In 2014, Samford University’s Brock School of Business wanted to show that a successful business model also could have a global Christian impact — and so the Lion’s Den Missions as Business competition began.
The Lion’s Den is a missions-minded version of the ABC show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a group of potential investors, all of whom are successful businesspeople.
During the Lion’s Den three companies share their business models in front of a live audience and five “lions,” all leaders in business and education. The lions hear each presentation and ask questions of the presenters. Then audience members cast a vote for the company they believe most likely to have business success and spiritual impact.
Samford hosted the sixth annual Lion’s Den competition Oct. 10. Ben and Liz Bohannon, founders of Sseko Designs and former participants in the Lion’s Den competition as well as “Shark Tank,” were emcees.
Akola, a jewelry and accessories brand that works with women in Uganda, was this year’s Lion’s Den winner. Akola, which means “she works” in a local Ugandan dialect, employs women to craft jewelry from local resources.
Akola employees help support an orphanage and other programs in their community with the goal of helping end poverty.
The other contestants in this year’s competition were Randy Welsch, co-founder and president of Jibu, a company that sells clean water and trains leaders to run local franchises, and Ben Howard, founder of Third Coast Content.
Jibu, which means “solution” in Swahili, fills heavy-duty reusable bottles with clean water. Customers can exchange empty bottles for full bottles, paying only for the water. Third Coast Content produces and markets faith and family-oriented videos.
Erwin Brothers Entertainment, a participant in the first Lion’s Den in 2014, received the “Operator of the Year” award, given annually to participants “who have excelled as examples of Business as Mission companies,” said Andrew Clark, Lion’s Den organizer.
‘Never give up’
Jon Erwin thanked Lion’s Den via video.
“To the entrepreneurs in the room — keep dreaming; keep believing,” Erwin said. “If God’s calling you to do it just never give up.”
To watch videos of each entrepreneur’s presentation go to www.thelionsden.us.