For the ninth year in a row, ONU’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) will be heading to nationals. Members of the club will be in Minneapolis, Minn. from May 10 to 12 competing against about 175 other SIFE teams from across the United States.
This year’s ONU presenters are juniors Staci Oliver and Jacob Schmidt, and seniors Paige Watson, Ashley Burgoyne and Mitch Kaufmann.
The winner of the national competition will move on to represent the U.S. in the World Cup, according to www.sife.org.
SIFE is an intercollegiate group, second in size only to the NCAA, according to senior Mike Tuttle, ONU SIFE President. He said there are about 400 college campuses in the nation with SIFE teams and about 1,800 teams internationally.
“SIFE is a secret on our campus that we should be proud of, but nobody knows about,” Tuttle said.
This year, ONU’s team has between 25 and 30 people. Most of the group is in the SIFE class, which meets Friday mornings at 9:30. There are a few, however, that are not enrolled in the class but participate anyway.
Throughout the school year, SIFE members take part in various projects. This year, some of those projects the group put together were teaching computer skills to Hispanics as well as to people at the Jerome Combs Detention Center, teaching high school students basic credit skills and teaching fourth graders about budgeting.
“We play a game with [the fourth graders] so they know that the bank is a good thing to bring your money to,” Tuttle said.
Some SIFE members also traveled to Haiti this year with Missions in Action as a follow-up to their Haiti Water Project held last year on campus.
In Haiti, the team tried to establish a relationship with the Haitian-American Caucus, a group that works with the many entrepreneurs that live in Haiti. Tuttle explained that in doing so, the team hopes to teach people in Haiti different business skills over video chat next year.
“We will hopefully use our business skills to give them a business model and do whatever we can to help them have better lives,” Tuttle said.
The club has also assisted local entrepreneur Mandy Benoit. Benoit makes jewelry, and SIFE members have helped her grow her business.
“This year we did an open house for her. She had over $2,000 in sales – most of which coming from Olivet students because we helped her develop a new product line that was designed for college students. We also got her on Etsy – Amazon for artistic people,” Tuttle said.
Helping Benoit and aiding outreach missions are some of the main focuses the presenters will discuss at nationals this year.
At the competition, SIFE teams are seated randomly against different schools and placed into one of 20 different leagues. The speakers from each college or university present the projects their school did throughout the year, and then a winner is chosen from each league based on the overall effectiveness of their projects. The top 20 schools present again until a champion is named.
“We have never made it to that second round,” Tuttle said. Olivet’s SIFE has only gotten as far as second runner-up in the first round at nationals.
Making it to nationals used to be an accomplishment for ONU’s SIFE, but the team has since made it nine years in a row. The organization’s main goal now is to make it past the first round.
“Getting to nationals is pretty easy,” Tuttle said. “We know how to do that. Now we’re just trying to get to the next step. I wouldn’t say that we will necessarily win our division, but it’s possible. I’m eager to find out what happens.”