Westmont Magazine Entrepreneurial Evangelism
Eric Knopf ’04 is marketing evangelism to today’s youth in a fresh new way, and business has been very good.
Originally from Portland, Ore., Eric is a senior who created his own major in entrepreneurial media. He has spent the last few years developing Epic Life, a company that seeks to share the gospel in a way that’s compatible with today’s culture. According to him, what excites this generation is media, clothing, extreme sports, entertainment and music. So Eric is giving them what they want, and saturating it with the love of Christ.
In high school, Eric competed in motocross, which involves racing motorcycles through dirt courses and over jumps. In an atmosphere that emphasizes attitude and competition, he found it difficult to share his faith. When a good friend had a biking accident that left him paralyzed, Eric realized he had passed up a chance to share the gospel with this friend, and he was devastated. He saw the experience as a calling.
The following fall, in October 2001, Eric and a friend put on “The Flood,” an event designed to bring people to Christ. The organizers put together a 10-piece band, hired two national speakers (evangelistic comedian Nazareth and motivational speaker Brian Randone) and invited pastors and church members to share their testimonies. About 500 people attended, and 12 were saved. The success fueled Eric, who wanted to do more.
He hoped to use his skills in design and marketing to help churches reach youth in a more effective way. Eric was frustrated that non-believing friends identified Christianity as tired cliches, cheesy slogans and bumper stickers. But some skeptics disagreed with his tactics, arguing that Eric lacked faith in God’s ability to reach non-Christians.
“We are fishers of men, but you’ve got to put bait on the hook,” he says. “Evangelism is also a type of business, and you want to be successful at evangelizing!”
With the help of his friends, he began to build a business. They came up with pro-faith statements such as “You are not what you’ve been told,” and “Relationship not religion.” With the aid of a small T-shirt making machine in his room, Epic Life (Eternal Promise in Christ) was born.
Epic Life Inc. markets extreme sports clothing lines, manages extreme sports teams in surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and motocross, and sponsors music bands, concerts, contests and video productions. Ultimately Eric hopes to launch an extreme sports park.
Eric originally funded Epic Life by working as a marketing director for LRD Racing, a motocross company that once sponsored him. He has since started Knopf & Associates, a creative design studio and marketing firm to fund the ministry. He gives clothing and stickers to athletes who display his logo in competition. Last year he formed a partnership with Campus Crusade for Christ, and he has also developed relationships with clothing companies, musicians, churches and professional athletes.
Thanks to the success of Epic Life, he won $2,500 in the Southwest regional competition of Entrepreneur of the Year (a contest for any student who owns a business) from Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. He traveled to Chicago to contend with 13 others for the global title. Even though Eric didn’t win, there were 1,100 people there who heard about Epic Life, and his Web site traffic tripled. He plans to enter Knopf and Associates in the contest next year.
Eric handles most aspects of his business. His partner, Austin Curtis, attends Santa Barbara City College, as does his manager, Ben Roy. Fellow Westmont student Clark Morgan ’04 does clothing development for Epic Life.
Volkswagen has asked Knopf & Associates to submit a proposal for marketing some concept cars to the company‘s headquarters and to investors.
Meanwhile, Eric continues to be entrepreneurial: he is seeking $200,000 to launch a brand new business.