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Restoring Dignity Through Business: Dignity Coconuts’ Story

“We’re fighting this multi-billion dollar evil with a peashooter,” Stephen told Don as they wandered around the exhibition hall at an anti-human trafficking convention. At every booth they were encountering stories of abuse and human suffering. There were also stories of rescue and restoration… However, the sheer scale of global slavery seemed to dwarf the efforts of those at the front-lines fighting against it. Most organisations working with trafficked communities can only provide jobs for 5, 10, 20 or so people. This is great and essential work; giving meaningful work and a stable livelihood is central to people getting out and staying out of slavery. Yet the need for stable jobs far surpasses the supply. Don and Stephen came away with a burning question: How can we employ a growing number of people vulnerable to, or rescued from, human trafficking?

A year later in 2009 Stephen Freed and Don Byker left their long-held positions and set out to research business opportunities. They realised that if they were really going to tackle the underground slavery industry, they would need multiple, substantially-sized businesses that could employ hundreds or thousands of people. They looked at micro-enterprise solutions, but realised that there is a limit to how effective those can be. Not everyone is an entrepreneur with aspirations to own their own business – and micro-businesses rarely scale to create thousands of jobs. As they researched they found, as economists have discovered, that the key to solving poverty and bringing widespread economic development to communities is a growing number of SME-sized businesses. Read more

5 Lessons Learned About Developing Products and Finding a Market

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

Start with “Why”

If I could ask you to understand anything about this, I would encourage you to understand the “why.” Motives determine outcome. If the company motives don’t line up with solid business principles, undergirded by correct biblical understanding; your hard work may never get past a good read by the intended audience. It could end up in a desk drawer. Or worse, it could alienate an entire culture, damaging years of relationship building. And please, whatever you do…don’t spiritualize motives. Just because we choose to spiritualize a motive does not justify it in God’s eyes. Nor does it guarantee successful execution. The sage advice of noted author and TED speaker Simon Sinek provides great clarity on the reason we want to start with the “why.”

Lesson Learned #1 – Ask lots of bad questions which lead to really good questions, and Google comes in handy at this point.

Get your Planning Head on Straight

Once you have clarity and understanding on the “why”, you are better equipped to move forward with the “what and how.” The “what and how” has everything to do with proper planning, researching, testing and… fingers-crossed… implementation. It’s important to know, as one mentor previously mentioned, when to set the planning aside to start testing assumptions. Read more

Developing a Flight Plan for Your Business

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Initiatives Blog.

Values. Vision. Purpose. Operating Principles. Those are pretty lofty altitudes in your business development process. They are all necessary; just as a solid foundation is necessary if you are going to build a home that lasts. However, with the foundation laid it’s time to begin executing on what you actually want to do.

We call this Flight Planning. It’s part strategic plan and part market plan and part organizational plan and mostly action plan. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen a large number of startups and small businesses achieve amazing results by devising and then doing this simple 3-step process.

Step 1: Set Targets and Objectives

The first step of the Flight Plan is to determine where you actually want to be in the next year (Objectives) and the next three years (Targets). It’s useful to set the information out, as follows. Read more

The Power of Planning and Marketing: 7 Reasons Tentmaking Businesses Fail [Book Excerpt]

Poor Planning Paralyzes

It was a couple years back when an individual who was interested in starting a business in our city approached me. As we sat down he pulled out a few pieces of paper, which contained his business idea. He had translated the business idea into a couple of other languages for others to read it. After glancing over the proposal, I had a couple of questions come into my mind. Who is your target market? How will you make money on this idea? 

I was surprised at his answer! He said that he had done some market research and interviewed some of the people who might be interested in his product. They told him that there was no real market for his product. They said it was not needed or really wanted at this time. 

He then said something I will never forget:

“But I decided to move forward anyway with the idea.” 

All he had done for planning was to ask a few people. The people had told him that there was not a need for his product. However, he was still moving forward with the idea. Where was the business plan? This idea was doomed for failure. Read more

9 Keys for Successful BAM Deployment

Here are 9 Keys for Successful BAM Deployment that have been themes shared over and over by experienced BAM practitioners and mentors. These are principles and practices observed over years of listening to BAM pioneers, writing BAM stories and collecting information about how to do BAM. Many of these Keys have been shared by BAMers and BAM leaders over the last few weeks as we have explored the topic ‘Launching Out and Landing Well’ – they come out in the stories, snippets, and teaching we’ve shared, as well as in the BAM Think Tank research we’ve been drawing on.

1. Walk with God

Abide in Christ. It’s essential to be connected to the Vine, a growing disciple of Jesus, if we are to bear fruit! That means spending time listening and talking to God in prayer and being attentive to His calling and direction for your life. It means growing in Godly character as you are rooted in His word, and opening up to spiritual input from others. Prayer is mentioned over and over by BAMers as a foundation stone for BAM in practice, at all stages: preparation, launch and continued growth. Having a sense of call and leading from God is another often cited core driver for BAMers. Spiritual formation through discipleship and teaching is a life-long pursuit – whether through books, sermons, devotional materials, courses, retreats or intentional relationships. Making yourself accountable to peers or elders that will challenge you to grow in Christ-like character is another way to keep soft and open to the refining work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Read more

8 BAMers Share Their Stories: Where Were the Gaps?

We asked eight people who have got involved in BAM in the last 5 years to share how they got launched and how well they landed. We asked them:

We’ll be posting what they shared in four short blogs: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Part 4: Did any gaps in your know-how or preparation come to light as you landed?

On the business side, there’s always a lot that needs to be figured out on how to setup and manage a company as a foreigner. A benefit for us is that we had some operational and strategic experience in business before starting our own here. For BAM, we are continually working on how to best integrate ministry within business. Speaking with other BAM workers and hearing their experiences and how they do it has been crucial and insightful.  – Ben and Yumi, Vietnam [have been operating a software development company for 18 months, before that they spent 10 months intentionally preparing to do BAM, 4 months in their home country and 6 months in Vietnam] Read more

8 BAMers Share Their Stories: How Did You Prepare to Launch?

We asked eight people who have got involved in BAM in the last 5 years to share how they got launched and how well they landed. We asked them:

We’ll be posting what they shared in four short blogs: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4

Part 3: What were some of the most important things you did to prepare to launch?

We researched and read books on BAM, as well as spending time talking to experienced workers particularly through the Open Network Expo. – Ben and Yumi, Vietnam [have been operating a software development company for 18 months, before that they spent 10 months intentionally preparing to do BAM, 4 months in their home country and 6 months in Vietnam] Read more

8 BAMers Share Their Stories: What Held You Back?

We asked eight people who have got involved in BAM in the last 5 years to share how they got launched and how well they landed. We asked them:

We’ll be posting what they shared in four short blogs: Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4

Part 2: Was there anything that held you back that you had to overcome?

We didn’t feel anything holding us back because we were at a point in our lives where we felt called to go and God had already blessed us with the the means and desire. The only thing that we had to work out as a family was to be unified on where to go. If you have a desire to go, just go! Be diligent in laying down a strong foundation, work hard everyday and be intentional about building relationships. In all this, never forget why you are doing it and who you are doing it for.Ben and Yumi, Vietnam [have been operating a software development company for 18 months, before that they spent 10 months intentionally preparing to do BAM, 4 months in their home country and 6 months in Vietnam] Read more

8 BAMers Share Their Stories: What Propelled You Towards BAM?

We asked eight people who have got involved in BAM in the last 5 years to share how they got launched and how well they landed. We asked them:

We’ll be posting what they shared in four short blogs: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Part 1: What helped propel you towards business as mission?

We were working professionals for a long time and felt we reached a certain level of accomplishment in our career and knew it was time for a change. When we decided we wanted to move abroad, we looked at ways on how we could have the greatest impact and found that running a business can hugely benefit a community on many different levels, as well as give ministry opportunities we otherwise would not be presented with. Also, starting a business felt the most authentic way for us to truly become “immigrants” in our new home country and displayed our commitment to the locals that we were serious and in this for the long haul. – Ben and Yumi, Vietnam [have been operating a software development company for 18 months, before that they spent 10 months intentionally preparing to do BAM, 4 months in their home country and 6 months in Vietnam] Read more

How They Got Started: 3 Different Routes into Business as Mission

From Dream to Island Reality: Samantha

At the tender age of nine, rather than dreaming of make-believe castles and glass slippers, Samantha dreamed about living her life on a certain archipelago in Asia. After college Samantha spent a year in China teaching English then returned to the States to get her Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Upon graduating, she taught English for several years at high school level. Then one day God began stirring that dream from her childhood of living in Asia. After months of seeking wise counsel and pushing on doors, a plan began to take shape. True to His word, God did “more than she could ask or imagine”, doors opened for her to join an organisation that fit her youthfulness and passion. She raised long-term support, and took a survey trip. Within a short time Samantha had moved and begun studying the local language on a main island of the archipelago. She was open to God’s provision, setting no expectations on how long she would remain long-term in the country.

Three months into her language studies Samantha received a phone call from a certain small business ministering out in the islands asking if she would join them in their endeavor. Samantha had connected with this business months prior during her survey trip, hoping that God would open the door for her to join their business since their vision was the same as hers for the islands. With her teaching skills and a passion for the Islands, she immediately said, “Yes!” – believing she could do anything God called her to, including small business. Read more