Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is the largest student organization in the world. The College of Charleston SIFE team, founded in 2004, is one of over 1,500 teams worldwide with nearly 40,000 total members. The mission of SIFE is simple: teach young people practical, ethical business skills and set them loose to spread the gospel of entrepreneurship in their local communities and around the globe.
Maureen Porzio ’10, a junior from Savannah, Georgia, is the SIFE team’s current president and the fundraising coordinator for a project called Technology for Africa. During Spring Break 2009, 10 SIFE team members traveled to Cameroon, West Africa to set up computer labs in three cities. In Cameroon, less than one percent of the population owns a personal computer and Internet use is among the lowest in Africa. In addition to supplying dozens of donated computers, SIFE students also trained local high school and college students in basic marketing and financial management skills that can be applied to any successful small business.
To fund the trip, team members tapped their own entrepreneurial spirit. “Each member had to raise over $1,000 through a fundraising event,” explains Porzio, whose own idea was a faculty game show called Campus Bamboozle. Another student solicited donations from local artists for a silent auction.
The College of Charleston SIFE team is based in the Tate Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business and Economics, but recruits students from all over campus. Porzio herself was a chemistry major until her involvement with SIFE inspired her to switch over to business.
In addition to community enrichment projects like Technology for Africa, the SIFE team competes in regional and national financial case competitions where students are presented with a hypothetical family in dire financial straits. Each team has 24 hours to come up with the most effective and creative solution to the family’s money problems. Fifteen cups of coffee, 10 Power Bars and one hour of sleep later, a panel of judges mostly community business leaders and SIFE advisors picks a winner. The College of Charleston's team took first place at last spring’s Duel in the Queen City held in Charlotte.