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Showing posts from September, 2009

Belay Enterprises: Incubating Faith Ventures & Connecting Entrepreneurs with Business as Ministry Opportunities

Belay Enterprises was started by Mile High Ministries in 1994 by a group of businessmen and urban pastors with a heart towards business as ministry. The faith venture organized itself around the mission of partnering with the local church to create businesses that employ and job train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, prison and homelessness. Though its mission has remained unchanged since its early days, the organization’s priorities and strategy have changed over the years reflecting changing economic and ministry realities. Any nonprofit organization wanting to act entrepreneurially needs to keep an eye on the environment it operates and make changes when necessary.

Belay Enterprises was originally conceived as an organization with several employee training businesses that would fund a central microenterprise program. Belay kicked off these efforts in late 1994 with its first business as ministry, Bud's Warehouse, as well as making some initial micro-loans to urban bu…

A Fresh Start from Fresh Coffee

Last week, I had coffee with Dave Scavotto, one of the founders of Second Chance Coffee Company, LLC. This faith venture business combines business and ministry by hiring ex-offenders to micro-roast its premium organic I Have a Bean coffee brand. Besides employment, individuals coming out of prison are provided job-training and a nurturing community in which to restart their lives.

If you like coffee, the I Have a Bean brand is for you. Coffee aficionados will appreciate the company’s commitment to selecting beans from the top 1% of coffee in the world. The beans are then roasted in small batches and shipped on the same day. This focus on quality and freshness is evident from your first sip.

Dave left me with a sample of the company’s organic El Salvador Las Lajas coffee from the Rain Forest Alliance. Wow! This is a great cup of coffee. I tend to frequent the usual coffee stores and forget how good a specialized premium roast can be.

Right now, I Have a Bean coffee is roasted in Wheat…

Five Lessons I've Learned in Business as Ministry

For the last 10 years, I have been working in the challenging world of business as mission at Belay Enterprises. Someone recently asked me 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 mission and vice versa. I believe that if one is pursuing a Christ-centered business then all of business is ministry. So it then becomes acceptable to let the business lead the ministry because without a focus on the bottom-line this unique ministry opportunity dis…

The Insurance Issues of Hiring Ex-Offenders

Earlier this year, I worked with an individual interested in starting a faith venture business that employed individuals rebuilding lives from prison. This new business as ministry aimed to provide property maintenance services for landlords and apartment communities.

Unfortunately, the venture ran into a significant obstacle when pricing liability insurance for the potential operation. The prospective business owner was told by his insurance agent that he would be unable to hire felons under his insurance policy. And he discovered that an expanded policy would be prohibitively expensive. He decided to not pursue the venture, ending the possibility for 5 positions for ex-offenders.

We’ve explored the issue of insurance and felony employment in the past here in the Faithventure Forum. It’s the biggest obstacle to increasing opportunity for individuals rebuilding lives from prison. And studies show that finding employment after prison saves money by reducing up to 50% the chances of indi…

The Difficult Road Back for Ex-Offenders

The Las Vegas Weekly provides a fantastic and colorful story, “Now What?” on the difficulties ex-offenders face reentering society… a task made tougher by the recent economic downturn.

This is a story I have become familiar with over the last 10 years at Bud’s Warehouse and Belay Enterprises. It’s the very reason we promote the start of faith venture businesses to create opportunities for individuals rebuilding lives from felony convictions.

I appreciate ex-offender Phil Lacasse’s raw honesty about his struggles:

“It’s rough out here. It’s rough. It can be done. Anything can be accomplished. But a lot of people, what happens is, when they’re in my shoes, they come out and they get real discouraged. And they get real disappointed. And everything is happening at 100 miles per hour, and you can’t find work. And what happens is after a while they decide, Well, I’ll pick up a gun, I’ll sell some dope. I’ll pimp some broads. I gotta make a living somehow. And that’s the biggest thing that bri…

Sometimes You Just Need a Hug

Last week, the guys on our Bud’s Warehouse truck ran into a difficult situation. While picking up items from a residential donor, an on-site contractor decided that he was going to keep some of the cabinets for himself. And when he found out he couldn’t, he decided to pick a fight with our driver.

Not a smart move. And the kind of decision that gives me heart failure when I hear about it later. You see, our driver is an ex-boxer… a good one. And over the years, he freely admits that he has struggled with his temper. This situation was ripe for a disaster.

But then God showed up. Don remembered our anger management and customer service training back at the warehouse. He took a deep breath and listened to the man. And when it became clear the problem wasn’t going to be solved, he called his manager and left the scene.

Don shared that story this morning during a special customer service training session by a volunteer from Morgan Stanley. We talked about how the three most important factor…

Growing the Funding Pie through Faith-Based Social Enterprise

Later this fall, Bud’s Warehouse celebrates its 15th Anniversary as a faith venture business as ministry. Over the years, a strength of the Bud's Warehouse model has been its ability to attract resources for a community cause that often struggles to find private financial donors.

Research studies show that potential donors are less likely to give money to organizations that support individuals with felony convictions or addictions. Donors tend to be attracted to causes that help mothers & children, individuals in need, educational institutions and religious organizations. Other studies have shown that employment and job training is the top factor leading to a decrease in recidivism for ex-offenders. But this is a need less popular with public donors. That reality makes it more difficult to find funding for a program that offers society a big return on its investment.

Bud’s Warehouse and Belay Enterprises have been able to expand the resource base by moving beyond the traditio…

The Accidental Janitorial Company: Freedom Cleaning Services

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 pursue o…