Two summers ago, Brittany Hobson (sr) trained Indian women in jewelry and craft making through the Kolkata City Mission. This summer, she went back and brought home 600 pieces of jewelry, made by three women over the course of a year.
Hobson is now “testing the markets” at New Under the Son, the Barnes Student Center’s newest business, located next to Wildcutz. The business sells crafts from around the world, giving students hands-on business experience as well as supporting international artists.
“The ultimate objective is for us to be able to have goods in there that are helping people get out of human trafficking,” Dr. Harriet Rojas, Division of Business chair, said.
When Hobson returned to campus, some of her friends in Rojas’ small business management class told her about New Under the Son, initiating a partnership between them.
KCM, where Hobson worked, is a Christian organization that helps prevent Indian women from entering the sex trafficking industry. By selling the 600 pieces of jewelry Hobson received, she hopes to get the three artists working full-time in the jewelry business.
“They’re itching for more work, and they need more money,” Hobson said. “If [this partnership] continues, that would be awesome because then we know that we have constant money coming in.”
This is New Under the Son’s first year of operation, replacing The HUBexchange. It is a “completely different” type of store, Rojas said, partnering with other entities at Indiana Wesleyan University, like the Bastian Center for the Study of Human Trafficking.
New Under the Son collects most of its goods from students and faculty traveling abroad. In some cases, the business department supplies students with money to buy crafts and bring them back for the store.
It already features items from India, Nepal, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti, China, Kenya, Vietnam and Mexico.
“We have purposefully tried to buy things that are not high-end because we know that most of the student clientele would not be able to pay for those things,” Rojas said.
After paying the supplier for the goods, there is a “very, very minuscule” markup to cover business costs, Rojas said.
Student manager Kassie Watts (sr) said the goal now is to find more items that men would buy, since most of the crafts are jewelry.
Watts, a business administration major, gets practicum and internship credit for managing New Under the Son. The business’s staff consists of the 30 students in Rojas’ small business management class.
For these students, New Under the Son, as well as Wildcutz and IWU Mart, are lab experiences.
“Every entity on campus, every major, has some kind of a lab experience [where] they allow their students to have that practical work,” Rojas said. “That’s the same thing that we’re doing with the stores.”
Five businesses have operated in the location next to Wildcutz since it opened in 2006. The benefit of New Under the Son, Rojas said, is that with the word “new,” the products can adapt in years to come.
The businesses have done well in the past, Rojas said. They have even generated enough money to produce scholarships for business students for the first time this year.
According to Rojas, New Under the Son made $100 within the first week of sales.
“Obviously, we want [the students] to be successful,” Rojas said, “but … if perchance they happen to lose money one year, they’re not going to have to declare bankruptcy.”
Aside from teaching management and financial skills, these business “labs” teach students how they can be successful and still maintain their faith—a key concept in Rojas’ classes.
“You don’t have to wonder about whether or not your faith can be lived out,” Rojas said. “You can be called to be a business person, just like you can be called to anything else in terms of Christian service.”
New Under the Son serves as an example of integrating business and faith, Rojas said, since students run a business and support trafficking victims at the same time.
“[It’s] a God thing that we can all be connected,” Hobson said about business students and students traveling abroad partnering together. “All of our gifts are being used.”
Rojas hopes to post pictures and stories about the artists next to their items so that students know who they are helping when they buy something.
New Under the Son hopes to establish concrete hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Rojas encouraged students to contact her if they know of any international organizations who do similar work and could possibly partner with New Under the Son.