Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Belay Venture Partners Program Selects First Founder

I’m excited to announce that Belay Enterprises has chosen Brittany Marlett as our first participant in the Venture Partners Program. Brittany's business, A Child’s Best Interest, is a home-based day care facility that started last year while participating in the Change Agency, a community development program of Denver area Cross Purpose. After completing that program, she quickly grew her company to its max capacity where she is serving six kids a day in her home. 
And now she has big plans for her business. Over the next year, she wants to expand from her house into a day care facility. That will require her completing additional state-mandated training as well as obtaining financial investment in order to secure a new center.

Belay’s Venture Partner’s Program is excited to help her through this process. We have identified five mentors who have agreed to meet with her monthly to coach her on the various aspects of running a growing business. They plan to start by assisting her in refining the business plan for strategic growth into the new facility. I am especially excited that one of the mentors has significant experience running her own day care center and is also a certified trainer for the State of Colorado. 

Are you interested in being a mentor? Though Brittany’s cohort group is full, we are close to selecting other participants for the program that will be matched with coaches. 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.

We are also continuing to accept applications for our new program. Do you know an early-stage founder who might be interested? 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, March 7, 2019

If You Are a Creative Person You Need to Create.

And if you are an entrepreneur, your creativity is your superpower.

But as your venture grows, your time for creativity declines. The tyranny of the urgent takes away your ability to think up new approaches and work "on" the business instead of "in" the business.

The flip side of this problem is the creative entrepreneur who has a million ideas and is always planning something new but never able to start. Over and over, I’ve seen that the most creative people have the hardest time focusing and deciding which idea to pursue.

So for any entrepreneur running a business, there is a creative sweet spot where one continues to be innovative but not paralyzed by the abundance of possibilities.

There are three things you should do to stay in that zone:
  • Schedule time to be creative every day: You need to fight daily for space where you can explore, dream and think. I like spending an hour in the morning with my coffee and my ideas. And then I try to schedule quiet blocks of time where I can work uninterrupted on new ideas.
  • Stay focused on your mission, your purpose: It is so important to have an understanding of your own personal and organization mission as you play in the arena of your creative ideas. These give the freedom to explore new things without devolving into activity without impact or execution. Ideas are not things to be admired but concepts to guide us to further growth and new opportunities.
  • Finally, every idea finds it's power in concrete action steps: What is the one thing you are going to do today about your idea? Who are you going to call? What are you going to write down? What small step is going to bring about the future today?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

There Are Two Ways You Can Kill a Startup: Too Little Business and Too Much Business.

A couple of years ago, our five month old custom cabinet business, New Beginnings Custom Woodworks, was featured on our local news station. In our exuberance, we signed up too many customers with an unrealistic view of how quickly we could complete jobs. In less than a month, we had upset customers and significant cash flow problems as we made mistakes in our rush to complete jobs while also missing deadlines.

For any new venture, I believe there are three top factors that protect a business from failure:
  • A good fit between the product/ service and the market it serves.
  • A complete understanding of the company's cash flow position with daily projections.
  • Marketing, marketing, marketing!
In the case of our cabinet business misstep, we were able to recover our financial footing through the three key factors. Our product ultimately was a good fit with customer demand, so after apologizing and then completing jobs satisfactorily, we were able to refine our product to even better serve our customers. We simplified our business by specializing in only shaker style cabinets, speeding up our production time and allowing us to more strategically market to our customers. Finally, our grasp of our cash flow position enabled us to raise funds in time (through God’s abundant blessing) to make it through our mistake and onto the future. 

I shared this story a few years ago for an article in The BAM Review.  It's a good survey of common business as mission mistakes for people leading new ventures.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

If You Are Doing Business as Mission, You Are Doing Marketing.

This has been a big theme of this website for many years. And it is the foundation of a marketing class I’ve taught for YWAM for 5 years.

Recently, the importance of marketing came to the forefront while I gave a tour of Belay Enterprises to a friend interested in mentoring for our Venture Partners program. He is a business broker, who is hired by individuals looking to sell their businesses. And he notes that nearly all of the businesses approaching him for sale have significant room for growth in the future, simply by implementing better marketing. Effective marketing is the key to a thriving venture.

And marketing is more than advertising, as it is often, mistakenly limited. When done at its best, it is about defining the minimally viable market for your good or service and then making appropriate decisions about price, place and people. For the faith venture practitioner, marketing done well provides an opportunity to redeem the promotion piece of marketing, which sometimes gets corrupted in secular organizations by the belief that the only thing important is making the sale. When I coach new BAM entrepreneurs, it is always such a joy to them when they are able to shift their marketing paradigm from just convincing people to buy their product to a more holistic understanding of it as blessing their customers.

Are you interested in learning more? I am in the process of taking my marketing class online for individuals in the process of starting or running business as mission ventures. We are going to offer early participants a chance to demo the curriculum in the future at significant savings.  Sign up here and we will keep you up to date.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Seeking Ranch Land to Change Lives

Do you know someone with an available small plot of ranch land in the Denver area?  Belay Enterprises, has identified a great opportunity for a business that both employs and serves the refugee community in Colorado. 

A local Nepali pastor has approached us with the employment needs of his community. There are a number of older members who are struggling with learning English, which is negatively impacting their ability to find work. The pastor has also noticed that his community prefers buying whole farm-raised goats over pre-packaged meats at the supermarket. He's also discovered there is a great price spread between purchasing the goats in other states and then selling them individually in Colorado. But the difficulty with the model is finding an affordable place to ranch the goats close to Denver.

This goat business model is also an opportunity for other communities in the U.S. and in the right developed nations. Our research shows that even non-immigrant communities are increasingly demanding direct from farm meats because of the  health benefits.

Our search for ranch land is part of Belay Enterprises' efforts in its Venture Partners Program to help start-up businesses that transform lives. We are matching passionate early-stage Christian founders who desire to change lives through their businesses with mentoring groups of 3-5 business leaders. In addition, selected founders 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 ventures.

Please visit here if you know someone who might be able to help out with the ranch land needs or if you want to learn more about our Venture Partners Program. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Europe's Growing Desire for Third Wave Coffee Creates Opportunities to Employ Immigrants

Over the last decade, coffee culture has undergone a big change in the United States. It is a movement often referred to as the third wave of coffee. And this new approach is opening up big opportunities for business as mission (BAM) ventures, especially in places throughout Europe.

Right after World War II, the first wave of coffee culture hit the American shores when the industry was invented with uniform roasts, mass produced for people less concerned about taste and more interested in price and a morning jolt of caffeine. In the 1990’s, Starbucks grew second wave coffee from a small shop in Seattle to locations all over the world. Second Wave coffee was defined by mass produced dark roasts emphasizing good taste that could by uniformly experienced in any of its stores.

We are now in the middle of the third wave coffee movement where specialty stores are producing high-quality coffees of different styles and tastes. These coffees are roasted to the specific profile of the bean as determined by its type and region to maximize taste and quality. The movement is defined by an openness to lighter roasts and a selection of coffees that are individually styled to avoid commodification.

The third wave has been underway in large cities in the United States for over a decade. Indeed, in some cities like Denver, specialty coffee shops are close to maximum saturation. But in other places like Europe, third wave coffee seems to be at the starting gates of popularity. In regions where coffee has long been defined by the dark espresso bean, countries like France and Italy are beginning to see a growing desire among its customers to experience coffee in new ways. For business as mission practitioners, this creates an opportunity to start new ventures that employ individuals rebuilding lives. 

In Denver, Colorado, Belay Enterprises' Purple Door Coffee startup began 6 years ago to employ young adults transitioning from homelessness. A few years into the project, an unexpected investment propelled us into opening an off-site roaster to create more jobs while producing our own coffee. Very quickly, we discovered how optimal our roasting facility was for employing and training people, almost to the point where we wished we had started with the roaster instead of the retail store. Our warehouse production facility was able to employ more young adults in a setting that was excellent for mentoring and job training. And the coffee roast produced were extremely profitable,

All together, our experience with the roaster in Denver and the growing desire for third wave coffee in other countries points to a unique opportunity for business as mission. Coffee roasting BAM's provide a chance to employ disadvantaged employees like immigrants and refugees while they work to transition into their new countries. And the nature of the roasting business offers an extremely relational environment that provide lots of room for coaching, personal development and working with individuals learning a new language. If the market research in a community shows an openness to third wave coffee, a roasting operation is one of the best venture opportunities for serving people rebuilding lives.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Do You Know a Skilled Potential Founder of a Woodworking Business in Need of Shop Space, Mentoring and Financial Investment?

In today’s tight commercial real estate market, affordable space to start a business is extremely difficult to find. It’s one more factor that can make starting a new venture seem like an impossible task. This is especially true for businesses like cabinet or furniture operations that require shop space to produce physical products.

Do you know a skilled potential founder of a woodworking business in need of shop space, mentoring and financial investment? Belay Enterprises’ Venture Partners program has an opening for a Christ-following early-stage founder in our innovative incubator program. The right candidate will have access to a 2000 square foot shop, be partnered with a cohort of three to five entrepreneurial leaders for two years, and be eligible for an investment from the Belay Opportunity Fund. In addition, Belay has a marketing pipeline of potential customers for the new cabinet venture that can help give a head start for sales success.

Belay Enterprises' Venture Partners Program seeks to create businesses that transform lives. It builds on Belay’s own history of incubating six ventures over the last 19 years that employ individuals rebuilding lives. The mentoring groups of up to five business leaders meet regularly with founders in our program to provide high-impact advice and a forum for working through challenges. The Belay Enterprises’ team also offers targeted training and support. In addition, the selected founders are eligible to receive a start-up financial investment focused for business growth.  All together, this investment of mentoring, technical expertise, and financial resources aim to increase the impact and effectiveness of the new ventures. In addition to the woodworking business we are seeking, our program is open to other founders of businesses that seek to transform lives.  In April of 2019, we will host our first Venture Partners event where we will match three to five founders with mentor teams.

If you are interested in learning more, let us know here. Visit our website here to learn more. We will be announcing deadlines to apply for 2019 in the next few weeks and will start interviewing candidates for the wood shop immediately.

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.

Belay Venture Partners Program Selects First Founder

I’m excited to announce that Belay Enterprises has chosen Brittany Marlett as our first participant in the Venture Partners Program. B...