Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Social Media Revolution

If you didn't realize it yet, the social media revolution is here. Opportunities abound for the creation of new business ventures and social enterprise solutions to the worlds biggest problems. Watch this video and be inspired:




Thanks to Jeff Cornwall of The Entrepreneurial Mind and his colleague Jennie Bowman for passing this along.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Never When the Surf is Up Carpentry Company

A few summers ago, I had the privilege to travel to San Diego with my family. We decided to try something different and camp out along Mission Bay to recapture a sense of the Mexico beach camping trips of my youth. But camping in the heart of San Diego is far from the experience of camping in Colorado. You are camping with In-N-Out Burger just around the corner and you are never far from a Starbucks. Every morning, I succumbed to the need for a really good cup of coffee. And dinner often found us having the best hamburger, fry and shake. It was one of the best camping trips ever. Now, if we could only talk In-N-Out Burger into opening in Colorado.

One morning while waiting in line at Starbucks, I noticed the t-shirt on the man in front of me. In a bid to market his business, his shirt announced to the world that he worked for the Never When the Surf is Up Carpentry Company. On that morning, presumably, the surf wasn’t up or even surf must wait for Starbucks. But after seeing his shirt and his long hair, I thought about Jesus’ own likely career as a carpenter. Perhaps Jesus would have worn a shirt that advertised Joseph and Sons’ Carpentry Company. Or better yet, the Never when People are Sick, Poor or Hurting Carpentry Company. The reality was that Jesus worked and in all likelihood he would have been familiar with the smell of sawdust and the hammer of nails. As the bumper sticker declares “Our Boss is a Jewish Carpenter.”

Jump 2000 years till today and I believe Jesus would have loved visiting Bud’s Warehouse. Right in the heart of our mission is the declaration that we are a place for second chances—the second chance of the Gospel to restore lives being rebuilt from addiction or prison. And the second chance for new and used building materials once headed for storage or the dump.

I believe Jesus would have enjoyed spending time with our customers—people from the city without a lot of money for home fix up projects. And people from the suburbs drawn by the good deals and maybe captured by the sense that there is something different going on at Bud’s Warehouse.

Most of all I believe Jesus would have loved developing a relationship with our staff. Jesus loved declaring blessed that which the world has decided to ignore or forget. Jesus announced God’s favor for the poor, the imprisoned, and the meek. He restored that which is broken to the fullness which God intended.

I love when I’m asked by someone to tell them about what makes this place so special. It’s a God thing. Jesus is truly building something wonderful in the various projects of Belay Enterprises. I have an idea for a t-shirt we wear together—“They will know we are Christians by our love Construction Company.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Business as Mission 101 at CCDA Conference

I'm excited to be presenting a workshop on Business as Mission with Rudy Carrasco of Partner's Worldwide this Thursday, October 22nd at 3pm at the Christian Community Development Association conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. If you're in the area, come learn about this growing movement of entrepreneurial followers of Christ. Here's the details from the conference brochure:

The Business as Mission movement is growing around the world. Also known as “business as ministry” and “business as a calling,” this movement is an Issue at the 2010 Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. This CCDA BAM workshop will provide an introduction to business as mission (BAM 101) and include presentations of a domestic model (Belay Enterprises) and an international model (Partners Worldwide).

The workshop will be co-led by James Reiner and Rudy Carrasco. Reiner is the executive director of Belay Enterprises in Denver, Colo. Carrasco is a CCDA Advisory Board member, served for 19 years at Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, Calif., and is currently an associate director at Partners Worldwide in Grand Rapids, MI.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Special Coffee Order Discount for Faithventure Forum Readers

I am very excited for the faith venture Second Chance Coffee Company which received a great boost of publicity from the Chicago Tribune yesterday.

We profiled this boutique coffee roasting business with a commitment to hiring ex-offenders 2 months ago here in the Faithventure Forum. I am hoping the Chicago Tribune's publicity will help them grow and expand into Colorado in the near future! Neat guys with big hearts and a great idea.

And for loyal readers of this blog, there's a special 10% discount offer for orders placed before October 31, 2009. Just go to the web site and enter the coupon code Da1-5570.

I am hoping that churches in Colorado and throughout the country will support ex-offenders rebuilding lives in an innovative program by purchasing coffee at www.ihaveabean.com. Not only is it a good cause...it's super tasty coffee.


Chicago Tribune: Grounds for Optismism

In 2007, three Wheaton men, Pete Leonard, Ron deVries and Dave Scavotto, met for their weekly breakfast and came up with an idea for a small business that would provide fresh coffee and fresh starts.

Fresh start: Each had witnessed the plight of former prisoners in the job market.

Fresh coffee: Each enjoys a cup, although Leonard was more passionate about it than the others.

In August, after 2 1/2 years of brewing over it, they opened Second Chance Coffee Co. with two primary goals: to roast the best and freshest coffee, and to give former prisoners a chance at reliable employment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blessings on the Side of the Road

I have a friend who sometimes stops to help motorists stranded on the side of the road. He carries enough tools in his car to handle basic roadside mechanical issues. And if he can’t solve the problem, he assists them in finding help. Somewhere in his time with the stranded motorists, he always mentions, “If you had known me ten years ago, I would have never helped you.”

That statement always draws an inquisitive question, “What do you mean you would have never helped me?” My friend then shares how a decade ago he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was only interested in his own selfish pleasure and goals. “I wouldn’t have even noticed you stuck on the side of the road. But then I met Jesus and things could never be the same.”

He tells how God cared for him when his own life was broken down on the side of the road. And now he wants to share that love with others.

I thought of my friend’s roadside activities as we explored the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-26. This particular morning we were going around the table during our weekly “hood check” sharing the ups and down in each of our lives. Only this time we were telling about times during the last week when we were aware of living out the fruits of the Spirit…times when we acted out of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And then we shared times when we didn’t.

For some, this might seem to be a hard practice, but for our group at Bud’s, everyone was quick to share stories. Most were about times when they acted loving…when they sacrificially served someone without expecting anything in return. And others were about how they had not acted loving and instead pursued selfish goals. We prayed to God celebrating the times when fruit showed up in our lives and prayed for forgiveness when it didn’t.

And we listened for God.

I remembered my friend and his roadside blessings.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chaos and Order: A Day in the Life of Bud's Warehouse

By nature, Bud’s Warehouse is a chaotic place on several levels. As a faith venture, we hire individuals rebuilding lives from felony convictions, homelessness, and addiction. Individuals in these circumstances often are dealing with messy lives. Messy lives breed chaos.

As a home improvement thrift store, Bud’s Warehouse also experiences chaos as a business. We rely on the donation of building materials for the supply of items to sell. Such a stream is never steady and easy to predict.

Last week, we finally achieved some order in our back yard only to learn that a big load of composite decking is arriving in the next few days. The next day 200 windows unexpectedly showed up.

We constantly fight the battle of the mess. When we are winning and getting organized that often means we are not finding as many donations as we would hope. When we are losing, it declares we are being blessed with an abundance of new donations.

Fortunately, our customers are very understanding. In fact, they get very nervous when we start becoming too clean and organized. As someone once remarked, "Bud's wouldn't be Bud's if we didn't have to hunt and seek. It's like finding a present on Christmas morning."

And in many ways Bud's Warehouse is on the cutting edge of management theory. OK... So that might be a bit of a stretch. But many thinkers are exploring how to manage chaos.-- how to find order in a world of many moving pieces and flatter management structures. One of my favorites is Visa Founder Dee Hock's, "Birth of the Chaordic Age" where he advances the idea that this new world of chaos and order can function together in a management system.

And in Bud's Warehouse case, the faith part of our faith venture also helps manage the chaos. We trust that there's a bigger purpose at work in the midst of the messy day-to-day situations. We know that our loving God is on a quest to rebuild a creation that has been fundamentally broken. God helps hold together what others might see as chaos towards His greater purpose.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Partners Worldwide Partnership Summit

I am excited to be attending the Partners Worldwide summit later this week in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For the last several years, I've watched in fascination as this organization has grown and advocated cross-cultural business partnerships. Partners does on a global scale what Belay Enterprises has attempted to do domestically on a local scale.

I am looking forward to meeting business people who are passionate about helping disadvantaged communities. I suspect I will have many stories of international faith ventures to share upon my return.

In the meanwhile, watch the following video on Partners Worldwide to learn more about this great organization:


Friday, October 2, 2009

A Call to Ministry: A Call to be a Parole Officer?

Over the last 10 years, I can count on one hand the number of times a Bud’s Warehouse program participant has worked with a parole officer that cared about their success. Most of the time, our staff members participate in a frustrating bureaucratic process where an over-worked parole officer just seeks to manage problems and enforce punishment for the breaking of rules. It’s a system where there is no pro-active problem solving and an assumption that parolees are destined to fail with very little chance of successful rehabilitation.

This reality was driven home again this week with the imminent return to prison of one of our more successful program participants. After several years in prison, he reentered society through a half-way home and a job at Bud’s Warehouse. Over the course of a year, he made a successful transition from the half-way home into his own place and shined in our job-training program.

But even with all of this success, he struggled with a poor relationship with his parole officer. This individual was looking for him to fail…and eventually he lived up to those expectations. I am frustrated because by working together, the parole officer and our program could have helped this individual succeed. But instead, the lack of a partnership and the absence of a parole officer that cared has resulted in a return to prison at an annual cost $40,000 to the State of Colorado.

Sometimes, individuals sense a call from God into the ministry. Often, that involves questions about whether someone should quit their job, go into seminary and then full-time ministry. I am praying that someone hears that call and then follows it into full-time service as a parole officer. How different our community would look if Christ-following individuals chose to use their gifts to help ex-offenders succeed in the parole system. The problem of recidivism could be reduced by Christ-followers that sought to provide hope instead of a timeworn pessimism that believes a felon is destined to fail. As in Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, “whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Entrepreneurial Opportunity as a Route to Ex-Offender Employment Success

American society finds it difficult to give felony offenders a second chance in the area of employment after they are released from jail. Business insurance requirements and owner liability concerns make it difficult for businesses to hire individuals with felonies. Yet, the post-incarceration success of offenders is directly related to their ability to secure employment.

At Belay Enterprises, we’ve had success placing non-violent felony offenders into real jobs in the community after they’ve completed 6 months to one year in one of our employment training businesses. Private businesses are willing to hire offenders after they’ve proven themselves with an employment history and the successful completion of a program. But for offenders with a violent felony offense, future employment opportunities are almost completely nonexistent. This is the case even though, in our experience, there are significant degrees of variance in the seriousness of violent offenses. For instance, running into a police car while driving under the influence of drugs becomes a violent felony offense even though it is unlike a felony assault with a deadly weapon. So for a certain number of felons with violent and non-violent offenses securing employment becomes impossible even though it has many positive benefits for society.

I believe that one possible answer to this dilemma is through entrepreneurial opportunity. Many of the felony offenders that I have met over the years are very entrepreneurial in nature. They have just created businesses, like drug operations, that were against the law. By channeling their business talents into healthy, law-abiding operations they can create enterprises that allow them to support their families while building resources for their communities. They just need support from other Christian entrepreneurs helping them think through a business plan and the other basics of start-up enterprises. With the right mentoring support, I believe that felony offenders can create successful operations in the areas of landscaping, recycling, HVAC, janitorial and home improvement among many others.

In past years, Belay Enterprises has worked to help individuals in disadvantaged communities create their own enterprises. Recently, we have focused more on incubating our own employment training businesses. I am hoping over the next few years Belay can build a network of Christ-following entrepreneurs that want to use their gifts and time to mentor individuals from disadvantaged communities in the creation of business enterprises. By investing in others, they will help build ventures with the power to impact society for the kingdom. This is true business as mission.

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...