Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twittering on Faith Ventures

I have started twittering on faith ventures: @jamesreiner. Join me for more frequent updates on articles and items of interest in the faith venture world. You can also follow updates on Bud's Warehouse: @budswarehouse .

AT&T Commercial Focuses on Faith Venture Toms Shoes

I define a faith venture as Christ-centered business that creates opportunity for individuals and communities rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness, prison, or poverty. Right now, if you're watching television, it's hard to miss the AT&T ads that profile one such faith venture: Toms Shoes.

This innovative for-profit business was built on the simple premise of giving away a pair of shoes to disadvantaged children in Argentina for each pair of shoes sold. The idea has spawned a growing "One for One" movement that has captured the interest of the media and resulted in providing over 140,000 pairs of shoes for disadvantaged children. The company has a goal of 300,000 pairs in 2009.

Blake Mycoskie shares his passion and his faith in an inspiring interview at the 2009 Q Conference in Austin. Below is a behind the scenes look at the making of the AT&T ad. Blake also writes an inspiring blog.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Seed Funding Solution for Social Ventures

Springboard Innovation, a Portland, Oregon, nonprofit organization that seeks to increase the number of individuals involved in leading and supporting social change, has introduced an innovative social capital marketplace called the changeXchange. This program seeks to provide a solution to the biggest problem facing social entrepreneurs: the acquisition of seed funding. I can attest to how challenging it is to find the initial resources for faith venture start-ups.

The changeXchange web site provides a platform for interested donors to explore different social venture start-ups grouped around affinities like economic stability, improved housing, and vibrant neighborhoods. Individuals then invest in social change shares in the organization that they like.

Over the years, I have been a big admirer of the social capital marketplace innovator and the faith-based performance philanthropy Geneva Global. I’ve dreamed of ways to combine the two. The secular changeXchange seems to be one possible approach. My hope is that a faith based intermediary would catch a similar vision for faith venture start-ups.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Darkness and Light

Everyone’s story includes periods of dark places. It is the rare individuals who can honestly answer that they didn’t experience times when God seemed very far away.

Today, during our weekly bible study at Bud’s Warehouse, we discussed darkness. I asked everyone gathered around the table to share about dark times.

In a job training program working with ex-offenders, one would expect stories of bad choices, of times when one lived for self at a big cost to others. Indeed, those tales were told. But others also shared about the darkness of losing a loved-one and about the agony of feeling that the future held no hope. One person detailed the darkness of running into former friends and hearing tales celebrating the “good old days” of stealing, drinking and drugging.

Everyone agreed that our world is a dark place. They shared how the absence of light causes darkness. I listened as they taught that people choose darkness because they are scared to tell the truth of their life. They echoed Jesus when he taught that “men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

We then read Jesus words in John 3:21 that “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” We celebrated together the miracle of God saving in the midst of a dark world. Ex-offenders are blessed with a deep understanding of the difficulty of leaving dark places and the miracle of faith. And transformed lives are like a good infection. Those who move from dark places into the light infect others with the light of Jesus, transforming whole families.

We ended our study where we started at John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This treasured verse offers the great truth of how the light of Jesus ended the darkness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Theology of Work Discussion

Steve Van Diest is hosting a discussion on a Theology of Work at his monthly meeting of Pints and Prayer in Denver. Email me or comment if you plan to attend so I can let him know...

From Steve:

Braun's Bar at Wed, 3 - 5 pm on May 27. This week if you are holding a part or full time job, owning your own business, thinking about getting a job and/or want to invite a worker come join us for a discussion on what is a Kingdom Business Model. Pints are on me as I look forward to pick your brain and heart on your own theology of work and how this plays out in expressing the Kingdom of God.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Entrepreneur Test

>A couple of years ago, my friend Eric Swanson of Leadership Network suggested the online Business Career Interest Inventory test as a tool to determine an individual’s entrepreneurial aptitude. I am a big believer that entrepreneurial aptitude is necessary for someone to succeed and enjoy the difficult work involved in developing a faith venture business.

If you are thinking about starting such a social enterprise, a good starting point might be to invest 30 minutes to find out how you score. It’s free and it provides an analysis of your results.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Changing the World Through Entrepreneurship

Over the last few months, there has been a growing movement celebrating entrepreneurship as the engine to restart the economy. At Faithventure Forum, we believe in business creation as the way to create opportunities for individuals and communities rebuilding lives. This You Tube video from provides inspiration for both:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mattress Recycling: A Faith Venture Business as Ministry Idea

At Bud’s Warehouse, we are always fighting the battle of the mess. By nature, a home improvement thrift store has a bit of Sanford and Son built into it. We have to be systematic about fighting our packrat tendencies. Spring offers a great season to work towards a clean and orderly retail environment.

Today, while helping to strategize our clean-up process, I noticed a lone mattress improperly loitering in the tile section. Over the years, mattresses have been one of our biggest problems. By rule, we do not accept mattress donations because it is illegal to resell them in the state of Colorado. But when no one is watching, they like to sneak in. Then we are stuck with an item that we can’t sell.

We need a solution to the used mattress dilemma. I am a big believer that problems provide the seeds of business opportunities. The St Vincent de Paul Center of Oregon provides one answer with its innovative mattress recycling program. They pick up used mattresses for a fee and then process them into recycled material for use in other products. They also use the materials to produce a line of pet mattresses.

Other organizations are also exploring this idea as detailed in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article. Hope Services in San Jose, California, is partnering with Rubicon Programs to test the viability of a mattress recycling operation. Rick Aubury, the well-respected president of Rubicon, believes that such a social venture business holds the promise of sufficient scalability to provide all the resources needed to meet their social mission. In other words, it is a business model that can cover all of its social program expenses through profits…the holy grail of social enterprise.

This is a business model that holds much promise as a potential faith venture.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Faithventure Forum Celebrates its 100th Post

Today marks the 100th post of the Faithventure Forum blog. I started this conversation 9 months ago with the hopes of creating a resource about the unique flavor of what I call faith ventures: kingdom businesses created to impact disadvantaged communities.

A couple of observations:

Combining blogging and organizational leadership is hard

I knew it would be difficult to add a couple of posts a week to my long list of responsibilities. And I was right. There always seems to be a pressing issue that demands my attention more than writing another post. But I am convinced that this activity is still very important even though it competes with other items on my to do list. Regular blogging brings order to my weekly work life which takes me to my next point:

Blogging has made me a better leader

One of the biggest challenges of organizational leadership is navigating the balance between the tyranny of daily activities and the requirements of big picture strategic thinking. Blogging forces me to slow down and think about why I am doing what I am doing. It helps create space for careful contemplation of ideas…a must for any effective leader.

It had been challenging blogging about redemptive business models at a time of economic difficulties

I started the Faithventure Forum a few weeks before the stock market started its historic crash. I don’t need to say much more. But it has been interesting trying to celebrate the unique role business can have in helping individuals and communities in need when the culture as a whole seems to have lost faith in business. Throughout the last 9 months, I have experienced a growing awareness of how fortunate I am to be able to rely on God for the future of Belay Enterprises. It is God’s business. So when the rest of the culture seems mired in fear, I can trust that God will bring about good in the midst of the bad.

Forum readership is steadily growing

Seth Godin talks about the rewards of persistent blogging activity. I have enjoyed watching the steady addition of new readers over the course of the last 9 months.

So a hundred posts later, I want to thank my readers for joining me on this journey. Here’s to the next 100 posts and to a growing faith venture movement.

It’s my hope that this little corner of the business as ministry world can inspire others to initiate ventures that help individuals and communities rebuild lives both economically and spiritually.

So what topics you are interested in reading more about during the next 100 posts?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sometimes Grace Smells Like Chicken

I was hiding in my office because I had a project deadline that was rapidly approaching. I ventured out to get some pages off the printer to be greeted by the pleasing aroma of hot buckets of fried chicken. I heard laughter and several loud conversations.

I went to the conference room to see what was happening. There was a party going on with all of the participants in our job training program. I was quickly invited to grab some chicken.

I noticed that the party was being hosted by an individual who was no longer a part of our program. The three strike rule had resulted in him having to leave. I understood the party as an attempt to start making amends and begin the process of reentering our program.

I was wrong. The next day a pastor in the community stopped by and asked our warehouse director if our former employee had stopped by.

“Did he bring chicken?” the pastor inquired.

“Yes, it was quite the feast,” Bob answered.

“Did he tell you that he trusted Jesus with his life and wanted to celebrate?”

Frequently, at Bud’s Warehouse, grace happens in unexpected places. A situation that seemed to have disappointment written all over it was transformed by the opportune encounter of our just dismissed employee and this pastor. A shared love of boxing turned into the opportunity to hear the gospel in a very timely place.

Sometimes grace smells like fried chicken. And after developing a proactive plan to avoid past problems, Don is back on the job at Bud's Warehouse.

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...