Philanthropy beat: University of Minnesota students use longboarding to teach work skills

  • Article by: LYDIA COUTRÉ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2013 - 10:40 PM

Two University of Minnesota students have combined their passions for longboarding and community-building to create a new business.

That business, TurtleKing Longboarding, works with young people to teach them how to build longboards and develop work skills.

“Through our process of designing, building and selling longboards, we teach [young people] those skills,” said Drew Swanson, a junior bioproducts marketing and management major. “We think that the process of building longboards can be applied to other things.”

He and Phillip Kelly, a senior global studies major, received a $2,000 Purpose and Profit grant from the Center For Entrepreneurship to form their LLC and to start building boards late in the summer of 2012. They also won $500 in the Acara Challenge and another $5,000 grant through periodic disbursements.

They opened a workshop early last month, where they now employ two interns through the city’s STEP-UP program, which pairs businesses with young people to give them summer employment.

“We’re making a meaningful product through a meaningful method,” Kelly said.

The interns are learning how to make and ride boards, Kelly said, and how to think critically as they’re challenged with discussions about things like sustainability, something that’s important for the business partners.

“You’re not using a car or you’re not using fossil fuels when you’re using a longboard to get around,” Swanson said. “So in an urban environment, longboards are really convenient if you’re not going over a mile or two.”

But their focus remains on building community, and working to form a connection between the university and its neighborhoods — something both said is missing.

“In my mind, small business, entrepreneurship is really about community-building just as much as it is about economic stability for yourself,” Kelly said.

 

lydia.coutre@startribune.com 612-673-4654

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