Marketing and entrepreneurship double major Ethan Kaufmann ’20 reflects on his years of service through Elon’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement.
S’mores are much more than a delicious combination of graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate. To Ethan Kaufmann ’20, they’re an opportunity to pursue a passion.
That was the idea behind S’mokin S’mores, the pop-up S’mores company Kaufmann established as a sophomore at Elon. Each weekend, Kaufmann invited students to the Oak House to gather around a mini S’mores fire pit and enjoy the delicious treats with their closest friends. The business became so successful, Kaufmann eventually expanded its services to catering campus events. But, he says the business venture was less about cash than it was about making an impact.
“It wasn’t just to make money off of it,” he said. “I wanted to offer students another outlet on the weekends.”
Kaufmann says his focus on making a social impact is what has driven many of his ideas. It’s also what led him to pursue a leadership role in Elon’s service community.
During his second year on campus, Kaufmann was encouraged to step outside his comfort zone and lead a group of students to Houston, Texas, to perform acts of service for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“Working with the homeowners, it really made you take a step back and realize we’re all fortunate that we have a home, that we have the comfort and safety of a dorm room,” he said.
The trip marked Kaufmann’s first experience as a student coordinator of one of Elon’s Alternative Break trips that encourage students to spend Fall or Spring Break performing service projects around the world. The Alternative Breaks program is a function of Elon Volunteers!, the campus service organization housed within Elon’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement.
Kaufmann says the Houston trip helped him see service in a new light. “It really changed my perspective. I learned service can be exciting. You can really enjoy it,” said Kaufmann, who has since become active in service at nearby Peacehaven Community Farm and in the annual rise Against Hunger initiative, helping package meals for local families in need.
Kaufmann’s work with Elon Volunteers! later inspired him to take on a larger leadership role within the organization. Kaufmann has served as co-director of the Alternative Break program for the past two years, sharing his service experiences with his peers and preparing coordinators to lead Alternative Break projects of their own.
As a marketing and entrepreneurship double major, Kaufmann is using his studies to also impact surrounding communities through business.
In fall 2019, he planned and hosted the Elon Holiday Market, sponsored by the Student Government Association and Doherty Center, at Elon Community Church. The event brought nearly 900 people to the church to meet and buy goods from local small business owners. Kaufmann says the 25 vendors in attendance earned about $15,000 in revenue.
Kaufmann has also worked alongside Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Elena Kennedy to research small businesses in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. The study aims to understand how those businesses use posts on Facebook to not only promote their work, but to also highlight the greater Saxapahaw community.
These efforts are further proof of Kaufmann’s passion for positive social impact. And as he prepares to graduate from Elon and begin working with L’Oréal in New York City, Kaufmann says he will cherish all of his experiences Under the Oaks, especially his role in Elon’s long history of service to the community.
“Elon has built such a strong foundation of service,” he said. “And being part of that just makes you feel like you’re really leaving something behind on this campus.”