Think Like a Difference Maker: The Power of Transformative Entrepreneurship

by Matt Klingler, DPT ’16

As a member of Generation Z, you might not necessarily be thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, but know this: you’re more likely to at least want to be an entrepreneur than the generation above you. And you’re likely to be making your own money already anyway. While 43 percent of college grads polled a few years ago said they would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee upon graduation, 61 percent of high school students aimed to make a difference by starting their own company.

A 2017 study by the Center for Generational Kinetics put it simply: “Gen Z may be the youngest generation today, but they are already showing a knack for making their own money.”

The same study found that a staggering 77 percent of Gen Zers (ages 14-21) earn their own spending money through freelancing, a part-time job, or chores.

So, you probably already have the hustle. But do you want to take that next step and become a true entrepreneur? As you enter college, keep in mind that entrepreneurship can not only be a foundational next step to earning a living, but to also living a life the way you want to lead it. And having the educational foundation upon which to start your own business is key to getting there.

Advancing the Common Good

Brandon Arbini ’01 and Jeff Tanner ’96, M.Ed. ’99, are two Azusa Pacific University alumni entrepreneurs who have been thinking like difference makers. Armed with their degrees from APU—Brandon with a degree in political science, and Jeff in biblical studies and education—the two built a co-working space called FLDWRK (pronounced “Fieldwork”). Since opening, the business now has two locations in Southern California, one in Costa Mesa, and another in Fullerton.

FLDWRK provides workspace for startup and small-sized businesses looking to “advance the common good.” Since launching, Arbini and Tanner put a heavy emphasis on mentoring and cultivating burgeoning Christian entrepreneurs.

“I think that entrepreneurship is really popular in our culture right now, but if the end of that entrepreneurship is actually just benefit for yourself, it’s empty,” says Arbini. “So when we talk about transformative entrepreneurship, we are talking about entrepreneurship that actually has a transformative purpose in the world and really for the Kingdom of God.”

At FLDWRK, the effects of the “transformative” entrepreneurship that the pair speaks about are evident in the company’s seven core values. Among them include, “restore the broken” and “be generous”—which may not scream “profitability” to most entrepreneurs, but has worked for Arbini and Tanner.

Serving Others

APU has a tradition of successful entrepreneurial alumni, a result of the university’s mission and focus on cultivating students who are difference makers in their community. When armed with a Christ-centered worldview, being an entrepreneur is seen through a different lens.

Partner that with courses that include social entrepreneurship and creativity and innovation—fostered in a value-based educational environment—and the vision for your company can easily become one that serves a greater purpose for the community.

In fact, Arbani and Tanner hadn’t even set out to build a coworking space when they launched FLDWRK, but rather a “platform.”

“We think about it as a community as a platform for launching new movements for the common good,” said Tanner.

The opportunities that exist when approaching entrepreneurship from a transformational perspective are endless. And as a member of a generation that’s eager to hit the ground running ready to make a difference on your own, the only things that’s holding you back from becoming a difference maker . . . is you.

Watch: Local Difference Makers: Jeff and Brandon