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Showing posts from August, 2008

Honesty: Letting the Light Shine In

Matthew 5:33-37

A lack of honesty hinders our walk with Jesus. It’s hard to read the Gospels and miss the importance of being brutally truthful about our own motivations and actions. Jesus teaches that it is dangerous to put on false appearances in the interest of appearing holy or respectable. It’s a lesson we all need whether we are dealing with an addiction, rebuilding a life after prison, or living in suburban success and respectability.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he teaches in Matthew 5:37 that we should let our “Yes be yes, and our no be no.” This seems simple but yet is oh so hard. If we honestly analyze our own actions, how often do we appeals to an external factor to cover up the truth. We may increasingly live in a culture where we don’t swear to God to make a point unless it is a negative one. But we all have subtle methods we employ to hide what’s really going on.

With the urban poor, addiction often lurks below the surface. One drink or one illicit smoke spirals uncontro…

Food Banking Challenges Create Faith Venture Opportunity

New opportunities often follow new challenges.

In today’s economy, food banks are facing new realities that make providing services more difficult. Increased efficiency at food production facilities and supermarkets is decreasing the supply of donated food from corporations to local food banks. At the same time, the current economy is increasing the demand for help from food banks. To further complicate this environment, the federal government is asking food banks to increase the nutritional quality of the food that they provide. These are significant challenges for the nonprofits that provide real help to families facing hunger. Yet, this very environment is creating an opportunity for a new faith venture to change the lives of individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison…the very risk factors that lead to a need for food bank services.

Starting in January of 2009, an innovative new partnership between Compa Ministries, Providence Network and Belay Enterprises wi…

Top Five Lists

In a blog post this week, venture capitalist and entrepreneur Guy's Kawasaki shared the five most important lessons he’s learned as an entrepreneur. As usual, his thoughts are creative and very valuable. His top five:

1. Focus on Cash Flow
2. Make a little progress each day
3. Try Stuff
4. Ignore schmexperts
5. Never Ask People to do something that you wouldn’t do

Guy’s list started me thinking about 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 mis…

The Accidental Cleaning Company

Sometimes opportunity finds you.

In 2003, Cherry Hills Community Church called Baby Bud's Director Dianne Sager with a question. The recovery organization that had been cleaning their facility had just closed and Cherry Hills needed a new partner. Would Baby Bud's be interested in cleaning the school at Cherry Hills?

Normally a retail baby store would think twice about committing to a job completely unrelated to its core business. But Dianne had 20 years of experience managing a janitorial company prior to Baby Buds. She saw this as a new opportunity to employ more single moms. Within a couple of weeks, Baby Bud's added five single moms for a cleaning crew and Freedom Cleaning Services was born. Within a year, the business had grown to employ ten women with several other churches and commercial businesses as clients.

One of the challenges to any business start-up is maintaining the focus on your core business when other opportunities arise. Sometimes it's good to pursu…

The Surprise Visitor

Baby Bud's is finally open!

It's been a tough journey finding a new space for the store. We've been trying to faithfully go where God wants us but it's been a difficult process. We thought two other possible locations were each the place, but both did not work out. And who knew it would take 6 months to find the space that would finally become the store?

Today, Dianne Sager had an unexpected visitor speak words that reminded her of a similar event 6 years ago at the old store.

"Do you know why I'm here?" the women asked. "Jesus sent me here. The Holy Spirit is in this place." The woman then asked, "What happens when you keep placing items into a basket? It will overflow. This place is going to overflow with blessings for this neighborhood. This is the right neighborhood for you."

Like the visitor six years ago, Dianne had never seen this woman before. Her words felt like confirmation that the last six difficult months had ended with the pe…

Motivations

Why do you do what you do?

I think it's a good practice to ask that question. Frequently.

We all have reasons...maybe it's money, significance, success, or service. Everyone has motivations and some are better than others.

In a faith venture, where a business does ministry, one must be very careful with motivations. Business speaks the language of profits and efficiency while ministry seeks service and transformation. They are not mutually exclusive. Business is a great arena for ministry and ministry needs money to survive, but ministry sometimes can be harmed by decisions in the interest of efficiency. Check your motives. I've seen faith ventures lose their way because they were serving money and I've seen ministries close because they forgot about raising money. I've had ministry leaders tell me that they need a certain scale of success in order to effectively impact society.

Please be careful and check your motives.

If God took away success or significance but asked…

Relational Brokeness

G. K. Chesterton once said that the easiest theological truth in the world to prove is the reality of sin. This often becomes a central theme in our morning discussions at Bud's Warehouse. Individuals that are attempting to rebuild lives from addiction or prison have had a front row seat to witnessing the worst that life can throw at you. They understand physical and sexual abuse. They have seen relationships torn apart by bad decisions or selfishness. They understand what it is to hurt someone else. They know sin and its ugly effects.

For the last three weeks, we have been on a slow journey of looking at Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. We are starting with the idea that if we are disciples of Jesus Christ, we really want to examine what he teaches and try to apply it to our own lives.

This morning we were looking at issues of how we relate to others around us. It's not controversial to believe that one should not kill, commit adultery or le…

Commercial Real Estate and the Thrift Store Faith Venture

Over the years at Bud's Warehouse, I have often joked that we have made a habit of preceding future loft developments. We have had to move from two prior warehouse locations because of the development of lofts. Bud’s moved from another location because of the development of a business complex. Recently, our Baby Bud's project closed operations at the Colfax and Peoria location because of the Fitzsimmons neighborhood redevelopment. Moving a business, especially one with 20,000 square feet of building materials, is not for the faint-of-heart and fraught with all sorts of retail risks. Will our customers follow us? Will the new location be visible enough? Will we be in a convenient location for our program participants?

Commercial Real Estate is a difficult but extremely important undertaking for any retail business. The location of a business is one of the top factors for retail success or failure. For thrift store faith ventures, commercial real estate becomes an even bigger cha…

Baby Bud's New Location Opens

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There is a special place in God's heart for the widow and orphan. God passionately loves those that society too often leaves behind. The Bible speaks directly of God's love for the widow at least 24 different times througout the Old and New Testaments. (See below this post for a list)

In today's disadvantaged communities, a modern version of the widow is the mother who has been abandoned by her male partner and forced to take care of her child by herself. She may not have lost her husband to death but she has lost many of the advantages that make escaping poverty easier. Indeed, one of the hardest segments of poverty to address is the single mother struggling to take care of her family.

In 2001, Belay Enterprises aimed to provide a solution to this problem by starting Baby Bud's, a job-training program for single mothers. Baby Bud's addresses the difficult area of employment for single mothers rebuilding lives from homelessness, prison or addiction. This innovative p…

Faith Venture Opportunity in Kenya

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Pastor Francis Ranogwa made a surprise visit to Bud’s Warehouse last week for a tour of our operations. He is in the process of building a micro-enterprise and business development program in Kenya for members of his impoverished community in the rural area of Vihiga and urban area of El Doret. I met Pastor Francis 4 years ago through Randy Stensgard of Centennial Community Church. Randy attended Bible school with Pastor Francis 15 years ago in Germany and has been involved in his ministry. Pastor Francis has developed a church, two orphanages and two schools in Kenya.

About two years ago, I participated in a series of meetings with Cathy Cutrell, Randy and April Stensgard and others discussing the development of this micro-enterprise project. April Stensgard initiated some early food security projects and work with the widow community. After realizing that we had much more to learn, Cathy Cutrell enrolled in a series of classes through the Chalmers Center. She developed an intensive p…

The Anti-program Job-Training Program

Over the last nine years at Bud's Warehouse, individuals have often asked me to explain our job training program. For many years, I struggled to provide a clear answer because, in many ways, the Bud's program is not a traditional program. Sure, we have a curriculum and a three phase programatic way of organizing our instruction. But the core level of our program is really about building relationships and helping individuals work "one-on-one" through the unique challenges of pursuing a career after prison or addiction. So, if you're looking for a "step-by-step, do this and you'll get employed" type program, Bud's really isn't such a place. But if you desire a life-on-life mentoring program that is tailored to the specific needs of an individual, then Bud's is the place for you. Any program can teach how to not lose your anger in the workplace, but we think Bud's strength comes from, not only teaching anger management techniques, but b…

In and Out of Control: A History of Belay Enterprises

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I like to think that I am in control. I've always felt that the right business plan with strong execution will result in success. My experience at Belay Enterprises has taught me otherwise. God is in control and, in many ways, I am just along for the ride.

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 Enterprises, an innovative organization that desired to impact the employment side of poverty. Belay'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 from addiction, prison, and poverty. In addition, profits from the business would be reinvested in the community by providing loans and technical assistance for entrepreneurial business startups.

As with ma…

Entrepreneurs and Risk

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

I've heard it said that entrepreneurs by nature have a greater tolerance for risk than other individuals. Certainly, starting an enterprise takes confidence when the odds say that greater than 50 percent of ventures will fail in five years. Even so, I believe that entrepreneurs do not have more tolerance for risk but actually have less. Entrepreneurship is all about managing risk...identifying opportunities and then developing a business that minimizes the risk of failure. So a successful entrepreneur may appear to be hyper-vigilant to all the possible dangers to his or her business and strategic about developing corresponding answers.
For a follower of Christ, there is a danger that this attitude may lose sight of one of Jesus…

Beauty from Ashes

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In 2005, a group of men from Centennial Covenant Church took a backpack trip starting from Trapper's Lake in the Flattops. This is my favorite spot in Colorado. Over the last 15 years, I have annually backpacked in this Wilderness area up until 7 years ago when the Big Fish Fire devastated the area. When we departed for Trapper's Lake on that August day, I feared that I would find the place I loved destroyed by this terrible fire. Instead, I rediscovered God's love for taking "broken things" and making them beautiful. The Flattops have been transformed into one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. At Belay Enterprises, over the last nine years, I have had a front row seat in seeing God transform numerous lives broken by addiction or felony conviction. It is the great joy of my ministry to see God's grace transform a broken life into something beautiful. This is one of the great blessings of working in a faithventure.

Introduction

Imagine trying to support your family while facing a job market that refuses to provide you an opportunity to work. Perhaps it's a felony conviction or it's the lack of a place to live. Or maybe, it's the struggle to overcome an addiction. For many, it's merely living in a third-world country where prevailing poverty creates a lack of job opportunities and the average daily wage is less that a dollar a day. These are factors that lead to nearly unbreakable cycles of poverty with tragic consequences for individuals, families and communities. In the face of these challenges, I believe that there is a unique role that specially- gifted Christian entrepreneurs can play in addressing these problems in the name of Christ. And in the process they can share the love of Chirst. It's a big challenge but it's a task large enough to capture the hearts and engage the talents of a significant subset of Christian businesspersons. These are individuals that may feel they lack …