It’s no secret that the Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences has a diverse student body. With 25 academic departments represented –– spread across the sciences, humanities and social sciences –– its graduates go on to excel in a wide careers.
It’s also no secret that an impressive number of Arts & Sciences alumni are choosing to start their own businesses after graduation, sometimes in fields quite different than those they studied in school. To get an idea of just how varied these business ventures can be, we talked to nine A&S entrepreneurs to learn about how they used the skills they learned at Baylor to achieve success in the marketplace.
Blake Barrow (BA ’80, MA ’85, JD ’88)
Blake Barrow is proving that one way to help a socially minded nonprofit achieve its goals is to start for-profit side businesses that will support it.
The Houston native started at Baylor in 1976 and looks back on his days in Waco with great fondness. In fact, as Barrow’s graduation date approached in May 1980, he was looking for a way to stick around campus a little longer.
“I knew the following fall would be the year Mike Singletary, Dennis Gentry and Walter Abercrombie were all going to be seniors and Baylor was going to have a great football team,” Barrow said, referring to three stars of the legendary 1980 Baylor football season. “That was the year we won the Southwest Conference and went to the Cotton Bowl. I wasn’t in any hurry to go get a job.”
So, Barrow began a master’s program in American studies and soon earned the second of four degrees he holds. Intending to become a Methodist minister, Barrow next got a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University, but then he changed course and returned to Waco to add a law degree from Baylor Law School.
After almost 10 years as a trial lawyer in El Paso, Barrow’s plans changed again. He became chief executive officer of Rescue Mission of El Paso, an organization that provides shelter, meals, Christian services and relapse prevention programs to El Paso’s homeless.
“God called me to run a homeless shelter,” Barrow said. “And for a long time, we ran a business we called Rescue Industries. It was a furniture factory that hired only homeless people. We marketed our furniture nationwide, and in doing this we wanted to change the world’s perception of who homeless people are.”
After the Texas Department of Transportation bought out Rescue Mission’s seven acres of property in 2014, Barrow realized that replicating the furniture factory elsewhere would be too expensive. He then looked to the food service industry.
“It’s an area where there will always be jobs,” Barrow said. “So the social enterprise is that we’ll take folks who come through the rescue mission, many of whom are graduates of the drug and alcohol addiction program, and we are going to put them to work at Hallelujah BBQ.”
Barrow founded Hallelujah BBQ through Rescue Mission first as a catering business, and now plans to expand it into a restaurant completely staffed by mission residents. Despite his extensive reading on the subject, opening and running a restaurant will present something of a learning curve. Barbecue, however, is right in Barrow’s wheelhouse.
“I’ve studied the art of barbeque for 40 years,” he said. “I can probably cook the finest beef brisket you will taste east of Austin. I have spied on every barbeque restaurant within 200 miles of El Paso, and we can beat them all.”
Hallelujah BBQ is scheduled to open in El Paso in early 2017.
––by Julie Engebretson