Driven to Serve
With an enthusiastic spirit, Tyson Glover ’17 uses his entrepreneurial shrewdness to help those who help others.
Tyson Glover ’17 is not afraid to “fail forward.” In his experience, it’s better to try, fail, learn and adapt than to avoid pursuing new opportunities, even those that present the greatest obstacles. When an epiphany hit him, almost literally, after he narrowly avoided a student driver’s car while sprinting to class, he reshaped years of work toward his nonprofit startup, We Can, so a good idea could become a great one.
The strategic communications major and entrepreneurship and leadership studies minor kicked off his college career with the Gap Experience program, which sparked his idea for We Can. He was volunteering at Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated to ending homelessness, when a homeless man requested a small winter jacket. Glover’s heart sank when he realized the organization, which relies on donations, was out of coats. When Glover broke the news, he learned the jacket was meant for the man’s 9-year-old son.
Glover volunteered at another poverty-focused organization the next day and asked if they had winter jackets. They had a closet full of them. He wondered how nonprofits in the same region could communicate better. What if they could share resources, charity to charity? He decided to pursue the idea for his Leadership Fellows project, which would ultimately morph into We Can—Charity Assistance Network. We Can’s mission was to maximize communication among nonprofits and volunteers via an online platform. If one group needed jackets, for example, We Can would help them find another organization with a surplus.
By sophomore year, Glover had assembled a team of students and found faculty mentors. They won grants, developed a website and conducted interviews with Alamance County nonprofits. But as the project evolved, Glover’s mentors questioned the logistics of how this broad concept would operate. His run-in with a student driver on the way to class triggered some creative problem solving. Driving instructors, he theorized, could direct students to a location where they would pick up donated goods and drive them to a nonprofit that needed them, such as delivering excess food from a grocery store to a food bank.
Glover initially continued work on We Can while developing his new startup, Food Drivers, as his entrepreneurship capstone project. But Assistant Professor Sean McMahon, the Doherty Emerging Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, convinced him to merge the two ideas. “I try to get students to realize they are the best idea,” McMahon says. “They don’t have to stay married to one thing when it could lead to a better thing. When he realized that, it was a real evolution.”
I know pretty well from being in entrepreneurship, you experience failure every single day. We don’t talk about it. It’s always seen as negative, but the only true failure is when you don’t learn from it.
Food Drivers’ momentum accelerated quickly. The organization won best in category and second place overall at Elon’s Innovation Challenge pitch competition. The team completed a test drive with the Salvation Army during winter break, retrieving holiday stockings from drop-off points at local restaurants. A website launched in the spring, and a Williams High School driving instructor agreed to a test drive. Ultimately, Glover hopes to pitch the concept to the North Carolina Driving School and replicate Food Drivers across the state.
Glover currently works at Elon as an admissions counselor.