Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Easter Prayer: Resurrection, Jobs and Denver's Business Community

I was asked to pray for jobs and businesses this Easter Sunday at Denver's City Park Sunrise service. While searching the web, I discovered there are no prayers addressing this particular topic for any city which is surprising to me. It's something that is much needed in light of what Jesus' resurrection means for our world:
Lord God, on that first Easter, you broke the disciples grief and hopelessness with the surprising news that Jesus was alive. Life could never be the same again because death had forever lost its power. This Easter surprise us and speak to us about what it means to live as resurrection people, confident in the truth that how we live today makes a difference forever in God’s world. Lord, show us what it means to live as resurrection people in our daily lives of earning a living as we sell, create, cook, clean, build, code, counsel, heal, advertise, fix, design, book-keep, troubleshoot, advise, insure, engineer, analyze, manage, and market.

Lord God, we pray that you would bless the businesses of the Denver area and show us our particular role in expressing your reign through our work. We pray that businesses would thrive in Denver as a sign of your love for all of its residents. 

We ask for your blessing upon business owners as they face the daily challenges of leading companies. Give them wisdom and peace and a desire to care for their employees. Help them to make good decisions about right and wrong. We pray for honesty and fair-play, that our leaders never lose sight that business is fundamentally about blessing & serving.

God, we ask your blessing upon entrepreneurs as they take risks to start new ventures. Help their dreams to become reality and turn into employment for others.

Good jobs are the only real way end poverty in our city. We pray that our businesses would create many jobs this year. And that those jobs would enable people who have been unemployed for a long time to find work. Lord, we pray for individuals who jobs are being left behind because of new technologies. We pray for training opportunities, for employers who are able to invest in skill training for their workforce. We also pray for businesses that are willing hire individuals with barriers to employability…people who are rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison but need someone to allow them the chance to work and provide for their families.

In the beginning, God, you put man and women in the garden to work it and take care of it. We’ve each been blessed as you have put us in the Denver community. Help us to be faithful in working it and taking care of it. 

This is our prayer, on the morning when we declare, He is Risen.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Four Thoughts on Addiction in Employment Training Social Enterprises

Addiction is a tough enemy for people rebuilding lives in our employment training businesses. And in Colorado, it’s clearly getting harder with the growing culture-wide celebration of drug use from the recent legalization of marijuana. It saddens me to see the apparent rising relapse rate for people in our program. A couple of thoughts:

Relapses are infectious. When one person succumbs to addiction in a community of people, it raises the odds of others following. It increases the need for employment-training social enterprises to have firm drug policies with testing and clear consequences. Relapse rates decrease when individuals understand the rules.

Relapses cause stress for others in the program. No one likes to see another fall. When it happens, leaders must be sensitive to the anxiety it causes. They must take special steps to set a positive and encouraging atmosphere. People need to be reminded that individuals do overcome addiction, that God restores lives.

When relapses happen, we can trust that God is still working. It is easy for leaders to get discouraged because their hard work and passion is seemingly not producing positive results. But faith venture leaders need to constantly remind themselves that God’s perspective is much bigger than ours. Relapses are often part of the process of someone reaching the decisive inner will to make a change. And sometimes, relapses are reminders to someone who has made that decision that they continue to need the help of of God and others. It is a leader’s prayer that the relapses become less frequent and shorter in duration because one is able to realize quickly what is happening. Social enterprise practitioners need to remind themselves of the first hand stories where someone’s relapse led to true life in the end.

Finally, legalization of drugs is going to have big negative costs for Colorado as the effects become more evident. Colorado will spend a lot in the future trying to undo the damage marijuana and other drugs cause to short-term and long-term health. People will realize the absurdity of spending money from tax revenues to stop individuals from using a harmful product that is creating those very revenues. And for unskilled laborer, drug legalization creates permanent unemployment with resulting state costs because employers do not hire people using drugs because of safety and insurance requirements.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Work is a Gift from God

But work well done is also bounded by times of rest. As we ready to start a long Labor Day weekend, this prayer reflects the beauty of both work and rest:

Let me but do my work from day to day,  In field or forest, at the desk or loom, In roaring market-place, or tranquil room; Let me but find it in my heart to say, When vagrant wishes beckon me astray,“This is my work; my blessing, not my doom; Of all who live, I am the one by whom This work can best be done, in the right way.” Then shall I see it not too great, nor small, To suit my spirit and to prove my powers; Then shall I cheerful greet the laboring hours, And cheerful turn, when the long shadows fall At eventide, to play and love and rest, Because I know for me my work is best. 
Poems of Sentiment: VI. Labor and RestHenry van Dyke 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Greenline Coffee Aims to Grow Jobs in Chicago's Woodlawn Neighborhood

This month, Sunshine Gospel Ministries opened Greenline Coffee, a new high-end coffee shop in the disadvantaged Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side.

Sunshine hopes the new coffee shop combined with its business incubator, Sunshine Enterprises, will start growing jobs in the neighborhood with traditionally high rates of unemployment. 

Greenline hires young adults from the neighborhood who have completed the Sunshine Summer Jobs Training program.

Sunshine's Executive Director,  Joel Hamernick, explained in an interview in DNAinfo Chicago his thoughts behind the creation of Greenline:

He said two years ago, he and others at the nonprofit were frustrated that five years of teaching kids entrepreneurial skills had not produced a single business in the neighborhood.

He said they switched to asking some of their supporters for investments instead of donations and started thinking about how many jobs a coffee shop would create in the glazed-brick building. 
Greenline Coffee has 12 employees, many of them from Sunshine’s summer jobs program.
“We have another 12 waiting for one of them to screw up so they can have their job,” Paula Hamernick said. 
She said the coffee shop got 200 applications before it opened and receives several requests for applications every day. “People aren’t poor because they want to be, it’s because there are no jobs,” Hamernick said. “Every day we have people coming in begging for a job.” 
In October, Sunshine will open a co-working space next door to the coffee shop to jump-start more businesses in Woodlawn. 
Joel Hamernick said the goal is for Sunshine to be working with 200 businesses within three years, with 45 new businesses and 60 jobs created every year. 
He admitted it was an ambitious pace, but said as soon as the coffee shop is breaking even, they will start on the next business.
Read more here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Three Things I've Learned After 15 Years of Social Entrepreneurship

I had the pleasure to present to a social enterprise gathering hosted by a fantastic new organization in our community, The Denver Institute for Faith and Work.

I've been meaning to write a post on this topic for awhile so it was timely to be able to present the following:
  • People don't like ex-offenders coming into their home
  • The social enterprise business needs to lead the mission
  • A lot of people enjoy talking about social enterprise but very few actual practitioners
  • (And a bonus point) Social enterprise is hard work
Be sure to check out the Denver Institute's website here.

Three Things I've Learned After 20 Years of Social Entrepreneurship - Jim Reiner from Denver Institute on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Twenty Years and Counting

Later this fall, Belay Enterprises celebrates its 20th Anniversary of offering employment and job-training in its home improvement thrift store, Bud’s Warehouse and its five other employment training business start ups.

Over the years, Belay has served hundreds of individuals looking to rebuild their employability while dealing with addiction, homelessness or prison. The organization plans to mark this 20 year milestone by growing employment opportunities for the people it serves and by hosting an anniversary banquet.

Like any new social enterprise, the Belay story is one of ups and downs. In 1994, a group of Christian businessmen and urban pastors, all with a heart for urban Denver, began meeting under the leadership of Mile High Ministries. Out of these discussions grew Belay and its desire to impact the employment side of poverty. The organization's first project was Bud's Warehouse, a home improvement thrift store that recycled leftover construction and home improvement materials. Bud's main goal was to provide job training and employment for individuals rebuilding lives. In addition, profits from the business would be reinvested in the community by providing loans and technical assistance for entrepreneurial business startups.

As with many start-ups, Belay experienced a difficult road to profitability for Bud's Warehouse. The store struggled with attracting customers even while receiving fantastic building donations from the community. Lack of profits made Belay's business micro loan dreams difficult to sustain. In 1998, the micro lending program was suspended to focus energies on establishing Bud's Warehouse. The hope was to revisit business development activities after Bud's started to thrive.

God soon answered the organization's prayers. In February of 2000, Mark Koebrich, with the local NBC affiliate 9 News, did a sweeps week story on home improvement deals at Bud's Warehouse. The story aired on the night of a big snowstorm following the highest rated ER episode in NBC history. Overnight, Bud's became a smash hit with long lines people waiting to enter the store for the next few days. Like the bible story of Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves, God multiplied Bud's building materials to accommodate the store's new popularity. Bud's Warehouse was able to build on its popularity to increase the number of jobs for individuals rebuilding lives while developing resources for new ventures…an approach that continue today.

To build on Bud's success, Belay pursued an incubation model for future businesses and started Baby Bud's, a job-training program for single moms. A few years later, Belay incubated the Good Neighbor Garage and Freedom Cleaning Services. All three of these start ups were spun off from Belay after reaching self-sufficiency and continue to thrive as independent organizations.

Presently, Belay is growing two new faith venture enterprises:

  • Purple Door Coffee,which launched in May of 2013, employs formerly homeless young adults in partnership with Dry Bones Denver. The store opened to tremendous support from the Denver community as well as accolades from area coffee aficionados, but most of all, Belay is excited by the difference the project is making in the lives of young adults transitioning from homelessness.
  • New Beginnings Custom Woodworks, a custom cabinet employment program, provides quality cabinet-making training for individuals rebuilding lives. The project builds a line of solid-wood shaker cabinets that are becoming popular with Denver area customers desiring a high-quality kitchen cabinets. 
Over the years, God has given Belay a big vision for creating new employment opportunities for people rebuilding lives. But we are reminded that we can not run all of these projects on our own. We are always looking to partner with Christ-followers that have a heart to use their business talents or resources to create jobs for people with significant barriers to employment.

If you're interested in helping, give us a call at 303-296-3990 or consider supporting our new start-ups as they grow towards sustainability with a tax-deductible donation by visiting our online donation page here. And stay tuned for more details on our upcoming anniversary celebration this fall.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Book Argues that Entrepreneurship is Essential to Flourishing Communities

My friend Chris Horst is becoming a prolific writer with the publication of his newest book, "Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing," co-authored with Peter Greer.

This compact book provides an extremely powerful argument that business entrepreneurship enables human flourishing for the poor far better than charity. The book shares a mix of stories from entrepreneurs around the world making the case that business development creates opportunities for better lives.

I must admit I am a bit biased because the book focuses a few pages on our newest Belay Enterprises' project, Purple Door Coffee, lead by Madison Chandler and Mark Smesrud. It's fun to see their hard work and great results for homeless young adults get highlighted. Overall this book is perfect for individuals exploring entrepreneurship as a way to create opportunity for the disadvantaged.

Get your own copy of the book here.