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Evaluating Business Ideas for Freedom Business Startups

by Christa Crawford

 

What are the most important questions to ask myself when evaluating a business opportunity?

My background is Business for Freedom – that is using business to bring freedom to people who would otherwise be trapped in trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation. The traditional model for reaching these people is the charity model, but in recent years there is a movement toward business, including business as mission. As such, much of my audience knows very little about business basics. For them, I would say that the most important questions are:

  • Is this business a good fit for the market?
  • Is this business a good fit for me?
  • Is there someone who can do this business better, and how can we partner together?

Is this business a good fit for the market? While this question may seem basic to business people, to many getting started in business for freedom the first question they ask themselves is “What can we sell?”, where they should really be asking, “What do people want to buy?” We must ensure that we are selling products that have the demand and quality to sell on their own, and not merely as “pity purchases.”

Is this business a good fit for me?  Starting a business is more than a full-time commitment, especially when it is only one part of a more comprehensive “ministry” to exploited people. It is important to do something that you enjoy and that you are good at (again, assuming that there is a market demand for it). Some of the best business advice I got when we began, was to go to the Ministry of Trade and find out what industries are up-and-coming and invest there. One suggestion we were given was to start a car factory. While that may have been the best in terms of market opportunities, I had no experience or interest in this field and would have been overwhelmed and quickly lost interest! Thankfully, another emerging industry suggested was the Food & Beverage/ hospitality industry which my husband had years of practical experience in, and in which I was personally gifted.

This leads to the third most important question:

Is there someone who can do this business better, and how can we partner together? When we began almost 15 years ago, we were able to start several small-scale enterprises, but so many times we saw great business opportunities that we had to turn down because we lacked the depth of business expertise and human and financial capital to pursue them properly. At the time it was easy to find people like us who were interested in “helping people” but much harder to find partners with experience in finance, operations, management, etc. Thankfully now there are many more experienced business people being called to mission. Find them!! Do not try to do business on your own if you have no experience with business. God has gifted us each with unique gifts in the context of a body. We can’t do it alone. When we would visit churches to share about our ministry many people would think “I can’t go into a bar and build relationships like you do, I’m just an accountant.” At the same time, I was thinking “God, please don’t send us another ‘missionary’, send us someone who can actually do a P&L report.” We all have a role to play in the Kingdom, and there is a huge need for people with business experience to get involved, and to be effective leaders in developing and running successful businesses for freedom.

Read more from Christa in Keeping the Captives Free: How Business for Transformation Can Create Sustainable Jobs for Survivors of Human Trafficking and Prostitution

Christa Foster Crawford is part of the ‘Ask a BAM Mentor‘ panel of mentors. Christa has worked to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Thailand and the Greater Mekong Subregion since 2001. In 2003 she started a social enterprise for freedom, pioneering small Food and Beverage/Hospitality businesses to offer sustainable alternatives to exploitation. She currently empowers the work of other organizations through the Trafficking Resource Connection, providing expert advice and referrals, resource development and sharing, and teaching and training. A passionate advocate, Christa speaks, writes and teaches internationally on issues of human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, and children at risk. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Claremont McKenna College.

Submit a Question to the mentors panel via the Contact page, select ‘Ask a BAM Mentor – submit question’ as the subject.