In November 1999, Steve and Bette packed up boxes of training materials, 15 used laptop computers and all of the suit cases they had and moved from Provo, USA to Cebu, Philippines. Bette always felt a sense of urgency about this move and getting the Academy started. The first thing they did the day after they arrived was attend a countrywide CES conference in Manila. The Gibsons distributed 1,300 Academy applications.
With the help of their friend Ed Siady, they found a nice house for the Academy, set up a bank account and hired a secretary. Steve and Bette went to the post office every day looking for applications from returned missionaries. For several weeks there were no applications, and then came one, then two. One day they received 11. They wept after receiving 25 applications for the first batch of 25 students.
The Gibsons returned home to Provo in May 2001 after living in Cebu for 19 months. They have returned many times since then. Starting with the first trip to Philippines, Steve traveled to the Philippines, according to his passport, some 30 times more.
They love the Filipino people and pray daily for the staff, the students, the alumni and anyone connected in any way with the Academy. They feel that with the all- Filipino staff, the Academy continues to get better and better meeting the needs of the wonderful missionaries.
“I still remember the story of the Star Thrower. I know we can’t make a difference in the lives of every Filipino returned missionary, but I do feel that we made a difference in the lives of 1,600 so far and I truly feel that we have just began,” Brother Gibson said.
The Academy for Creating Enterprise trains financially- challenged Filipino, Mexican and Brazilian church members who have served full time missions. The students are taught how to start and grow small businesses that create jobs for themselves, their friends and their families – allowing them to become economically self- reliant. This eliminates the need for them to go abroad for work. It also enables them to serve more fully in the church and in their communities.
The Academy teaches business principles called ‘Rules of Thumb’ through several different models, including an eight-week live-in program, as well as two-week seminars taught in some of the most economically disadvantaged areas of the country.
The Academy celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2010, having graduated more than 1600 returned missionaries. In the Philippines, the Academy is managed and operated by an all-Filipino staff with active support from alumni and friends of Filipinos living in the United States.
Most of the operating costs of the Academy are covered by U.S. and in-country sponsors. It is not sponsored nor endorsed by any religious, academic or civic institution; however, many of the benefactors of the Academy are also founders of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
The Academy continues to teach self-reliance, provide hope and build faith among those who dream of a better life for themselves and their families. The Academy’s unofficial slogan comes from the words of a student who once said; “My dream is not to die in poverty, but to have poverty die in me.”