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 Batson (BA ’08)
It’s a bit ironic. When Blake Batson began his undergraduate education at Baylor, he started off in the Hankamer School of Business. But after he took a class on how to create a business, he decided the entrepreneurial life wasn’t for him and switched his major to philosophy.
So what is this Arts & Sciences alumnus who left business for philosophy doing now? Why, he is of course the owner of an immensely popular business –– the Common Grounds coffee shop adjoining the Baylor campus –– with a brand-new business startup in the works.
“My life dream was to get a PhD and teach,” Batson said. “I was working part time at Common Grounds, and I was promoted to manager. I enjoyed that –– I loved the culture and leading the staff, who were all college kids. When the previous owner decided to sell, I decided this would be a good business for me.”
While Batson said he uses intuition in leading his staff, he had to read a lot to learn the “business” side, such as understanding cash flow and balance sheets. His wife Kimberly, a fellow Baylor Arts & Sciences graduate, partners with him in running the coffee shop by handling catering and administration.
Batson has proved he has a head for business. He has doubled the coffee shop’s outdoor concert area and has quadrupled the number of catering jobs. He’s also expanded the reach of his operation with two food trucks named Milo that serve breakfast and brunch made with locally sourced food. One food truck is parked at the Magnolia Silos, the shopping destination owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame.
A new Batson-created business that’s already a hit with Baylor students opened in spring 2016. The Heritage Creamery, located next door to Common Grounds, serves ice cream and desserts.
“We use local dairy farms to produce organic ice cream. We developed our own ice cream recipe and also make other desserts,” Batson said. “For example, my dad, who died in 2011, had a chocolate chip recipe that everyone loves. We have taken that recipe and incorporated it into Creamery ice cream sandwiches.”
A big dream of Batson’s is to further expand by opening a grocery store in booming downtown Waco, which he says is a “food desert” –– a term for an urban neighborhood without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.
Batson credits his Baylor education for preparing him for success. He points to two of his philosophy professors, Dr. Michael Beaty and Dr. Jonathan Kvanvig, as mentors who pushed him academically and made him a better thinker.
“I would tell students to not limit themselves by thinking they are only trained to work in the humanities. The College of Arts & Sciences teaches universal skills, such as how to communicate in a succinct way and how to be a self-learner,” Batson said.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Baylor Arts & Sciences magazine.