April 10, 2023

Southern Adventist University Hosts Global Hyve Conference

Event helps to integrate faith and business to spread the gospel.

Tina Smith, for Adventist Review
Lion’s Den pitch competition during the 2023 Hyve Creators conference at Southern Adventist University. [Photo: Southern Adventist University]

The School of Business at Southern Adventist University partnered with nonprofit Hyve International to host “Hyve Creators 2023,” an entrepreneurship event with a Seventh-day Adventist perspective, in early March.

More than 800 participants learned about combining mission, innovation, and entrepreneurship from a group of experienced and successful Christian inventors and business professionals affiliated with Hyve International, which provides community and support on the ground floor for Adventist-run missional businesses around the world. 

Held on Southern’s campus, the weekend exceeded attendance expectations, marking the largest recent gathering of Adventist entrepreneurs, with powerful stories, testimonies, and workshops bringing to life the principles shared.

“This kind of event builds a bridge between inspirational and practical, mission and business,” Michelle Doucoumes, associate professor in Southern’s School of Business and a coordinator of the event, said. “Some of the most amazing people in our church not only spoke but also expressed a willingness to invest in Adventist businesses after meeting young entrepreneurs who are doing super-cool things. The value of connecting with leaders and experts who share the same principles and goals is immeasurable for our students and others.”

Event speakers included David Asscherick of Light Bearers ministry; Sebastien Braxton, co-founder of the Luminate app; CW Chew, founder of Something Better Foods; Ruben Dias, co-owner at Hill Helicopters; Daryl Gungadoo, inventor of 360° video technology; David Grabiner, founder and operator of Lubono Capital; Annette Thurmon, influencer, Azure Farm; and Jared Thurmon, serial entrepreneur and pastor.

  • SAU Hyve Creators 2023 Akuna Soap products
  • SAU Hyve Creators 2023 Participants networking
  • SAU Hyve Creators 2023 Lions Den pitch competition 1

“Hyve totally exploded this year,” Hyve president Jesse Zwiker said. “We hadn’t had an event in the U.S. up to this point. Connecting with and learning from other like-minded entrepreneurs was the highlight for many. I am very excited to see a growing community of Adventist businesses that support each other not just in doing business more effectively but also in seeing their businesses as a ministerial calling.”

Under the umbrella of the School of Business, the university’s student-led Enactus chapter spearheaded the Hyve event. The student team maintains a specific focus on supporting and enhancing the spirit of entrepreneurship on campus, and Hyve Creators 2023 provided a way for that initiative to be extended to a much broader community. Business majors Lauryn Daniels and Kelsie McCarty served as project managers and led their team in organizing the event, from logistics to programming.

“I strongly believe that everyone who attended both virtually and physically was meant to be there,” Daniels said. “I’m beyond grateful to God for the opportunity to lead, connect, and serve!”

“This was a great learning experience and a wonderful opportunity for networking,” McCarty added. “I was so proud of all of the entrepreneurs, especially the Southern students who pitched, won, and were involved with the event.”

The Lion’s Den, an innovative startup pitch competition, was the signature session during the inaugural gathering, with more than 60 individuals or teams applying from countries across the globe, including Colombia and France. Evaluated by a panel of judges on market viability, differentiation, actionability, and social/spiritual impact, 20 were chosen to present during the weekend. Many of the entrepreneurs received investment offers from business leaders in attendance to help their missional ventures make a greater impact on communities.

“I’m encouraged that there are so many in Adventism who are just itching to do something with specific talents and creativity,” Doucoumes said. “From clothing lines to making empanadas or even soap, so many have not only extraordinary ideas but also missional hearts to use those businesses to do good.”

Of the six businesses that placed as winners, four involved Southern students, and each earned a year of free business coaching from Hyve as well as prize money. Akuna Soap Industry in Zambia, which was developed and continues to be led by Southern Enactus students, won first place.

Sponsors for the event were Adventist Mission, Adventist Young Professionals, Advent Digital Marketing, Butler Travel, Hill Helicopters, McKee Foods Corporation, The Ooltewah Club, and Morning Pointe Senior Living.

“Faith and business, combined, form a powerful tool to spread the gospel,” Doucoumes said. “As Adventists, we have a unique angle built into our DNA, a key belief about sharing God’s love and His good news beyond the traditional avenue of church activities.”