Joining BAM: Stories of People Getting Involved in Business as Mission

This month we are starting a blog series that will explore different pathways into BAM and different ways to be involved. We begin this month with the topic of getting involved in doing BAM yourself. In the coming months, we’ll explore more ideas for enabling, resourcing and connecting others to do BAM.

Over the past 15 years, there’s been an unprecedented rise in the global connectedness of people involved in business as mission (BAM). As the movement continues to grow, many more seek opportunities to join the movement — specifically by joining or starting BAM companies and resourcing organizations.

As engagement in business as mission grows, so do the range of opportunities. There are almost as many ways to get involved with BAM as there are people on their BAM journey and we’ve  been eager to hear more about the variety of ways to get involved.

We reached a handful of individuals who each had unique stories of how God led them to get involved with BAM. Here are two of their stories:

G, Team Member of a Business Incubator for Refugees in the UK

G works with a team based in the UK that helps local refugees relaunch the businesses they operated back in their home countries. She and the team are driven by BAM principals and hope to see real financial impact with refugees lifted out of poverty and released into economic prosperity for their families. They aim to impact social bottom lines by encouraging and deepening ties between locals and refugees, and to have spiritual impact by sharing Christ with groups who, before arriving in the UK, had limited exposure to the gospel.  

What motivated you to join the organization you’re working with?

I learned about social enterprise during my studies of global business issues at university. After my first exposure to these concepts, I wanted to learn more about businesses doing BAM in a practical and meaningful way.

I am from a very rural area and there didn’t seem to be many opportunities for the practical, hands-on experience I was looking for. During one of my summer breaks, a man from the UK (now G’s team leader) started to share about his community’s desire to serve refugees and start a social enterprise in his area. If anyone was interested in joining them for an internship, he said to connect with him after service.

What did you do to prepare for involvement in BAM? Can you tell us about the networking, research, learning, and formal or informal preparations you did?

As I said, I studied social enterprise in college. But to me, it felt more like most of my learning was “caught” not taught.

My mom is an entrepreneur herself, and I would say most of what I’ve learned has been from watching and helping my mom run her Mary Kay business. She’s always been intentional about networking and connecting to enrich the lives of women, not just to make a sale. She always made sure genuine care for people was never lost. During college, I followed in her footsteps and started my own Mary Kay side business. This taught me a lot about bouncing back from rejection, and how to not take it personally, which is hard!

Running my own business taught me how to talk to people even when I’m intimidated, giving me the confidence to boldly ask questions and follow up with people I’m interested in learning from. This gave me buoyancy to keep following up on this opportunity with the team in the UK, even after it had been repeatedly canceled and postponed due to Covid.

The short of it is this: I felt God calling me to this, and I just kept stepping out and acting on that calling. As I have, God has continually provided.

What challenges or discouragements did you face while getting ready to start? And how did you overcome them?

My initial internship in the UK was canceled during the summer of 2020. Instead, God provided a different internship with a business incubator. The internship with the business incubator provided the credits I needed to allow me to graduate a semester early and the skills I learned from that internship directly applied to what I’m doing now in the UK.

After graduating the following year, I reached back out to see if the UK internship was still a possibility. The team told me if I could get to the UK, with the plethora of Covid precautions that were still in place, they would love to have me.

By the grace of God, I managed to hop onto one of the first planes into the country with only 15 other people on board. But obviously after I arrived, Covid restrictions were still in high enforcement making it difficult to do anything. Imagine trying to get to know your team, learning how to work with them, and then trying to serve the community’s refugees with these restrictions still in place. Everything else I’ve experienced until now pales in comparison to how difficult that was.

Even so, when God calls you to something and you are faithful to what he’s called you to, He will be at work, even if it doesn’t look like what you expected.

You’re helping launch an organization in a different context to the one you are from, while also joining an existing  team, how have you needed to adapt?

I love my team. They’ve been working together for a long time and already have a great rhythm.  The team is multigenerational, multicultural, and made up of couples and singles. Our biggest challenge is that most of us aren’t from the UK. In many ways that does help us better relate to the refugees we work with. On the other hand, it can be stressful as we have our assumptions about how the local government and systems should function, but sometimes it doesn’t work at all how we expected.

At times we feel sort of foolish trying to help refugees understand Western culture here, but this expression of Western culture that we’re in is much more nuanced… Some days it feels like a bit like trying to surf while getting continually pelted by waves!

Elliot, Engagement Architect in a BAM Company

After growing up overseas as a TCK, Elliot moved to the US and went to school to become an athletic trainer. During that time, he also earned an MBA. After working in sales for a well-known SaaS company, he left to work as a remote engagement architect for a software-focused BAM company.  

What motivated you to become involved with business as mission? What motivated you to join the company you’re in now?

I had worked in athletics for four years and spent two years in software sales before joining the company. In athletics, I felt burnt out and overworked. My family was being neglected and despite the satisfaction of having an impact on the athletes I worked with, I wasn’t able to juggle the responsibility.

During my time working in software sales for a corporate unicorn company, I felt that the emphasis was entirely on the bottom line. The flexibility was great, but the purpose was missing. I wanted to join a software company where I could use my sales skills, and contribute to Kingdom-driven impact.

When I told my colleagues that I was leaving a flexible, comfortable job with a great benefits package, they didn’t quite understand, but that was a given! But now, in my current role, there are so many opportunities to use my skills in sales to help the organization grow and expand. I love competition and growing good causes. I’m finally in a role that allows me to do both.

Did you do anything to prepare for joining a BAM company?

I grew up on the missions field and knew many people who were starting and running BAM companies. Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much I needed to do to prepare.

God has given us the desire to work and the desire to impact people’s lives. I felt that if I just focused on work and getting to know those I am engaging with on a deeper level, I’d be off to a good start!

Are there any parts of your joining process that you felt were unusual, unconventional, or surprising?

The nature of BAM is that it is unconventional. I left a software sales job and although I am now in a similar role, the structures, benefits, culture, etc. is completely different. (Not bad. Just different!) Our company operates on the other side of the globe and is adding a US team, so naturally, it’s a little different from the industry norms.

What’s it been like to adapt to your new, globally-based team after transitioning from your old job?

It has been easy in some ways and difficult in others. While our company is based abroad, our US team is adopting a lot of the norms of the company, which are quite different than the norms in the US. Our culture encourages everyone to share their opinions and expertise because we have an aligned mission. It’s been great to contribute to a company culture so quickly and early on.

Culturally, the team is very aligned. Procedurally, there is a bit of nuance and it’s different from what I am used to — but this isn’t a big issue.

 

>> Read Part 2 here

 

Read three more stories in How They Got Started: 3 Different Routes into Business as Mission

Shay acts as the communication assistant for the BAM Global team. As a full time content creator and web developer, Shay uses her skills to partner with community-building organizations.

 

 

 

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash