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Former 'Bachelor' star Ben Higgins says doing good and doing business can go hand-in-hand



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IU graduates and philanthropists Riley Fuller and Ben Higgins speak Friday morning at Hodge Hall about their for-profit coffee company, Generous, and non-profit organization, Humanity & Hope United Fund. Fuller and Higgins explained how they use profits from Generous to support their philanthropy efforts. "We wanted to do more with the life we were given," Higgins said.  Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

Ben Higgins looked out into a sea of women — and some men, 14 out of a crowd of over 50 people to be exact, too. 

"I don't know what your intentions for being here are," Higgins said as some girls giggled in the back, "But I hope you'll listen to what I have to say."

Ben Higgins, former TV reality star on "The Bachelorette" and "The Bachelor," returned to campus Friday morning to speak with students about working for fulfillment, not just toward a paycheck.

SEEK, or Social Enterprises Engagement of Kelley, was approached by Higgins and his longtime friend and business partner Riley Fuller, to talk about nonprofit business — but with a twist. 

When Fuller graduated IU in 2008, he was working as a financial trader, going out to expensive dinners, schmoozing clients and not living the life he thought he should. 

"My personal life was going bankrupt," Fuller said. 

So he decided to leave his big business job and start the Humanity and Hope United Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on ending poverty in neglected communities, specifically in Honduras. 

He said he it as an opportunity to fulfill his life in a way he had not before. 

"We made choices that drove us to the bottom," Fuller said of his and Higgin's time at IU and beyond. "There are people that start at the bottom."

Fuller admitted he was motivated to start the nonprofit because he felt he could be a better person. 

"To put it in perspective, last night was the first time ever that I went to Sports and didn't black out," Fuller said. The room clapped for him. 

Higgins admitted he was interested in finding a new way to fulfill his life for similar reasons. Both he and Fuller said they live their lives in ways that strive to be pure and full-hearted. 

"Whatever you're going to do, do it fully." Fuller said. They said this is a reason why they both quit their old careers in finance and business management to work full-time for their nonprofit cause.

Humanity and Hope on investing in building businesses and providing access to health care and education in the communities they go into. 

When Fuller started in 2010, they had donations and volunteers helping them along the way. But seven years later, they realized it was not enough to help a community in a sustainable way.

Once the donations and volunteers inevitably ran out, they worried they would leave these communities they were going into on their trips in worse shape than before.

This began Generous Coffee, a for-profit organization selling coffee from a local coffee plant in Honduras. 

The company, Higgins said, will generate revenue that will go directly back into Humanity and Hope and to other nonprofits they vet themselves.

Justin Freeman, a freshman in the Kelley School of Business and director of speakers' initiatives for SEEK, said he believes he sees a trend in bringing corporation and social responsibility together. 

Freeman said there are two types of people in the world. Thermometers and thermostats. 

"A thermometer can tell you what the temperature is, it can tell you the climate, but it can't do anything about it," Freeman said. "A thermostat, it can not only tell you what the temperature is, but has the ability in itself to change and set that climate." 

He said Fuller and Higgins are thermostats.

The coffee company, which began only a few months ago, has generated $15,000 in sales. Higgins said he acknowledges this is not a lot, but it's an impact, and though they are not experts, they care. 

"I didn't even get into Kelley," Higgins told the crowd. He joked they probably threw out his application. 

Higgins said though the coffee company is new, he has been involved in Humanity and Hope since its beginning. 

It even motivated him to go on "The Bachelorette." 

He said Fuller was his last phone call before producers took his phone away.

"I told him, 'Hey, I'm feeling weird about this,' Like who in the world goes on a dating show for three months and disappears?" Higgins said. "I said I wanted to figure out the purpose behind it, and we talked it through, and when I left my commitment to him, the purpose would be to expand the impact of Humanity and Hope." 

"Bachelor Nation," the nickname for the community of reality television stars and contestants, has been in part a platform for their efforts to help people far removed from the world of reality TV, but Higgins said it has been an effective one. 

He goes to these Bachelor Nation events and strikes up a conversation about Humanity and Hope or Generous Coffee. 

Social media platforms also play a hand in this when he posts promotions about the coffee they sell, or promote an event related to their organizations. 

This is a practice many ex-"Bachelor" and ex-"Bachelorette" stars partake in to promote their products, but they said in this case Higgins isn't just selling a product, he's selling an idea.

"We're trying to sell a worldview," Fuller said. "It's not like we're geniuses, we just try to love the best we can and keep moving forward."

Through their nonprofit and for-profit efforts, they hope to continue investing in building and providing infrastructure within these impoverished communities around the world.

"We're not going to fight an issue, we're going to fight for people," Fuller said. "Because we know what it is like to be broken."

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