Rob Touchstone & Charlie Dillingham



Do Well, Do Good



By Turney Stevens, Dean

We try to teach our students that there is a very important ethical component to leadership and this aspect is just as important as maximizing shareholder value.

We must be good at conveying that message, at least based on Rob Touchstone's new business.

Rob graduated from Lipscomb University in the late Nineties and for the past 15 years has been a youth minister. His entrepreneurial instincts were not to be denied, however.

Five years ago, Rob was a student in Dr. Earl Lavender's Missional Living graduate course, working on his Master's in Divinity degree, when the idea for the Well Coffeehouse first came to his mind.

A business plan was soon written. This plan envisioned a super cool coffeehouse where the profits would go to projects benefitting the world's poorest people.

The plan was written, the grade recorded, the class ended. End of idea, right? Wrong.

The seed had been sown and Rob could not let go of the idea. He shared his idea with buddies Charlie Dillingham (a recent MBA graduate of the College of Business), Chris Soper, Matt Yates, Steve Morrow, and Walt Malone. They thought the idea was a great one too. And so they all began to look for ways to implement the vision.

A vacant, decaying Burger King restaurant in Green Hills became available. Investors materialized. A designer, Laura Copeland, added her skills. A benevolent landlord got excited and believed in the mission.

Call it a God thing, call it a great idea. Call it whatever you wish but The Well Coffeehouse opened a few months ago at 2035 Richard Jones Road and business is booming.

In addition to hot coffee (made by baristas and offered in as many varieties as that Other Coffeehouse Down The Street), the Well's profits will be used to fund clean water projects around the world. The first month saw enough profit to buy a dishwasher for a hospital in Jamaica.

This week's guests on Conversations with the Dean are Lipscomb alums Rob Touchstone and Charlie Dillingham, founders of The Well Coffeehouse.

Harvard Business School might want to think about a case study on this business. Maybe it would encourage their Wall Street Wannabes to add an ethical component to their business plans too.