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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

7 Practitioners Give Start Up Advice for BAM in the Agriculture Industry

In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We are currently focused on business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:

What advice would you give to someone starting out BAM and wanting to run an agriculture business?

The best advice is always to start small. It is easy to scale up as you gain understanding.  The greatest cause of failure in the industry is getting bigger than you can handle and overextended financially. All of this can be avoided by being realistic in your expectations from the beginning. It is always better to do a small thing well and scale up as time, energy and finances allow. We must remember that agriculture involves a great deal of waiting and trusting God to bring the growth. It often involves much experimentation to get the right things growing in the right place at the right time. Don’t ever trust that there is a “one style fits all” approach. Every place and every situation will bring its own challenges and its own victories. Remember, our God is a God of abundance and if we do things in His way, He will provide the increase. It is important to get a team involved and a good business plan in place. Even on a small scale, we must concentrate on the business side of things. If we don’t, we may end up with a big pile of cucumbers rotting in the yard. – Carl, Caribbean & Asia  Read more

What are the Advantages of Doing BAM in the Agriculture Industry?

In the first half of 2017, we are looking at BAM companies in different industries. We continue with business as mission in the agriculture industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAMers involved in agriculture:

What are the advantages of being in the agriculture industry when it comes to doing BAM?

I see three advantages of being in the agricultural industry when it comes to doing BAM. First of all, everybody in the world needs food to eat. Food comes from agriculture. So if somebody has know-how in food production and food preservation it is the best industry for business. Second, it is easy to start in the agricultural industry. In every location there is already existing agricultural activity. No or only few imports are needed. Finally, it is easy to connect to people on the level of food because everybody relates to it. – Decent, Malawi

I think there is a big advantage in that with agriculture most of the grassroots people in your area can relate to you. They can see what you are doing and how it can have direct benefits to them. They can also get involved by utilizing your products on their farm, or learning and implementing what you are introducing, if it is new technology or improved methods. This can impact a huge number of people right there where you are. The people receiving those benefits are those who are working hard to legitimately provide a life and future for their families. If you impact them, and help them, you provide hope. Just like the hope and dignity you give to your employees, this can be multiplied out to the recipients of your product or technology, allowing them to better provide for their families. – Ben, Central Asia  Read more

5 Leaders Give Advice for Starting BAM in the Hospitality Industry

In the first half of 2017, we will periodically run short series looking at BAM companies in different industries. We start with business as mission in the hospitality industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAM owners in the hospitality industry:

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in BAM and wanting to run a hospitality business? 

The barrier of entry to this industry is quite low and hence not very difficult to set up, however keeping it running profitably is a real challenge. Many mission-minded Christians may first consider a non-profit model which in many cases will fail eventually due to financial difficulty. If anyone is seriously considering running a hospitality business as BAM, the dedication to the business and its excellence are vital to success and longevity. Great products and services are keys to maintain brand loyalty and by themselves are great testimonies and tools of evangelism. By winning the pre-believers’ stomachs, that’s already a big step closer to winning their hearts for Christ! If you have a big passion for people, then you’ve got to have a big passion for this industry as well, because you need to invest a lot of care and love into the products and your team. If you do that effectively, then the food that you serve on a table will be so stunningly good that will deeply move and touch people in their hearts. – VL, Restaurant in East Asia

I would ask, “Is this really something you are passionate about?” Often people think of starting a cafe because it’s a familiar kind of business or they enjoy cooking. However, they may not consider what a full time job it is running a hospitality business. It’s not a 9 to 5 kind of business, you will work evenings and weekends, and always holidays! If you love to cook and serve people and you get satisfaction from working hard doing that, then you will be energised by it and running the business will give you life. However, if it doesn’t give you life, if you aren’t passionate about it, it’s not a good idea to start. Along with that, staff your weaknesses. No one person can be a great entrepreneur, a great manager and a great cook or barista or host – so whichever of those you are your strengths, take that role and form a core team to cover areas where you are weaker. – Josh, Hospitality Consultant in USA & Asia Read more

What are the Advantages of Doing BAM in the Hospitality Industry?

In the first half of 2017, we will periodically run short series looking at BAM companies in different industries. We start with business as mission in the hospitality industry, sharing insights and stories from experienced company owners.

We asked BAM owners in the hospitality industry:

What are the advantages of being in the hospitality industry when it comes to doing BAM?

The hospitality industry is a great option when it comes to doing BAM, especially when food is involved. Having a meal is an essential human need, and so is shelter. As a service provider, you meet those basic needs and provide a common space for people to gather in a very non-threatening way – especially helpful in gospel-sensitive countries. Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding when he turned water to wine, he also fed thousands with five loaves and two fish, he ate at Zacchaeus’ and Matthew’s houses, and the Bible gives us an account of his last supper with his disciples, as well as many other examples of having meals together. There is a saying that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and it is so true! – VL, Restaurant in East Asia 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

Day to Day Life in Hostile Places: Doing Business in Central Asia

The challenges to doing business here are many. The market is small and corruption is massive. There is a deficit of qualified professionals in the employee pool. This means that you need to fully train whoever you hire, knowing that when they have marketable skills, they will be seeking to emigrate to a country for a “better life”.

Inflation is another significant risk factor for business, as well as sudden bouts of devaluation which can be disastrous when supplies are purchased in dollars but customers are paying in local currency. Corruption and lawlessness are rampant in government institutions and there is an underdeveloped legal framework for doing business. We openly declare our position against corruption and this is a plus and a minus. We have no sense of protection from the government here, and there is constant pressure. One of the most threatening developments has been the more recent rise here in Islamic radicalism.

When we published the book of Proverbs and began to openly distribute it we raised the wrath of certain legislators in the parliament here. They vowed to shut us down and began sending an endless barrage of inspectors from every possible government department, all instructed to find something that could put us out of business. We faced corruption that brought us to the brink of being shut down. Our refusal to pay bribes resulted in lawsuits, investigations and audits. In the end, however, most inspectors went away with a true respect for how we run our business. The auditor sent to “shut us down” ended up so impressed at our dealings that she came to the faith. Read more

Day to Day Life in Hostile Places: Doing Business in North Africa

How do you do business in a country that your home country says it is illegal to do business in? Forget about export markets. Forget about connections to the international banking system for personal or business funds. Forget about visiting the ATM. You need to carry as much cash in with you every time you come and then stick in a safe in the corner of your bedroom because you cannot have a bank account in the country.

The bureaucracy and corruption were just the tip of the iceberg of doing business where we lived in North Africa. War and instability, currency fluctuations, international sanctions and constant anti-Western sentiment from the country’s government were just some of the things we contended with day to day. Even the weather could be hostile, with highs of 45°c (113°f), along with sandstorms and power cuts!

Although war was almost constant in different areas of the country, it rarely impacted daily life in the capital. We often told our family that even though the country had been through decades of civil war, the rebels had only attacked the capital once and that was 30 years ago. That was until they attacked it while we were there! The situation returned to normal after a week, but it was hectic. The city shut down for that week while battles went street to street.

On another occasion, we had an outreach team ambushed with grenades and AK-47’s while doing ministry in a remote district that we thought was safe. A number of team were killed and wounded. We still don’t know who was behind the attack. Read more

After the Tsunami: Business on the Edge

Little did James know just how strategically God had placed him fourteen years prior to the adversity that rocked multiple countries and millions of people when the 2004 tsunami hit Asia. As the ocean bulldozed its way through the coastline, sparing nothing in its path, so came a flood of both urgent and long-term needs. The physical destruction was almost incomprehensible, with hundreds of thousands of homes leveled and those that weren’t completely destroyed sustaining major water damage.

The area James lived in had long experienced government versus rebel conflict. Trust levels were at a low between people groups. Most things had ground to a complete halt as a result of years of unrest. The infrastructure was almost nonexistent, and what little infrastructure was there was almost completely dysfunctional. The civil unrest had already led to massive financial devastation. The additional destruction of the tsunami made for a completely corrupt situation where everyone grabbed for whatever money they could get their hands on.

For Such a Time as This

After the tsunami’s destruction of homes, multitudes lived in refugee camps which were a hotbed for the advancement of political unrest or conflict. The circumstances were ripe for anything but a successful BAM venture! Except that James and his wife and team knew they were called ‘for such a time as this’ and the Holy Spirit was leading them. James also had some ‘street smarts’ when it came to working in his location, which helped him move farther, faster. They hadn’t seen it coming, but along with the devastation of the tsunami came opportunities to start businesses that could help rebuild. Read more

Four Personal Experiences of BAM in Hard Places

The BAM Global Think Tank Report on BAM in Hostile Environments shares numerous personal stories and cases from BAM companies in hard places. Here are four brief experiences:

Boat Building in East Asia

In 2009 Josh was living in East Asia and had an opportunity to buy a boat building company there. He saw the opportunity to own a company in an unreached area and use it for ‘triple bottom line’ impact: to be profitable and sustainable, to create jobs, to live out ‘Jesus’ and to make disciples of Jesus among the Muslim and Hindu population. Josh was a fully qualified architect; he had 25 years of boating experience together with experience of teaching design and construction technology; he had lived in country for five years and spoke the language fluently; he had made several disciples of Jesus on other islands. While Josh brought considerable assets to the table, he did not have a business background, he had no money and he had not rubbed shoulders with the cutthroat business world of the country. While the company for sale had proven profitable, there were several hostile factors: the previous owner had not paid taxes and had a system for smuggling profits out of the country; the owner had some debts and potentially serious liabilities against the company; the country’s tax and other typical business laws were not obvious or easily known and Josh knew of no place in country where he could go for honest help; the location was isolated for a family with three children. Read more

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