New Moore School Faber Center director leading a host of entrepreneurial initiatives
Management and entrepreneurship assistant professor Jeff Savage took over the helm of the Faber Center in 2022 after longtime Faber director Dean Kress retired.
Savage joined the Moore School in 2016, initially earned a bachelor’s and master’s in accounting from Brigham Young University but decided early on he didn’t want to be an accountant. Growing up with two entrepreneurial parents — his mom managed a sing-and-dance nonprofit and his dad was an independent consultant — Savage was exposed to the entrepreneurial, can-do mindset early in life.
Savage himself dabbled in entrepreneurship with his own window-washing business he and his brother began while they were undergraduates. Savage also mowed lawns, and as the oldest of five kids, he babysat to earn extra money.
After a missionary trip to Chile where he taught English, Savage said he “fell in love with teaching.” Knowing he didn’t want to teach accounting, he realized that he could earn his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship and strategy.
“I initially thought you had to be old to teach at a university,” Savage added chuckling.
While enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Savage was an instructor of business policy and strategy. He met his wife, Emily, while at Brigham Young, where she earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering; she earned her master’s at the UofI at Urbana-Champaign in entrepreneurial engineering.
As Savage was nearing the end of his Ph.D. program and with four small children, he and his wife moved to Lexington, South Carolina, so he could teach at USC. The couple decided they wanted to build a mini “homestead,” so they purchased nine acres for their three daughters and newborn son after Savage completed the Ph.D. program. The Savages approached building their home with the same free-spirited and adventurous attitude that suits them as entrepreneurs.
Along with four children, their “homestead” now includes three dogs, three cats, two snakes, one beehive and six chickens. They’ve lost some chickens — and several ducks — to coyotes and re-homed their goats in recent months. The Savages homeschool their children and are part of a “strong community” with their Midlands homeschool co-operative; she is the director of their co-op.
When the family settled in South Carolina, Savage began teaching Moore School courses that include advanced issues in entrepreneurship, strategic management, global strategy, and management and leadership. He has also continued dabbling in entrepreneurship with his own consulting company and as a minority owner of Soda City Sawmill in Northeast Columbia.
In a recent entrepreneurship course, Savage and management lecturer Kasie Whitener worked with students, who consulted with and supported 12 local startup and nonprofit companies.
“When you ask 20-something-year-olds to come up with a business, many look at their lived experience — businesses involving sports, mobile apps, alcohol, travel — or some combination of those things,” Savage said. “In order to help students get an insider’s look into entrepreneurship, [Whitener] and I sourced local companies that could use some help building and refining their business plan. The students and companies have had a wonderful learning experience working shoulder to shoulder with local entrepreneurs, which we hope will build not only strong future entrepreneurs but improve our local existing small businesses!”
Savage is working on an assortment of entrepreneur-focused programs involving USC students and alumni and military veterans. They include:
Savage asked Moore School and USC alumni to engage with his students about creating a business during this fall 2022 series. The entrepreneurs who participated:
Write | Publish | Sell publishing company owner Alexa Bigwarfe (’10 USC MPA)
Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles restaurant owner Kiki Cyrus (’09 marketing)
Maxient higher education software owners Aaron Hark (’02 USC computer science) and Candace Hark (‘03 USC biology)
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit restaurant owner Carrie Morey (’95 USC education)
Foxfire fire safety equipment owner Zach Green, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and retired firefighter
The Moore School will hold the speaker series again in fall 2023 with more entrepreneurs, including Tim Faber (’83 USC computer science), the founder of the Faber Center; Chastity Rice, founder of food nonprofit C2Life; and Dan Ballister, Navy veteran and founder of “The General’s Hot Sauce.”
Joined by two “amazing” SC Honors College and Moore School students, Savage is working to create a new podcast using the interviews from the speaker series. Caroline Byrd (’23 expected graduation international business and operations and supply chain) and Rahithya Meda (’23 expected graduation finance and marketing) are creating the podcast for their Honors thesis project. Plans for the podcast, which interviews guests from the speaker series about entrepreneurship and strategy, will begin releasing in fall 2023.
In partnership with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the Faber Center hosted in 2022 the inaugural STRIVE entrepreneurial program exclusively for military personnel and veterans interested in becoming business owners. The free 32-hour program outlined how to start a business. USC will continue hosting the STRIVE program each January and June. Learn more by visiting bit.ly/uscstrive.
In the past year, the Faber Center also worked with the Young Alumni Board to recraft their vision, mission and strategy for the next five years. Savage said the YAB is different than the typical board because “they want their own place in the world.” They did a lot of thinking about where they can provide the most value for students, what are their unique skills and what are they excited about as a board, Savage said.