"Fortune favors the bold." - Aristotle.
Tyler Tolson, a Communications student at Utah State University struggled with the stereotype that visual artists could not make a substantial career from making art. Together with a few friends, Tolson brainstormed ways this assumption could be overturned.
The group of USU students asked questions—'What do we value?' 'What are we passionate about?' The answer: "Art, creativity and making a difference in the world," Tolson explained.
"We created a concept that would showcase the art of global artists on the cover of books or deníks (the Czech word for journal), a print avenue we felt seemed to lack in creativity and design," said Tolson.
The partners brainstormed various projects to fund with a portion of proceeds from each sale—fulfilling their "make a difference in the world" advocacy—and all signs seemed to point to education.
Inspired by Mali Rising, a foundation established in 2004 with no religious or political affiliation created to empower the children of Mali, Africa by expanding educational opportunities for them within their own communities, a connection was formed.
According to Tolson, "We felt that if we could provide the opportunity for increased access to education across the globe, we were creating a sustainable, circular model of empowerment and advancement."
One of the most beneficial resources for Tolson in founding Denik was Utah State University. "Not one of us were business majors, maybe we had a minor or two in Business, but we signed up for internships—with a faculty mentor and advisor—that allowed us to run our own company. 8 hours of University credit directly benefited our business model."
Big Cartel aided in the creation of Denik's first online shopping portal and Mali Rising became Denik’s first nonprofit partner and beneficiary, with $1 from the proceeds of each sale donated to the building of schools. $50,000 of sale proceeds will enable Denik to build a middle school in Mali.
The Utah State University bookstore is the first campus bookstore that will be selling Denik products, 85% of which are produced locally.
"My grandfather was a successful businessman, an international banker. One day, he said 'Tyler, if you want to be successful if life you have to help others be successful.' So my leadership philosophy is fairly simple: success depends on helping others—teammates, customers, others in my community."
For Tolson and his Denik partners 2012 revealed collaborations with nonprofits, artists and vendors—and a good printer.
"Working with global artist has been a gratifying experience. No matter your profession, business, or field, we all work with people. They are not objects, stumbling blocks, or tools. They are beings who deserve and thrive from love and respect," Tolson says. "Our goal is twofold: to help artists make a living (by crediting their work and providing them 5% of sales from their pieces) and to contribute to an awesome case."
For Denik, 2013 is focused on new products, partnerships and possibilities as well as expanding their social outreach to Nepal and Honduras.
For more information on Denik
Please visit http://shopdenik.com/
The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute connects the public, private, and social sectors with curated resources and relationships to serve, evolve and lead together.