Thursday, July 31, 2014

Twenty Years and Counting

Later this fall, Belay Enterprises celebrates its 20th Anniversary of offering employment and job-training in its home improvement thrift store, Bud’s Warehouse and its five other employment training business start ups.

Over the years, Belay has served hundreds of individuals looking to rebuild their employability while dealing with addiction, homelessness or prison. The organization plans to mark this 20 year milestone by growing employment opportunities for the people it serves and by hosting an anniversary banquet.

Like any new social enterprise, the Belay story is one of ups and downs. 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 and its desire to impact the employment side of poverty. The organization'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. 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, Belay experienced 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 organization's 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 long lines people waiting to enter the store for the next few days. Like the bible story of Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves, God multiplied Bud's building materials to accommodate the store's new popularity. Bud's Warehouse was able to build on its popularity to increase the number of jobs for individuals rebuilding lives while developing resources for new ventures…an approach that continue today.

To build on Bud's success, Belay pursued an incubation model for future businesses and started Baby Bud's, a job-training program for single moms. A few years later, Belay incubated the Good Neighbor Garage and Freedom Cleaning Services. All three of these start ups were spun off from Belay after reaching self-sufficiency and continue to thrive as independent organizations.

Presently, Belay is growing two new faith venture enterprises:

  • Purple Door Coffee,which launched in May of 2013, employs formerly homeless young adults in partnership with Dry Bones Denver. The store opened to tremendous support from the Denver community as well as accolades from area coffee aficionados, but most of all, Belay is excited by the difference the project is making in the lives of young adults transitioning from homelessness.
  • New Beginnings Custom Woodworks, a custom cabinet employment program, provides quality cabinet-making training for individuals rebuilding lives. The project builds a line of solid-wood shaker cabinets that are becoming popular with Denver area customers desiring a high-quality kitchen cabinets. 
Over the years, God has given Belay a big vision for creating new employment opportunities for people rebuilding lives. But we are reminded that we can not run all of these projects on our own. We are always looking to partner with Christ-followers that have a heart to use their business talents or resources to create jobs for people with significant barriers to employment.

If you're interested in helping, give us a call at 303-296-3990 or consider supporting our new start-ups as they grow towards sustainability with a tax-deductible donation by visiting our online donation page here. And stay tuned for more details on our upcoming anniversary celebration this fall.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

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