Tuesday, September 18, 2018

WorldVenture's M2M Project Seeks to Create Jobs for Refugees in Europe

A good job is the best way to fight poverty. This fact has formed the foundation of my career leading Belay Enterprises over the last 19 years. Employment helps people move beyond the problems of being disadvantaged. It ends homelessness, reduces crime and allows people to support their families and engage in the creativity God intends for all to enjoy through work. I have seen first-hand in Denver how good jobs in faithful businesses transform lives. 

This Fall, I have a tremendous opportunity to take what we’ve learned at Belay and partner with Denver-based WorldVenture on its new M2M project aiming to impact changing cities throughout Europe.

Like in the United States, Europe has experienced an influx of refugees from the Middle East, fleeing violence and persecution. The M2M project is launching community centers in strategic cities throughout Europe to help refugees flourish and experience the Good News of Jesus. These community centers in places like Strasbourg, London and Barcelona will partner with existing churches to provide language classes, cultural integration activities, trauma counseling, school tutoring, and my area of interest, business development for employment and job training. For instance, the French government has indicated a willingness to help fund the startup of businesses to employ refugees who currently experience high rates of unemployment. All together, these activities aim to introduce refugees to the gospel and raise up small community churches.

In late October, I plan to travel with a core group of WorldVenture workers, church leaders, and partner agencies to discuss the vision and practice of the M2M Network. We will visit an existing center in Madrid and a developing Center in Strasbourg where we will coach and evaluate community assets. A big part of this trip will be exploring ways we can support M2M’s job creation activities in the future. 

I am a big fan of what WorldVenture is doing through these community centers and very thankful they have invited me out to help. The European refugee situation provides a unique moment in time where the church can really exemplify love to hurting people who otherwise would not be in an environment in their home countries to experience Jesus’ love. And it’s exciting to see the French church and government catch a vision for economic development on behalf of refugees.

Are you interested in helping? Perhaps, you could make a donation to support Worldventures efforts, and in particular, the $2500 travel cost portion of this trip?  If you feel led to help out, go to WorldVenture.com and click the “Donate” button on the homepage. Click on “Quick Giving Option” and then follow the instructions. Select designation by typing in “Transformational Ventures”.

Thank you for your interest in creating jobs for those who have challenges finding employment both here in Denver, through the efforts of Belay Enterprises, and around the world through WorldVenture. I fully believe God will use this trip to build the ministry capacity of these budding community centers, growing the impact of the gospel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Belay Enterprises Seeks Christ-Following Mentors and Early-Stage Founders for New Venture Partners Program

When I ask successful entrepreneurs about their own startup experience, many regret not having found a business mentor for advice and support during that season.

Others wish they had been more intentional about their most impactful activities like how important it is to focus on marketing.  Some share they underestimated the significance of hiring the right team members at the right time or didn’t understand how the loneliness of leadership hurt their effectiveness and relationships. What makes this list interesting is all of these items could have found a solution in intentional, high-impact mentoring with experienced business leaders. This becomes even more true for Jesus-following founders who want to live out their faith through their business. It is not common to find startup advice online about how to help one's employees flourish, how to build a business that blesses its customers, or, for some ventures, how to hire individuals who were formerly homeless.  Support from a Christian business entrepreneur will help a new founder build a business that is pleasing to Jesus. 

This fall, Belay Enterprises is introducing its Venture Partners Program that seeks to create businesses that transform lives. This builds on Belay’s own history of incubating 6 ventures over the last 19 years that employ individuals rebuilding lives. In November of 2018, we are matching one passionate early-stage founder who desires to live out the gospel through his or her business with a mentoring group of 5 business leaders. These will meet with the entrepreneur regularly to provide high-impact advice and a forum for working through challenges. The Belay Enterprises’ team will also offer targeted training and support. In addition, the selected founder will receive a start-up financial investment focused for business growth.  All together, this investment of mentoring, technical expertise, and financial resources aims to increase the impact and effectiveness of the new venture. In April of 2019, we will host our first Venture Partners event where we will match an additional 3 more founders with mentor teams.

Are you interested in being a mentor? This will be a unique opportunity for business leaders to use their business gifts and talents to impact the community for the gospel. We are looking for entrepreneurial Christ-following business people with a track record of success and a desire to use their talents to assist kingdom start-up businesses. Business mentors will also be encouraged to make an investment in our revolving donor advised fund that will be used to resource the founder business loans.  Let us know you are interested by visiting here.

Do you know an early-stage founder who might be interested in our program? We are seeking Christian entrepreneurs with new ventures from the idea stage to up to 2 years old, that desire to transform lives. If you are interested in learning more, visit here.

At Belay Enterprises, we are passionate about the life-changing potential of start-up businesses being founded by followers of Christ. Join us as we seek the flourishing of our communities through gospel-centered businesses.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Life Springing Up in the Conference Room

I'm a big believer in the career and life skill program we use at Bud's Warehouse to train people rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness and prison. 

A big part of this intensely relational program is our weekly hood-check where everyone shares what is going on in their life. I'm such a fan of this activity because of the tremendous camaraderie and personal breakthroughs I've witnessed over the years during this time.  I firmly believe every company would see big benefits by implementing a weekly hood-check. 

So it was exciting, a few years ago, when an entrepreneur with a new start-up company called me bubbling over with stories about starting a hood-check at his business. Every workday they are gathering in the morning to implement pieces of the Bud's Warehouse program in a for-profit setting. 

He told me it's turned into one of the most incredible experiences of his adult life. The employees have grown incredibly close to each other while experiencing some amazing stories of God acting in their midst. 

My friend struggled for words to explain what was happening in the lives of some of the employees. One word came to mind. Resurrection. Employees were seeing new life spring up in places formerly occupied by pain and long-term struggles. 

He shared with his staff that he was modeling his organization on this place in Colorado called Bud's Warehouse and everyone expressed great enthusiasm for supporting our organization. I'm most excited that he plans to hire people rebuilding lives sometime in the near future because his particular business will provide one of the best environments for people seeking to overcome past difficulties while building significant career skills for the future. 

Once again, I'm amazed at the impact Jesus-following business people can make by approaching their business as a ministry.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Five Things I've Learned in Business as Mission

For the last 18 years, I have been working in the challenging world of business as mission at Belay Enterprises. Someone recently asked me what would make up my list of five important lessons for a faith venture. As a reminder, I define a faith venture as a for-profit or non-profit business that creates employment and opportunity for a disadvantaged population. In no particular order, here’s my list:

1. Let the business lead the ministry- A faith venture has two bottom lines. It seeks business profits in order to support itself and grow. It also hopes to change lives by accomplishing its ministry. The great danger is that sometimes these two goals conflict with each other. In certain cases pursuing the mission will cost the mission and vice versa. I believe that if one is pursuing a Christ-centered business then all of business is ministry. So it then becomes acceptable to let the business lead the ministry because without a focus on the bottom-line this unique ministry opportunity disappears.

2. Stay true to your mission in the midst of the business- The second great danger facing a faith venture is losing sight of the ministry because of the focus on the business. Never forget the original God-purposed redemptive DNA of your particular faith venture.

3. Sell, sell, sell- An entrepreneurial organization must be about selling its product and mission at all levels of its organization to its target market. An organization that forgets to sell is an organization that is forgotten.

4. Cash Flow, Cash Flow, Cash Flow- Many a good faith venture or enterprise has died for lack of focus on cash. Knowing your cash position at any given moment drives your strategy and actions. More on this here.

5. Trust God- In reality, when you combine business and mission, it is going to get messy. One must work hard toward your business plan and mission goals and then prayerfully trust God with the results.

These are five ideas that deserve more attention in future posts.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

You Must Do this One Thing in a Business as Mission

I was recently asked in a meeting of executives what was one thing I would recommend to a Christ-following business owner wanting to bring his or her faith more directly into the workplace.

Without hesitation, I immediately recommended what we call the “hood-check.”

This particular discussion was interesting because most of the participants came from the for-profit world and they were really struggling with how to appropriately increase the role of faith in their companies without alienating employees or running in violation of discrimination rules.

I have a slightly different perspective because our non-profit organization, Belay Enterprises, was specifically set up as an urban business as mission incubator. We actively combine faith and business as instruments in rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison. Sometime other business owners seem to think that this special perspective from our unique “DNA” makes our approach not immediately replicable in a tradition for-profit business.

I disagree. If you’re a Christian business-owner your business is your ministry. And the day-to-day interactions you have with employees, customers, vendors, and competitors is sometimes the best chance for people in our culture to experience Christ’s love in a society that has decided that church no longer provides relevant answers to life’s problems.

And this is where the practice of “hood-check” can be a simple yet effective way to help people discover God’s love and God’s desire for people to be in community with others.

At Bud’s Warehouse, we practice “hood-check” at least once a week during our morning meeting. It’s the one thing that keeps the many challenges facing individuals re-entering society from prison from negatively impacting our workplace. We just simply gather together. Our program director invites everyone around the table to share what’s going on in their individual life. Men and women simply answer the question, “How are you doing?”

At first, it’s sometime awkward for new individuals and they simply answer “fine” or “good” like most of the individuals gathered around the table. But very quickly new participants learn it’s a safe place to share. They start to look-forward to a time where people are actually interested in them. Men will tell of marriages that are struggling though bumpy times. Women will share about children that are ill. Others will celebrate something a family member recently did or simply share that they had a hard time sleeping the night before. But though it all, a community of caring is created.

And the empathy carries over into the rest of the day. We find that inter-personal conflict is diminished because co-workers are aware of each other as individuals. If someone shares that they had a fight with their spouse before coming into work, other co-workers are more understanding when that individual seems on edge throughout the day. Never underestimate the positive impact caring employees will have on relationships and the success of a business.

Finally, the hood-check opens up the opportunity for prayer. We close our time together praying about the individual issues shared around the table. Employees don’t have to participate but the large majority does. Even those who don’t believe in God find that they do like the idea of a God who cares for the struggles in their life. And over time God answers those prayers and becomes more visible to even the biggest skeptic. Then the power of the hood-check really shines through.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Golden Rule for Business as Mission

"What’s the nicest thing someone has done for you?"

With that question, we opened a recent Bud’s Warehouse morning staff gathering. 

Someone shared about the time he was arrested but the officer arranged to have him released quickly. The policeman waited two hours for him to be processed and then drove him to get help. It was the one caring act that changed the course of his life.

Another staff member told about how a counselor in a drug treatment program went out of her way to help him get into a long-term program. “She single-handedly gave me a shot at having a life again,” he said.

Several others talked about how friends and parents selflessly helped them when they were in need. Everyone quickly realized that sacrifice and selflessness is always behind those nice actions.

But when we changed the question to what was the nicest thing you did for someone else, the room grew quiet, mostly because it’s hard to talk about such things because ex-offenders have been conditioned to believe it shows weakness. But maybe it’s really because we all don’t do sacrificial things for others often enough. Our culture has taught us to look out first for ourselves.

Then we read the Golden Rule.

“Do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Everyone had heard that before but not everyone knew that Jesus taught that in Matthew 7:12. And he taught it in the context of prayer. If you ask for something good for you in the eyes of God, he will give what’s best to you because God can’t help but act like a good father. But like a good father, we need to do the Golden Rule…treat others like we want to be treated.

That lesson is so much bigger than one’s personal life and relationship with friends and family. It is one of the keys to success in a workplace. People who treat co-workers, bosses and customers as they themselves want to be treated are on the way to success on the job and in life.

If you are running a business as mission venture, the Golden Rule needs to be a fundamental value of your organization. Teaching about it opens the door to two topics that in my experience all people like to talk about: Treating others like you want to be treated and creating a space for asking God for help even if one isn’t sure God’s even there.

Indeed, what business wouldn’t be better if it’s employees lived out the Golden Rule and understood that God cared for their needs? 

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Good Job is the Best Way to Fight Poverty

That fact has formed the foundation of my career leading Belay Enterprise's over the last 18 years. I have seen first-hand how good jobs in faithful organizations transform lives.

Employment helps people move beyond the problems of being disadvantaged. It ends homelessness and prevents individuals from returning to prison. It allows people to support their families and engage in the creativity God intends for all to enjoy through work.
Work also provides the environment for people to learn about God in faithful businesses.

Since 1994, Belay Enterprises' mission has been to partner with the church to start businesses that employ and job train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness and prison. Over the past 24 years, Belay has incubated six projects in Colorado that have hired hundreds of individuals.

At different points over the years, Belay has set various goals of starting a certain number of businesses by a future date. But increasingly we realize that this is not enough. If we are going to positively impact disadvantaged communities, we have to engage for-profit entrepreneurs, who are the true engines of job growth in a community. I have seen firsthand how there are many talented entrepreneurs sitting on the sidelines of our churches that if engaged towards these goals could make a much bigger impact employing individuals rebuilding lives than Belay alone.

This year, we have been designing out our newest project, the Belay Venture Partners program. But others have been encouraging me that our vision should be bigger than just the Denver community. It should expand to include other cities throughout the US and the world. 

Belay Venture Partners plans to connect Christ-following business leaders with emerging entrepreneurs to provide technical assistance, mentoring relationships and venture funding.  

We envision the program to have a team of MBA students or retired business people identifying startup or existing business as missions in need of incubation or acceleration services. The initial team would then help with business plan development and crafting a venture support plan. After a handful of businesses have been identified, the ventures will be shared with a group of Christian business people who have been identified to be mentors and investors. 

Each business in the program will be partnered with 7 mentor/ investors of which Belay would be the 7th. The Venture Partners program will invest donor advised funds (DAF) into the business that will then be paid back by the business to revolve into future investments in other Business as Missions. During the period of repayment, the businesses would have regular mentor meetings with the group as a whole and the Belay team with the aim to help the businesses grow and thrive. 

Over all, the aim is to create more jobs employing people rebuilding lives from poverty.

Does this interest you? Please contact us here if you'd like to learn more or if you have thoughts on our approach. Also, let us know if you'd like to be a business mentor.