and also with a unique Rapid City business, Elevate Rapid City. The students learned this business works with the city’s Chamber of Commerce to help aid new businesses in networking and economic development, while also providing them with the tools and skills needed to get their business off the ground. For DeYoung, learning how a business like this can be applied both nationally and abroad was reaffirming in her future career goals, as she can see herself using business as a missional outreach.

“If you start a business, it creates a trickle effect… it grows and grows and that’s how you get people out of poverty” DeYoung said. “You’re doing this for Jesus and people need the tools to do this.”

COVID-19 has halted some of FLAME’s plans this year, but club Managerial President Tristan Hulstein says trips like this will be more of a mainstay in the future. In the past, FLAME has traveled to places such as Chicago and Des Moines. For many business majors, these trips are helpful in discovering what they could see themselves doing in their career and what areas they do not want to pursue. In order to go on these trips, however, the FLAME club must raise money throughout the year via hundreds of cups of coffee.

Each active member of the business club works at either the Bunsen Brew in the Science and Technology Center or at 55th Avenue in Kuyper Apartments for a total of two hours per week. These students oversee the coffee shops during their shift and prepare food for students walking to class or hanging out with friends at night. But that’s not all it takes to run two on-campus coffee shops.

Behind the scenes, the business club has management, marketing, and accounting positions. Students also can pitch their ideas for new menu items or changes that could be made to make FLAME’s shops better. It is about creating a forward-thinking mindset—an important skill those who run a business will need. Current processes in discussion are adding milkshakes and new coffee to the menu, having the option of mobile orders, and converting 55th into a convenience store. Additionally, Hulstein says the business club is an opportunity to begin networking while still in college.

“The network that we have with the business club is so good,” Hulstein said. “The people in the business club are not going to be the ones who are going to struggle to get a job. They are going to be successful. You build a network of quality people.”

The Bunsen Brew and 55th Avenue are not open as much as Hulstein, DeYoung, and the rest of the business club would like them to be. A few years ago, 55th used to be open in the mornings and not just four nights a week. A drop in club involvement meant hours had to be cut in order to accommodate students’ schedules. Hulstein and other managers of FLAME hope to generate more interest and see more business majors involved in learning more about running a business and bonding with fellow majors.

“When I was a freshman, if you were a business major, of course you were in the club. Now it’s not the case,” Hulstein said. 

Hulstein and DeYoung said they felt the pandemic was the reason for some of the change, but they also hope to see a cultural shift that can popularize the business club with fellow business majors and incoming freshman. 

“I want the club to be something where members meet new and cool people and it’s a valuable part of their experience,” Hulstein said.

Hulstein and DeYoung want to see 55th Avenue and the Bunsen Brew become a place where more students congregate and spend their Defender Dollars. 

From there, FLAME will continue to do what businesses are meant to do: look toward the future.

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