Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Brief History of Belay Enterprises


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 many start-ups, the dream crashed into reality with 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 organizations 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 lines of 50 or more people waiting to enter the store for the next few days. Like the bible story of Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves, it felt like God multiplied Bud's building materials to accommodate the store's new popularity. Bud's was able to build on its popularity to double the number of jobs for individuals rebuilding lives while developing resources for new ventures. To build on Bud's success, Belay decided to pursue an incubation model for future businesses and start Baby Bud's, a job-training program for single moms. A few years later, Belay started the Good Neighbor Garage and Freedom Cleaning Services. Over the years, 9News has continued to support Belay with occasional stories on our new start-ups and location changes.

With 10 years of experience in the crazy arena of faithventures, I now believe that we make plans but hold loosely to them. We pray and watch God move.

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