Cashews with a Social Mission: From Hershey Exec to Sunshine Nuts

From Forbes Magazine

Do you have to be a little nuts to give up all the trappings of corporate success, move your family to Mozambique to start a cashew company and pledge to give away 90% of your profits to help orphans and farmers?

More than a few people suggested as much to Don Larson, a former Hershey Company exec who  sold his Porshe, his hot air balloon and his house with a swimming pool to buy a small factory in Matola, Mozambique to launch his social enterprise.

Larson’s Sunshine Nut Company, sells roasted cashews,  grown by small farmers in Mozambique and produced entirely in-country.  The company, which turned its first profit 18 months ago, sold about $2 million worth of cashews last year, and  Larson is projecting $3 million to $5 million in revenue this year.  The nuts can now be found in  some 2,000 U.S. stores,  including Whole Foods and Wegman’s.

More than 30 years ago, Mozambique led the world in cashew production. But, following independence in 1975, 16  years of civil war and bad banking policies decimated the industry. Now, Larson is trying to bring it back – this time, by empowering local communities, paying farmers fairly for their product and creating   jobs with upward mobility for the country’s orphans and abandoned children in Sunshine’s factories. The company is devoting 30% of its net proceeds to support agricultural development and 30% to care for orphans and vulnerable children; another 30% will be directed to expanding to other developing regions, and, eventually, to other crops.

Most social entrepreneurs like to stress their founding story, the goals they hope to accomplish, the motivations that drive everything they do. The product itself? Sometimes, it’s just good enough, but nothing special. The really savvy social entrepreneurs have learned that a sincere mission and a superior product must go hand-in-hand.  Read more

A Journey into Freedom Business: One Woman’s Pre-BAM Story

While many of our readers are post-business plan, trying to figure how to fully implement what’s on that sacred document – making payroll, brokering deals, marketing to clients etc. – there are many other readers still in the ‘dreaming phase’. Perhaps seeds were planted years ago that left a deep imprint on their purpose and direction and since then these pre-BAMers keep taking notes, asking questions and scoping out the market for their product – praying and preparing for the day when the light turns green.

When I first met Rebekah at a BAM conference in 2013, her desire to network and learn from others was immediately obvious. Her gentle yet determined spirit and unyielding passion for vulnerable women keeps her pushing forward to this day. We met together again recently and she updated me on where her BAM journey is up to.

Sharing Rebekah’s story highlights what goes through heart and mind in the lead up to the birth of a BAM company. The hopes and fears, the longings and motivations, the voices of encouragement and discouragement, and the vision that keeps us moving.

When did the idea of you starting a BAM business first take root?

I was on a community development project for two years and saw the underlying problem of people needing jobs. The lack of employment or sub-standard pay in the region resulted in uneducated daughters being sent out to work. In the area I live and work in I did research on human-trafficking. I visited communities that were affected by the problem. I saw girls with little education being trafficked or lured into the big cities with the promise of jobs. I joined a team with the focus on after-care for little girls who came out of the trauma of trafficking. Now looking forward in time, I know that long-term these girls will become women who will still need good jobs. Read more

6 BAM Practitioners on Engaging the Customer with Stories

Stories can be a powerful way to engage clients and bring more of a personal connection between your customers and your staff or products. We asked 6 professionals and company owners engaged in business as mission to share how they have used stories to connect with customers, build their brand and sell products, here’s what they shared:

 

In the case of the fashion industry, consumers have largely lost the association of the human impact our purchases make. I believe it is key that businesses use stories wherever they can to add value to their brand, the more personal the better. All our team members and crafters have published stories on our website. Our brand is built on the stories and connects the consumer to “Who Made Yours” with a unique, identifying tag on each item. – Brad, South Asia

 

As our company has grown, then yes, we have used the life stories of our staff to connect with customers. Stories are certainly powerful but with that comes huge responsibility. This should never be taken lightly! Stories of transformation should always be highlighted rather than their past. Everyday examples should always dwell on the positive and not the negative. It could be a temptation to use sensationalism, but that while that is powerful, it should never be the motivation! There are definitely pros and cons to using real stories of employees and we would strongly advise that you first earn the trust of the person whose story you are telling, and inform and gain their consent before using it as a marketing tool. Any photo or video captured also has to have  consent, along with an explanation of the power of social media. As a rule of thumb we do not use facial recognition unless consent is given and we have a no photo policy for any visitors, with photos and videos only being taken by trusted team members. We also always change the name when publishing as a safeguard. – Kara, South Asia

Read more

How Stories Build Company Culture: 5 Business Leaders Share

We asked 5 professionals and company owners engaged in business as mission to share how they have experienced stories being used to build company culture:

 

We often use stories of our past experiences to show empathy and encourage our staff.  When we feel they are having a hard time on a project or feel uninspired by their current workload, I tell them about times in my past of how I have felt the same, but sticking through it has helped me grow and become who I am today. We have a family-like company culture and we want our staff to feel their boss or manager is not a distant authoritarian figure but a father/mother or big brother/sister figure whom they can respect yet find comfort with. – Yumi, Southeast Asia

 

Story telling from THE book we follow has certainly been a way forward to introducing true freedom in our company. We tell stories from the Bible each and everyday in all our business units and this also helps with setting culture! Life stories are also shared as women are brave enough, this then becomes a wonderful way of talking about freedom – we often use the term “freedom journey”.  Life stories also are powerful when recruiting and encouraging other women to leave “the trade”. When they are told about women who have managed to do that, and the transformation that can happen as a result, that is a powerful inspiration to do the same. – Kara, South Asia

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Painful Events, Stories and Company Culture

By Dave Kahle

Stories can be powerful tools to shape behavior and dramatically communicate expectations. Wise executives continually seek for opportunities to capture and then relate a story that supports and illustrates the organization’s culture. If the story can be tied to a piece of physical support, then it’s even better. Here’s an example.

In the days before email, we had a marketing program that consisted of developing an individualized prescription for a series of marketing letters for each prospect we encountered. We would customize and send these monthly.  Thus, one prospect would get a series of letters based on the size and type of his business, and another prospect would get a different series. This was the backbone of our marketing effort, and we produced hundreds of customized, first-class letters each week.

For reasons that I can’t remember, I reached into the wastebasket and retrieved a crumpled up letter. It was one of our prescription letters that had been sent back to us. There were typos and obvious errors in the first paragraph, including the incorrect spelling of the prospect’s name. The recipient had circled the errors and hand-written this message across the top: “Dave, if you can’t produce a letter without errors, how can you possibly help me?” He had mailed the letter, with his notes, back to us. Read more

Turbocam India: A Stand Against Corruption

The Beginnings

Like many small business stories, the story of Turbocam India involves the spark of opportunity, mixed in with a great deal of perseverance and one or two major breakthroughs that have set the course of the company. But perhaps the most important ingredient of all has been a firmly held belief from its inception that Turbocam was to be a ‘Kingdom company’, existing as a business for the purpose of honouring God.

Turbocam International was founded by Indian Marian Noronha in New Hampshire, USA in 1985. Turbocam’s core business revolves around manufacturing specialised machine parts for turbines and turbochargers, using sophisticated software to machine very high-precision, delicately balanced parts. Right from its earliest days Marian envisioned the company would be used in the service of God. The ideas of creating jobs and generating wealth, supporting Christian service and manufacturing high quality turbo machinery products have all been integral to the mission of the company from the beginning. Read more

The Business is the Mission? A Story from History

By Robert McArthur

The Year: 1758

The Month: April

The Situation: Sending thirty cash-strapped Moravian Missionaries to Suriname

Additional Requirements: a shipment of stripped linen; and one Moravian, Jonas Paul Weiss, to do some hard thinking on economic activities in missions, to articulate and pioneer this way of doing missions.

Long Term Results: Over two centuries of successful missionary commerce.

The Story: For the experienced businessman, Weiss, business offered as many opportunities for Christian witness as for profit. [1] His business brain and passionate missionary heart thus laid the foundation for what is now two centuries of missionary commerce.

It was however Sarasin, from another likeminded mission, The Basel Evangelical Mission Society who, in a letter to India in 1854, articulated best the principles of this ‘missionary commerce’ when he wrote:

“The Business arm of the Mission is not just an aid to missions but it is the mission itself

  • a mission not through preaching but through the power of example
  • a mission of revealing Christianity in practical life situations
  • a mission doing everything possible to make godliness visible
  • a mission that shows Christianity to have promise not only for the life to come but also for this life.” [2]

Read more

The Power of a Story: Orality in Business

By Howard Partridge

While attending a very high level, exclusive leadership training, we were taken to the largest independent advertising agency in the U.S.

We were taken on a tour of the massive, modern office space inhabited by over 700 employees that included a gym that would rival any local health club, nap rooms, and most importantly the large, open stairwell that connected all the floors of this modern building.

The stairwell is the one and only place that all 760 team members can all be together. There is a catwalk that is prominently suspended in the middle of the open stairwell where the company news is shared. This is where potential clients are brought to be introduced, it’s where the good and the bad is shared. And, this is where stories are told.

In order to effectively tour the company, our group of about a hundred was broken into small groups of ten people. A staff member named Emily led our tour. She told story after story about their culture, why they do what they do, and why it was important. I was impressed that she was so passionate about the stories, the culture and the meaning behind everything they do. Read more

Three Stories: How BAM Goals and People Goals Fit Together

We asked company leaders to share how their goals as a BAM company fit with their goals for their people, and how that influenced their business planning and development.

Three BAM practitioners share from very different industries on how their strategy for their staff connects with their overall strategy to be a Kingdom-focused company.

IT Company in South Asia

We work hard to manage expectations upfront that the company exists only because of Jesus and has been dedicated to bringing glory to God. So 100% of our staff are aware of our high level BAM goals in that sense, but mostly just the around 15% of believers connect fully. The other 85% connect to our Kingdom goals of renewing our industry, providing meaningful work, raising up leaders worth following, and so on.

We spent years passionately praying for, discussing and trying to understand God’s purpose for the business. Saying that a business exists to make money is like saying I exist to breathe oxygen and keep blood flowing through my body to stay alive. We all have a purpose and calling as individuals and I believe we do as businesses as well.

We continue to seek and refine our purpose. It is an evolving thing with God revealing new layers and aspects, again, just like us as individuals. So in our early startup phase we spent an absurd amount of time navel-gazing, trying to understand the “WHY” and our employees saw this and see it today. They know they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Most of them acknowledge that Jesus is an important part of the company even if they don’t agree or like that. They know we don’t have it all figured out and fail often. But they have seen the process of us passionately seeking God, doing our best to follow God and simply asking them to, “Follow us as we follow Jesus”. Read more

Two Company Leaders Look Back: Financial Planning Highs and Lows

When we have a major decision to make, we often ask those around us for input. Sometimes we follow that advice and other times we don’t. Occasionally we might look back and wish we had followed the advice we received from others. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!

Drawing on the wisdom of others can be helpful and the benefit of hindsight is illuminating. With those two things in mind, we asked a couple of well established BAM leaders for their advice about financial planning. We asked them to share what has been fruitful and has enabled them to grow companies that are doing well. We also asked them to share the lessons they’ve learned the hard way and what they would do differently in hindsight.

Hospitality Company 

Company A is a Hospitality company with 125 employees, it has two owners and was established 12 years ago.

What financial planning have you done to grow your company to the place it is today?

The growth of our company over the past five years has been quite substantial. We have seen our revenue increase 475%, and our earnings grow 540%. Though our financial planning was not the driver of that growth, it was certainly the foundation. Without the steps we have learned and taken over the years, we would not have been able to facilitate the amazing growth we have seen.  Read more