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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

Poultry Farmer to BAM Mentor: Interview with an Agriculture Veteran

Dan Wiebe grew up in a farming family and started his own poultry business in 1970. With decades of experience behind him, he has more recently connected with the business as mission community and become a mentor to others. We asked him to share a little about his story and some of his advice for those doing BAM in the agriculture sector.

Dan, could you share a bit about your own experience in the agriculture sector, about your own background and how your family business grew?

I grew up in a family agri-business as the youngest of 7 children. My father, a second generation Canadian, had taken Teachers Training in the 1920s and by 1940 retired from teaching to manage his farm in the prairies of Manitoba, Canada. In 1949 he moved our family to western Canada to begin intensive farming with poultry.

By 1970 I was ready to begin my own poultry operation with one chicken house and 10,000 chickens. This was a time when poultry became the consumer’s more popular choice over beef.  Not only was the market expanding rapidly because chicken was a healthy alternative to red meat, but the cost of producing chicken dropped significantly as scientific improvements were introduced in nutrition and selective breeding to bring chickens to market much faster. The use of hormones in chicken production has never been legal in North America so chicken is still the safest and healthiest meat available to consumers.

I grew up observing in our own family business ways to involve all segments of a farming enterprise with the support industry in order to produce a better quality and more efficient end product. I used these lessons to integrate my own farming operation into the only fully vertically integrated chicken farm in Canada, from farm to plate.  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

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

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