Reagan Pugh speaks to Lees-McRae students at Sullivan Foundation workshop

Sullivan Foundation Road Show provides focus and direction to future social entrepreneurs

Business students with a passion for changemaking learned more about putting their ideas into action during the Sullivan Foundation’s “Head, Heart, Hustle” workshop.  

The Sullivan Foundation was started in memory of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, an influential 19th-century lawyer, philanthropist, and educational advocate. The foundation partners with more than 70 colleges and universities throughout the southern United States to honor service-oriented college students. Lees-McRae is also one of 23 schools that receives funds from the Sullivan Foundation to award one incoming freshman a four-year scholarship every year.  

In 2008, the foundation added a focus on social entrepreneurship to its core mission. Through programming like retreats, field trips, and studies abroad, college students passionate about social change learn how to use their talents and interests to make a difference.  

“Head, Heart, Hustle,” led by Reagan Pugh, is an interactive workshop aimed at students who have a business idea that could solve a societal problem. Amy Anderson, the dean of business and management, and Katherine Oglietti, a visiting instructor of Business Administration, arranged to bring the workshop to Lees-McRae to give students insight into the process of social entrepreneurship and training in business ideation.  

“A lot of students are interested in entrepreneurship, sustainability, and social responsibility,” said Oglietti. “This session gets students to connect with their idea and take it to the next level.”  

Pugh, the cofounder of business consulting firm Assemble, started the workshop by telling his own story of trying and failing to launch an innovative, changemaking business—a center where young adults with epilepsy would have space to be creative. 

 “I told everybody about this big idea I had…and then the vision started to peter out,” Pugh said. “I couldn’t break the dream down to simple steps.”  

Since that experience, Pugh had perfected his ability to turn an idea into reality, and now shares the lessons he has learned with individuals and groups across the country. At Lees-McRae, Pugh’s goal was to walk students through the process of discovering their passion (heart), coming up with an idea to address that area of interest (head), and laying out a plan to bring the idea to life (hustle).  

To start, Pugh asked a series of questions to get students thinking and reflecting—which he considers an essential first step.  

“I believe the most effective people are the most reflective people,” Pugh said. “Most adults will not stop and spend an hour considering if their job fits their heart and skill set.”  

Each student received a large blank poster board and drew a Venn diagram. In the left circle, they answered questions like “what issues or ideas make your heart beat fast?” and “what stories resonate with you?” In the right circle, Pugh asked students to consider what information they know, what skills they possess, what they’ve learned from their life experiences, and what connections they’ve made with other people or groups.  

Pugh then divided the students into groups of three to brainstorm where their “heart” and “head” intersected. Ideally, he explained, the career or business idea you pursue should be a combination of both. However, it’s not enough to want to do something—to be successful, you need to break your goal down into small, measurable steps you know you can achieve.  

“If you have a big idea, divide it by 500,” he said. “Choose one actionable thing to start with.”  

After the students discussed their ideas, Pugh asked a few people to share their “hustle.” Taleik Pratt, who is majoring in Sports Management, said the intersection of his “heart” and “head” was sports journalism. He suggested that one actionable first step he could take is reaching out to local journalists and ask them for advice or an internship.  

Business Administration major Britney Augustin shared that she hoped to find a way to use her art to bring attention to political and social issues in her ancestral country of Haiti. Pugh suggested that she start by creating an Instagram account dedicated to her work.  

“It costs nothing to do these small experiments,” he said.  

At the end of the workshop, Pugh encouraged students to keep considering how to unite their interests and skills in a way that can both support them financially and lead to social change.  

“You are good enough,” he told the group. “You have all the skills you need. Keep asking yourself what makes you come alive.”  

The “Head, Heart, Hustle” workshop is an abbreviated version of the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite Retreat. During the three-day retreat, students receive one-on-one mentoring from coaches and spend time working on projects. The next Ignite Retreat will take place April 1–3, 2022. Interested students can register on the Sullivan Foundation website.   

By Emily WebbJanuary 13, 2022