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Davis Smith, CEO and founder of Cotopaxi, speaks to students at the Entrepreneurship Lecture Series on Nov. 15. (Mujtaba Alrashed / The Signpost)

Students were encouraged to serve others through the talents they possess at WSU’s Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center Young Subaru Entrepreneurship Lecture Series.

“You have a responsibility to make the world better,” Davis Smith, CEO and founder of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear company, said to WSU students on Nov. 15 at WSU’s Entrepreneurship Lecture Series. Davis Smith told stories of three companies he started. He focused on inspiring students to make a positive change in the world through their business endeavors.

“I came here expecting a lecture on entrepreneurship,” Weber State student Levi Smith said. “But he definitely made it inspiring.”

Davis Smith began his journey as an entrepreneur so that he would be able to serve people around the world. During his internship in Cuba, he met a young boy named Edgar who worked as a shoe shiner on the streets. Smith was so impressed by Edgar that he resolved to do something with his life and business skills to help people like Edgar.

“Who is your Edgar?” Davis Smith asked. “Who is the person or thing that can inspire you every day?”

Cotopaxi is focused on building social impact into everything they do. “Our slogan is ‘Gear for good’” Smith said. Cotopaxi gets resources from small businesses in other countries to help those businesses increase revenue. Their employees also hand-pick the colors of bags they make so that each one is a creative and unique.

“We have products that tell stories and connect people somewhere else in the world with us: the users of the product,” Smith said.

Smith also advised students to avoid distractions. He remembered a kayaking trip where he and his cousin had a goal to not to touch their support boat. Because they were so focused on this, they crashed into it and broke their kayak in two. “Make sure you have that big goals in mind and don’t let little distractions keep you from accomplishing that goal,” he said.

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Students listen to Davis Smith at the Entrepreneurship Lecture Series on Nov. 15. (Mujtaba Alrashed / The Signpost)

The inspiring quality of the lecture inspired students to want to get involved. “It made me want to do more than sit around,” said Levi Smith. “Now I want to do something, like volunteer work.”

Other students were motivated to join activities that Cotopaxi sponsors. “I really want to try the Questival,” WSU student Paul Bunderson said. “I want to look into that more.”

Questival is an event that Cotopaxi organizes in cities across the United States that challenges participants to serve their community and see their city in a new light. Although it doesn’t make the company much money, Questival provides the company with new customers through free marketing. Participants post pictures on social media that promote the company to their friends and others.

“Millennials care more about experiences than they care about things,” Smith said. “We wanted to build a brand that was more about experience and adventure than it was about a backpack.” This is one of the techniques that Cotopaxi uses to infuse service and humanitarian efforts into the company and their products.

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