Putting the Enterprise in Social Enterprise

by Rudy Carrasco

Landscaping. Coffee shops. Handyman services. Training kitchens. Snow removal. Housing for single mothers.

Across the United States, church and business leaders are responding to needs in their communities through social enterprise. Social enterprise addresses a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach. Many social enterprises mix earned revenue with cash donations to cover their costs—but a growing number of organizations seek to operate profitable business as they pursue shalom.

Shalom—the just conditions in which “nothing is missing, nothing is broken”—is the vision of Grand Rapids, Mich. based Building Bridges Professional Services. Building Bridges started in 2007 to employ young adults facing barriers to employment. They provide landscaping, lawn care, property maintenance, snow removal, and more. Their vision of shalom includes the flourishing of young people who have aged out of the foster care system and have few people or resources to lean on as a safety net.

In 2017, Building Bridges began the process of converting from a nonprofit to an L3C for-profit structure. “To do social enterprise well,” says Nate Beene, CEO of Building Bridges, “you have to closely integrate your social purpose and financial health.”

With support from Partners Worldwide volunteers, Nate and his team began strengthening the business-side of their operations four years ago. “Our budget wasn’t best suited for our industry,” Beene says. “We worked on account codes, breaking down expenses, and allocating costs like vendor repairs and vehicle use.”

In 2017, Building Bridges’ revenue was $700,000, and they project $1 million in revenue this year. From a modest start— Beene was the first Building Bridges employee ten years ago —the organization employs 25 people today. The employee pool is a mix of entry-level team members as well as operations staff who can support the team members and run the business.

“When we started, we had more homeless youth than we do now,” Beene says, “but we learned that the ideal employee is a young person looking for a second chance. We need the team member to be at a point where they can show up every day and let us pour into them.”

2,000 miles away from Building Bridges, in Long Beach, California, another social enterprise is creating opportunities for young people while getting to break-even profit.

5000 Pies, inspired by the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in the Gospel of Matthew, offers delicious deep-dish pizza, jaguar fries, salads, sandwiches, and more. Launched as an LLC by Fountain of Life Church, the organization currently employs 17 people with 80 percent of its revenue earned through sales at 5000 Pies.

“When we first started our church, we knew we needed some kind of economic element to provide jobs and job training in the area,” said Becky Teter, a 5000 Pies founder, to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The social enterprise model of 5000 Pies includes paid time off for employees to participate in life skills training and discipleship programs. On the business side, the managers are looking to increase sales through local marketing and expanding their baked sweets offerings.

Mike Martinez, head chef at 5000 Pies, embodies the shalom that the Fountain of Life Church team envisioned from the start. In his teens and twenties, he was involved in a gang and drug culture, with related prison stints. As he rebuilt his life, he joined Fountain of Life and dreamed with leaders about an enterprise that could help others like him stay out of trouble. Fast forward and Martinez, as the head chef at 5000 pies, encourages both employees and customers while creating demand with the tasty 5000 Pies menu.

Building Bridges Professional Services and 5000 Pies are just two of many social enterprises building financially-sustainable businesses that make a social impact. Across the country, Partners Worldwide encounters and connects with hundreds of organizations and churches that are living out their mission in a sustainable way and seeing lives transformed. Shalom through business is more than an aspiration – Building Bridges, 5000 Pies, and others are showing it can be done in high unemployment communities throughout the United States.

Rudy Carrasco is the U.S. Regional Facilitator for Partners Worldwide. Prior to serving with Partners Worldwide, Rudy worked for 19 years in an urban ministry in Pasadena, CA, where he realized the need to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in high unemployment communities.

Hyma Brings Shalom

by Ellie Hutchison

Her hand moves rhythmically, hovering in constant motion above the red earth. She draws in rice flour. A trail of white left in her wake, forming geometric swirls, arches, circles, and loops. Her kolam is elaborate, yet simple. Beautiful, but precise.

Each morning, millions of women in India rise and draw kolams on the ground outside their home. Yet their primary purpose is not decoration. Historically, they have been a sign of invitation and welcome. Made of rice flour, they are an offering to ants and other small organisms so they don’t have to walk too far for a meal.

In this way, a kolam embodies our call to care for the vulnerable among us. It is a humble effort to create a welcoming community of harmonious co-existence.

Like most people in Tirunelveli, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, kolams were a familiar presence in Hyma’s childhood. They marked her path from home to school and back again. Her eyes would bounce from one to the next as she walked, careful not to smear the intricate designs with her footsteps. Read more

Business and Shalom

by Roxanne Addink de Graaf

Business and Shalom are seldom seen in the same sentence. Shalom is a word more often heard in church than in the marketplace.

However, just coming from a visit with entrepreneurs in Liberia, I’m more convinced than ever of the vital role of business in bringing about true shalom, the shalom God calls us to build here on Earth. Shalom should be a driving force behind the mission of every business, and shalom provides an excellent framework for a wholistic, multiple bottom line kingdom-building business.

The Biblical vision for “shalom” goes beyond our common understanding of peace. As the Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all his relationships: with God, with self, with fellows, with nature… shalom is not merely the absence of hostility…at its highest it is enjoyment in one’s relationships.” (from Until Justice and Peace Embrace, Wolterstorff, 1983)

Relationships are at the heart of shalom, and the marketplace is a place of relationships. We will not achieve a true vision of shalom if we don’t achieve shalom in business, and as Christians in business, we need to be leading this crusade.

Wolterstorff goes on in his essay to describe shalom as a rich and joyous state of right relationship (justice), delight in service of God, the human community and the creation around us. Shalom is not a peaceful spiritual state where physical needs aren’t met, where people are still hungry, injustices prevail or work is no more. Rather, our right relationship with nature involves work and reward. Wolterstorff reflects that the Biblical shalom includes “shaping the world with our labor and finding fulfilment in doing so,” as well as enjoying the fruit of our labor, celebrating with “a banquet of rich fare for all the people.” (Isaiah 25:6) Read more

Every Man is as Lazy as He Dares to Be

by Patrick Lai

Every man is as lazy as he dares to be.  – Emerson

Emerson had it right. People do not do what is expected; we do what is inspected. Phil Parshall, after forty years of serving among Muslims, said to me, “I have my doubts about tentmaking … most tentmakers I know start out doing business and ministry, but in the end it is all business and no ministry.”

Everyone receives gratification from accomplishing tasks. Whether we are building a bridge or cleaning out the garage, we enjoy seeing the fruits of our labors. Productivity makes us feel good. It gives us value and a sense of worth. Those people groups which are still without a church in the 21st century are unreached for a reason – they are difficult to reach! Missionary work among these peoples has produced precious little fruit. Tentmakers, by definition have two tasks to do. If one task is producing fruit and the other is not, it is easy to gravitate toward the more productive, fruitful task. Therefore, it is important that every tentmaker is under some structure or relationship which provides the needed accountability to keep us growing and active in fulfilling both of our callings.
Read more

Are Our Beliefs Stunting Our Businesses?

By Dave Kahle

“For my whole life, I was led to believe that we were the richest country on earth. Now, I see that we are the poorest. It’s like my whole life has been wasted.”

This comment comes from John, the 80-year old father of one of our Albanian foster children, who was visiting the USA and our home for the first time in his life. He had lived his whole life under the communist government of Albania – one of the most oppressive in the world — and was now venturing out of the country for the first time. We couldn’t help but feel for him. He had been led to believe a lie, and that belief shaped his actions and his attitudes, and organized his life. Now, at an age where there was little to be done about it, he regretted his life lived in accordance with a belief that turned out to be false.

While not nearly as poignant and heart-breaking as John’s experience, we all allow the same thing – false beliefs – to impact our thinking and therefore, our businesses and our lives.

For the past 30 years, I have served as a sales consultant, trainer, and speaker. I have worked with at least 459 businesses and served thousands of others in seminars and speaking engagements. In all of this experience in the trenches, I’ve made some observations about what it takes to build a successful, thriving business – and what hinders the growth of those businesses who have the potential for great things, but languish in mediocrity.

Read more

7 Principles for Running a Kingdom Business from a 20 year Journey

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

Starting out, I have BAM goals for my business and part of that is a company culture I want to intentionally develop. I expect my values and intentions will hit some roadblocks as I work that out on the ground…. How have you intentionally developed your company culture so that it reinforces and integrates with your BAM goals? What have been some challenges to that process, especially when operating cross-culturally?

~ Crossing Cultures

Dear Crossing,

Starting a business whose explicit goal and raison d’etre is to serve Kingdom concerns is difficult, but not impossible. My take on ‘Kingdom concerns’ is that they essentially boil down to developing people and glorifying God. Down through the ages, many Christians have successfully set up businesses for the same purpose. No doubt, many have also failed. While I do not have empirical evidence, I believe a majority of failures could be down to the business end of things, rather than their choice of Kingdom values over commercial interests.

I started a BAM company in India about 20 years ago. It took me three years to get to a point where I could formalize in writing how I would run the company as a “Kingdom Business”– as I referred to it at the time. Here are seven key principles that I discovered along the way, especially during those first three years of trying to figure it all out. I hope these principles will help you in your own discovery of what it means for you to be a BAM entrepreneur. Read more

6 Ways BAM Practitioners Develop Their Company Culture: Part 2

We asked 12 BAM Practitioners how they have gone about developing their company culture and what values and behaviors they have intentionally tried to instill. Their responses showed six clear themes: 6 ways to develop company culture. [Read Part 1]

Part 2: 3 more ways practitioners told us they develop company culture

 

4. Staff Orientation and Training

Communicating expectations upfront about culture and the biblical foundation for company values is a powerful way to set the stage for a strong ‘culture identity’. Regular discussion and staff training reinforces the culture and values that are being communicated and modelled.

Our business is in a Muslim country which has minorities of all the major religions. Everyone we hire is asked in their final interview, “We operate this business according to the principles in the Bible, is this a problem for you?” We have Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists all working for us. No one has ever turned down a job because of this question. Having laid this foundation, it paves the way for prayer and using the Scriptures openly in our office. It gives us opportunities to teach godly values in all we do. – Patrick, Asia

Staff orientation is something we use to manage expectations upfront – even before making employment offers. We share the mission, history and culture of the company, along with the role of faith at the company or the personal testimony of the founder. This is all to ask if the person is “willing to come into this type of environment”. We get a verbal agreement that they are joining a faith-based or values-based company and embarking on a journey to challenge and grow themselves. We’ve found this is essential to manage expectations and open the door for follow on spiritual impact. From there we take an hour weekly during work hours, where the company is shut down, to break into teams to discuss and set goals around biblically-based principles – Mark, IT, Asia

We meet weekly as small groups to work towards character development – Ben and Yumi, IT, Southeast Asia Read more

6 Ways BAM Practitioners Develop Their Company Culture: Part 1

We asked 12 BAM Practitioners how they have gone about developing their company culture and what values and behaviors they have intentionally tried to instill. Their responses showed six clear themes: 6 ways to develop company culture.

Part 1: The top 3 ways practitioners told us they develop company culture

 

1. Visible Values That Are Thoroughly Integrated into Operations

Having a set of clearly articulated values is a key to developing an intentionally-driven company culture. These values must then be woven through everything that happens in the company.

We try to integrate our core values into everything that we do. Our job applications are built with questions that try to assess these values in applicants. Our HR training is basically a series of lessons on these specific values. Most problems that arise can be answered by looking back at these core values and applying them to individual situations. However, it is sometimes tough to remember to take opportunities to teach values. Often our employees come to us with problems and we have tried to develop a habit of pointing them to the core values and asking them which ones apply to their particular problem. This means slowing down from the demands of the day and taking the time to walk through it with them. It is often tempting (because it is easier and faster) to just tell them what to do. However, we find that when we are intentional and take the time, it is a huge blessing to both parties and to the long-term effectiveness of our business. – Steven, Service Company, Thailand

We have a defined set of three core values, which are Social Justice, Honest Relationships, and Servant leadership. Clearly these have an underlying missiological foundation. Our values affect the way we operate, for instance, our office layout reflects our values: no-one has a big office, or a large desk. We are seeking to embed these across our whole team, irrespective of faith background. We are currently walking through a series of 1 hour sessions with our management team entitled Values Conversations. These are round-table discussions around the values, rather than front-led training. The concept behind this is an understanding that we are journeying together, we are all a work-in-progress and the role of leadership in these conversations is from a place of vulnerability and mutual learning rather than from a place of strength. – MH, Asia Read more

How to Integrate Kingdom Culture in Company Culture

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

Starting out, I have BAM goals for my business and part of that is a company culture I want to intentionally develop. I expect my values and intentions will hit some roadblocks as I work that out on the ground…. How have you intentionally developed your company culture so that it reinforces and integrates with your BAM goals? What have been some challenges to that process, especially when operating cross-culturally?

~ Crossing Cultures

Dear Crossing,

Company Culture is Kingdom Culture

If we believe that the first step of any successful mission is getting a believer together with an unbeliever, then we can immediately see the power of business. If the business context may be the only encounter a person has with the Kingdom of God, then that business culture becomes mission-critical. As Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

If you wish to get something done in business, the environment the people do it in is important. If you wish to get something done and have people encounter the light of the Kingdom, then developing the right culture is a non-negotiable. In our business operations, we say that we, “Show people around the kingdom and introduce them to the King.” Read more

Developing a BAM Company Culture Part 2: Aligning a Company

Read Part 1: Developing a Company Culture: Foundational Principles

Since the leaders and staff of a business usually come from different worldviews, with differing values and beliefs, it is quite likely that alignment of behaviours and practices will not be automatic! This is especially true of a BAM company that is operating cross-culturally and with language barriers among staff.

The company leaders may wish they didn’t need policies and systems because they want everyone to be aligned on vision and values. However, very often we are not. Newcomers come in without understanding of the company vision and values, established staff still struggle to be on the same page, simply because they have different cultural norms, expectations and learned behaviours. So how do I as the leader draw us through cultural change? How do I help people adopt our ways?

Going Through Cultural Change

It is helpful to remember that you are working for behavioural change, but that current behaviours or attitudes stem from already held principles, that are in turn rooted in values and beliefs.

There are three stages of cultural alignment:

1. Dependent culture

I will obey your rule but I don’t agree with it. This rule or practice is not intrinsic to me, I comply because I have to, because there is some external incentive or penalty. Read more