Graduate starts business to help Ugandan orphans

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    A TCU alumna is turning a summer trip into a business opportunity.

    Courtney Redwine, a 23-year-old class of 2012 alumna, took a trip to Uganda last summer to do volunteer work at an orphanage. She ended up using her experience to create Dear Mercy, a non-profit/for-profit hybrid company that will use its proceeds to benefit the Jireh Children’s Center Orphanage in Uganda.

    “I didn’t plan on starting anything, the story just kind of unfolded,” Redwine said.

    Redwine said that upon meeting Mercy, one of the girls at the orphanage, she got inspired to create a business as a way to help the orphanage.

    “I just thought, what can I do to help these kids? What other talents can I use to help them? Then I kind of got the idea- what if I did a company using these kids’ artwork and started an art therapy program for them?” Redwine said.

    Redwine used the idea, along with training from TCU and rented office space from her father, to start Dear Mercy, which operates similar to businesses like TOMS Shoes: The company exists to both make a profit and to help solve a social issue.

    Dear Mercy’s business model involves taking the artwork that the children make and then putting the art onto day planners and calendars. The planners and calendars will then be sold for profit, with portions of every sale going back to the Jireh Children’s Center Orphanage.

    Redwine said she was first introduced to the concept of a hybrid for-profit/non-profit business in a social enterprises class in her last semester at TCU.

    Her professor, Suzanne Carter, expressed her excitement for Redwine’s endeavor: “You could just tell that she was highly energized with this notion of, ‘Hey, I’m not going to wait until I’m 30 or 40 to do something that I’m passionate about.”

    Redwine said her next step will be to return to Uganda in October to establish the art therapy school to hire teachers and to collect artwork.