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DWU student, business owner donates portion of sales to combat homelessness

Amanda Halsey, owner of Servant Sips, stands for a portrait on Saturday in Mitchell. Servant Sips is an online business that sells fair trade certified coffee, with a portion of all sales donated to organizations geared toward helping homeless people. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

Amanda Halsey has plenty to be thankful for this year.

On Nov. 30, the Dakota Wesleyan University student will celebrate the one year anniversary of owning her own business, which has been successful so far.

In 2016, 20-year-old Halsey began operating Servant Sips, an online company that sells fair trade certified coffee. The idea for the business came when the junior was tasked with doing so as part of a class project. And while many other students' businesses fizzled once the semester ended, Halsey stuck with hers.

"I just knew I wanted to keep it going," she said. "It's been one of the best decisions I've made."

And now Halsey has begun expanding her product line to include candles and clothing. The candles are made of old coffee that wasn't sold in time for consumption.

While business isn't booming quite yet, Halsey said she does have regular customers and some stores purchase her coffee. Those who purchase her products can be rest assured the people producing it are being treated fairly, Halsey said. To be fair trade certified means products come from farms certified to provide fair wages and safe working conditions.

As an added bonus, a portion of all sales is donated to organizations geared toward helping homeless people.

"If you want to go to the grocery store and buy products you don't know where they're coming from that's fine, a lot of people do that," Halsey said. "But a lot of people are starting to become more socially responsible. ... To me, there's no point in selling a product that's hurting someone in another country while trying to help people in America."

Tasked with working several jobs, attended classes and operating Servant Sips by herself, Halsey said she has sometimes had trouble balancing it all. But as she learns how to balance her time and schedules, she has been able to commit more time to Servant Sips, working with the business daily.

It's Halsey's drive and commitment that sets her apart from others, DWU's Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Teresa Quinn said.

Often, young people will have many big ideas and struggle to complete one before moving on to another, Quinn said. But not Halsey.

"Amanda gobbles up life. I am never sure what she will do next," Quinn said. "But at the same time, she is far from a 'fly by the seat of her pants' type of person — she is quite grounded and constantly improving on her interests."

Additionally, Halsey is keen on listening to other people's point of view, which helps her flourish as an entrepreneur, Quinn said, adding that Halsey is not "quick to judge or to imply she knows it all." Her willingness to try new ideas will continue to be beneficial as she progresses her business, Quinn said.

In upcoming years, Halsey said she hopes to expand her business nationwide, while operating a coffee shop of her own in Yankton, where she plans to employ people associated with the Yankton-based Pathways Shelter for the Homeless struggling to find employment.

"I thought it would all start right away, and it was disappointing to at first get a lot of 'no' or a lot of people not calling me back," Halsey said. "... I've kind of gotten over that and grown a lot from that kind of stuff."

But for now, she's focused on learning.

Along with growing a social media following on Facebook and Instagram, Halsey looks to her professors at DWU and local leaders to guide her on the right path.

"It's been a blessing to have them to talk to, and I'm really looking forward to what the next year brings," Halsey said. "I'm learning all the time."