La Sierra student entrepreneur lands national scholarship
May 21, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu )As Ryan Foss explained the ins and outs of business ownership to a Thai villager last summer, tears of joy sprang to the woman’s eyes. She knew her dream of owning a health products store was within reach.
The poignant moment proved pivotal in Foss’s contemplations of a future career. “I felt a feeling of happiness and accomplishment like none other I had ever felt. It was on the Thailand trip that I realized that my long-term career goal was to retire as a social entrepreneur,” he wrote in an essay.
Foss, an entrepreneur and sophomore accounting major at La Sierra University, traveled to Thailand as part of the LSU Students In Free Enterprise team. In the Chiang Mai region, the group taught 29 villagers how to start and operate businesses. Foss’s experiences in Thailand, his impact on others and the transformation of his own thinking through his work with SIFE were among the reasons judges of a national SIFE scholarship competition awarded him the top prize.
Foss last week won the Jules and Gwen Knapp SIFE Ambassador Scholarship during the 2009 SIFE National Exposition competitions held in Philadelphia, Pa., May 10-12. The $10,000 SIFE award, the first achieved by a La Sierra student, will help cover Foss’s educational costs. As a SIFE ambassador, Foss will represent the international nonprofit on campuses and at events.
SIFE is an international nonprofit education outreach organization in Springfield, Mo. Through more than 1,300 SIFE teams at colleges and universities in 41 countries, SIFE strives to teach various populations market economics, business ethics and economic independence through entrepreneurship. Each school year, SIFE teams build upon existing economic empowerment projects and implement new ones, such as teaching individuals new skills or how to start businesses.
Knapp scholarship judges held final interviews with Foss and two other student contenders during the national exposition. The other two scholarship finalists, from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, will each receive $2,500 and represent SIFE as Student Leaders for one year.
”It’s an honor and a privilege for myself and my family to represent the university. The School of Business dean [John Thomas] puts a lot into the SIFE program. To represent him is a privilege,” Foss said after hearing he had won the top Knapp award.
“It’s really neat to see him recognized for all the hard work he’s put in,” said Tim Foss, Ryan’s father. “It’s neat because he is a true entrepreneur and he’s been successful.”
“He knows when to take charge and when to lead. People younger than him tend to look up to him,” said Lynette Foss, Ryan’s stepmother. The couple attended the national expo to watch Ryan compete.
Ryan Foss incorporates his spiritual life into his work and plans, and frequently expresses his thanks to God, Lynette Foss said. “Ryan always says before taking on a new venture, ‘I’ve prayed about it and I know this is the right thing.’”
During nationals, 137 SIFE teams, culled from regional events this spring, squared off with presentations about their economic empowerment projects. La Sierra’s SIFE team, directed by Foss, gave multi-media presentations to panels of judges from some of the country’s largest companies. LSU SIFE placed third in the final round. Flagler College won the national trophy and Drury University in Springfield, Mo. came in second.
Foss owns two companies, Cool Guys Productions and Reliable Trucking. Cool Guys produces videos and specializes in videotaping weddings. Reliable Trucking, which Foss and a partner started last year, provides lumber-hauling services throughout Southern California.
Foss derives his interest in business and entrepreneurship from his family. Tim Foss publishes “Classic Trucks,” “Custom Classic Trucks,” “Street Rodder” and “Rod & Custom” magazines. His mother, Linda Johnson, owns a notary business and a Website company that gives instructions on making crafts.
Ryan Foss advises young people interested in business to push ahead despite their age. “What I’ve learned is you have to be willing to take a risk and be willing to fail. If you do fail, get back up on your feet and keep moving along,” he said.
To apply for the SIFE scholarship, Foss wrote two, one-page essays describing how involvement in SIFE has changed his life and how he, as a SIFE team member, changed someone else’s life. In one essay he detailed his experiences in Thailand helping villagers write business plans and learn accounting, marketing and other basic business concepts.
Foss joined SIFE during the second quarter of his freshman year and ran headlong into humility. “Coming out of high school as an honor student and senior class president I thought the team would be eager to begin using my talents. This was the first lesson I learned from SIFE: all of the students in the LSU SIFE team were just as qualified as I,” he wrote in an essay.
To prove himself, Foss took on whatever tedious task the team threw at him, including making phone calls and performing manual labor at a SIFE work site. After two months, the team assigned him the important task of running the presentation team’s audio equipment, a job that required hours of preparation given his lack of experience working with such gear. The effort paid off as he and the LSU SIFE team took first runner up during the final round of national SIFE competitions in 2008. The event was also a personal win for Foss. He landed the title of 2007-08 SIFE Rookie of the Year in recognition of his hard work.
Through participation in SIFE, Foss acquired experiences that classroom work alone cannot provide, building confidence and leadership skills along the way, he said. “SIFE has given me real world experience that will give me a great edge as I enter a competitive business world,” Foss said.
“I feel that teaching people how to start their own business is the greatest donation you can ever give them,” continued Foss, “because a few hours of your time can change a person’s entire life.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University