THIS MEANS BUSINESS: Homegirl Cafe in downtown Los Angeles is a successful model of social entrepreneurship. Staffed by female gang members trying to leave their past behind, it’s part of Homeboy Industries.
America’s economic woes have made grassroots urban ministers open to new ways of doing things. Fundraising has always been a challenge, and now more so. Common conversation topics in urban ministry circles include cutting positions, scaling back programs, and working more efficiently.
One topic stands out. The idea of starting a business to fund an urban ministry is not just hallway conversation or Facebook chat fodder. People really want to know. Even people who are critics of Big Business or Capitalism are hungry to make private enterprise work for their cause.
If you are thinking about launching a business to supplement your ministry’s bottom line, it’s important to understand both the concept of social entrepreneurship and the management capacity of the typical grassroots urban minister.
The mash-up of urban ministry and business can best be engaged through the world of social entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurship is a term with a variety of definitions. One prominent description is that of Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of Grameen Bank, a pioneer in microfinance.
Social entrepreneurship relates to a person. It describes an initiative of social consequences for a social purpose. This initiative may be a non-economic initiative, a charity initiative, or a business initiative with or without personal profit. Some social entrepreneurs house their projects within traditional nongovernmental organizations while others are involved in for-profit activities.
Take Yunus’s definition, add the desire to see people come to faith and life in Jesus Christ, and you have a grassroots urban minister. To illustrate this, three groups stand out.
Belay Enterprises, a faith-based nonprofit in Denver, creates businesses to employ and job train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness, and prison. Last year 75 people worked in Belay’s businesses that include Bud’s Warehouse, a home improvement thrift store. While structured as a nonprofit, Belay realized over half a million dollars in revenue from sales, with very little by way of donor cash contributions. Jim Reiner, executive director of Belay, says they are growing a fund for new businesses that will increase the number of people employed or job trained per year. (Full disclosure: Partners Worldwide, the organization for which I work, co-hosted an event with Belay last month.)
Central Detroit Christian (CDC) created Peaches and Greens as a way to provide fresh produce to neighbors living in a vast urban food desert. The Peaches and Greens operation has both a storefront location and a mobile truck that sell fresh goodness throughout the community. Lisa Johanon, executive director of CDC and an incarnated resident, told NPR’s Michel Martin that prior to the creation of Peaches and Greens she had to drive ten miles for produce.
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN ACTION: Through Homeboy Industries, ex-gangbangers like these women at Homegirl Cafe receive job training and employment opportunities, in addition to a new start spiritually.
Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, founded by Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle, addresses the issue of street gangs through job training and business opportunities. Homeboy made news when it was forced to lay off more than 75% of its staff — 300 people, many in the target outreach group — because of budget cuts. Remarkably, the 60 people who were not laid off worked in Homeboy’s bakery, which was profitable and self-sustaining, and therefore capable of weathering the cuts. Since that desperate time, with the help of some compassionate and deep-pocketed friends, Homeboy Industries has rebounded and continues to provide job training and employment opportunities for ex-gangbangers in the L.A. community. (It should be noted that while Catholic faith is at the core of Boyle’s motivation, Homeboy itself does not publicly emphasize its faith roots. It is, however, an appropriate example of social entrepreneurship in my estimation.)
Most urban ministries I know — certainly those involved with groups like the Christian Community Development Association — operate and achieve as Belay, Central Detroit, and Homeboy do. If you have only seen yourself as a pastor or minister, you should recognize that you are already a type of entrepreneur that the world desperately needs.
The key to a successful social enterprise is the combination of “cause” and “good” management. The key to running a business that does good while feeding your ministry’s bottom line is the same combination.
We all have causes we are passionate about. It’s the management part of the equation that poses a challenge.
Larger urban ministries will face less of a challenge in managing a business than will grassroots groups. Sustaining a multi-million dollar operation like a rescue mission, for example, requires significant management capacity and skill. That same capacity can be redeployed or expanded to a business effort.
Smaller ministries that have survived for many years should also have some capacity to manage a new business endeavor. An outreach program with a few full-time staff has less capacity than a large nonprofit, but can still tap its network and management experience in running a business.
It’s the small grassroots groups — which are often our most innovative as well as fearless ministers — that need to truly count the cost of launching a business to fund their ministries.
I know of many effective urban ministries that are essentially one charismatic leader surrounded by a host of friends and allies. Often the leader is not paid full-time, and many times draws no salary from his work.
One man I know has a van that he uses to take aimless youth to church gatherings around his town. He uses a ministry name, but that ministry is not incorporated.
TRANSFORMING LIVES: Father Gregory Boyle, founder and director of Homeboy Industries, meets with his team. Homeboy has developed one of the largest gang-intervention programs in the nation.
Another man, an ex-gang-member, rode his bike around town, making contact with younger gangsters and talking to them about avoiding future trouble. He was connected to a number of networks and coalitions, to which he funneled many gangsters for intervention or services.
In this type of operation there is very little organizational and financial management being practiced, and therefore little on which an organization can be developed. When it does come time to grow the organization, to strengthen management and plans, the charismatic leader will either need to grow or get out of the way.
It is entirely possible for this grassroots urban minister, no matter how little formal education he or she has, to develop into a nonprofit organizational leader or business person.
But it will require a lot of hard work to get there. Even more, it will first require an act of will, a choice, to grow in an area the individual may not have a passion for.
But if you want to operate a business that functions as a business and generates a profit for use in ministry, there is no way around it: You will have to learn the management skills and discipline that any successful businessperson has.
Even if you bring on somebody to run the business you will need to learn business. How else will you know if the person you have brought on is doing a good job? Or not cheating the enterprise?
For Those Who Take the Plunge
My prayer is that great numbers of grassroots urban ministers choose to grow their business skills and launch enterprises. Take the good work you do — socially beneficial work that impacts the lives of many of the least, the last, and the lost — and combine business skills to create things like well-paying jobs and needed services for urban communities.
When it gets hard, don’t get discouraged.
For years I’ve felt like my work as an urban minister was harder than the work of an average business owner, because I had more bottom lines to attend to.
Whereas a non-performing employee in a business might quickly get fired, in a ministry setting I would give that person extra opportunity to succeed. Some businesses make this type of extra effort, but in general urban ministries are much more likely to “give a second chance” — and a third chance — than a straight business would.
Even more, our ministries often hire people that no business would hire. And yet we need to keep our doors open and maintain a basic level of financial sustainability.
You’ve trusted God in reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost. Trust Him again to help you develop the business sense and management skills you will need to grow a business that helps fund your ministry.
Last year, when UrbanFaith talked to Brian Jenkins, president of Entrenuity, a national entrepreneusrship training organization, about race-based funding disparities in urban ministry, we had no idea Jenkins was writing a small business start-up guide for youth, and perhaps he had no idea it would inspire a move into for-profit business training and the development of a social media platform for aspiring entrepreneurs. So, we thought it was time to talk to this dynamic leader again, this time about his new social entrepreneurship project, StartingUp Now. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
UrbanFaith:You’ve been training young people to be entrepreneurs for a long time. Have people been starting more of their own businesses since the recession?
Brian Jenkins:Yes, many people have been coming to us and saying, “We need your help in getting our businesses going.” Part of that discussion led to me writing our new model, the book called StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business, which is a great tool for what we call “new and aspiring entrepreneurs.” We believe we’re the first ones to offer a content/social networking tool with the integration of our business planning guide. We don’t know of anybody else that has that right now, but I’m sure there are others that will follow.
Is StartingUp Now an Entrenuity project?
No, this is entirely new. Entrenuity is my non-profit. StartingUp Now is a for-profit. As an entrepreneur, there’s this model we use called PSA. You state the problem, identify the solution, and create the action. What I have found is that we need less non-profit organizations in urban challenged communities. We need to build more for-profit businesses. One of my goals is to build for-profit businesses, to give people opportunities where they are. It always starts with a business plan to be very strategic.
So you’re not only sustaining your own work, but you’re modeling social entrepreneurship for other people?
Absolutely. I grew up in non-profit culture, but in 2008, when everything crashed, we had to figure out a new way. Many churches, ministries, and non-profits are still operating pre-2008. I’m saying to them, “Being entrepreneurial is about being able to pivot.” We’re still using strategies of going to donors and the donors are telling us, “We want new models. First of all, the money is not there as it was before and we’re just not going to continue to give a blank check towards operating expenses. We’d rather pay for skill development, but not for just general operating expenses.”
Don G. Soderquist, the retired vice chairman and COO of Walmart endorsed StartingUp Now. That’s quite an endorsement.
It’s been pretty powerful. The opportunities continue to open up. Just this week, we were selected to conduct a workshop at the Chicago Ideas Week in October, where leaders like President Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg have spoken. Because StartingUp Now is a tool for someone with no prior business training whatsoever and the book is less than 100 pages, people are picking it up and doing it. And, there is a range in the type of person using it. The youngest person that we’ve had work through it is in sixth grade. We also have some guys that I’m personally working with who have been incarcerated.
It’s like Facebook/LinkedIn for entrepreneurs. Let’s say you purchase our book and you want to work on your business plan online. You’re not familiar with Facebook; you’re not familiar with LinkedIn or some of the other tools that exist. In fact, those may overwhelm you. Some of the people we’re working with don’t even have email addresses. It provides one central location for them to be able to access content that we’ve either curated or developed on our own instead of someone who may not be familiar with business planning typing “income statement” into Google and coming up with 25 million hits. Where do they begin?
An executive from SCORE, the Service Corps Retired Executives, said, “This is so much easier than using our Business Plan Pro because it’s not overly filled with content that someone would never use.” That’s one of the strengths. You can start where you are, but you can become as sophisticated as you want, depending on the type of business that you’re in. Now, it does have its limitations. We’re not trying to be Business Plan Pro. We’re trying to be StartingUp Now and reach the first time or new entrepreneur.
Could the program help someone like me who has run a small business haphazardly for a decade?
You’re describing the exact customer that we’re starting to find. What’s happened is when I wrote the book, I wrote it because of my background in youth work, but when we were doing the focus groups with adults, we were finding that adults were saying, “I could use this right here, right now.” It’s for that customer just like yourself: I have a business, but I want to find ways to more effectively marketing my product or my service without being overwhelmed with content. We offer two levels of membership. First, it’s free for a basic membership, which gives somebody the ability to access the content. For the pro membership, we do charge a membership fee. That’s based on whether a person is a youth or an adult.
What does the paying subscriber get?
The pro user gets access to the StartingUp Now business plan online. They can work on their business plan from their computer, their tablet, or their smartphone with any internet connection. The free membership basically gives someone the ability to learn about the platform and find out if this is a model for them. You can curate your own custom profile. You can access those curated business topics and resources. We’ve identified about 1,500 different resources that fit within the categories that are there. It allows a person to market their business. It allows you to connect in 72 different languages. It also provides the ability to post resources and then share them with those that are in your network, similar to what you would do with Facebook. With your privacy settings, you can adjust those resources so that they are available just for yourself, your friends, or other members. That’s one of the things people really like.
On the site you have sections for entrepreneurs, facilitators, and the community, so the Skillcenter is designed for more than just individuals?
Chicago public schools are running two pilot programs right now. We trained their teachers. It’s for the individual user, but it’s also for the classroom. So we have a facilitator’s guide. All the content that’s in the facilitator guide is online as well. A teacher can use this in the classroom to teach entrepreneurship and also provide access to the Skillcenter for their students. There is content that’s facilitator specific as well.
We also just found out that a couple that we’ve been coaching and that has been using StartingUp Now as their guide are runners up in the city’s small business competition here in Chicago for their catering business plan. And, a group came to our March 1 launch party from Grove City, Pennsylvania. What’s unique about them is that they’re using the book with business owners who have never written a business plan. They were saying how easy it was to sit down with people who have never done it before. It’s really expanded our marketability beyond traditional under-sourced urban neighborhoods. Now we’re selling to adult training centers. We presented to Willow Creek Community and they thought it would be a great resource for their own members, not just their outreach ministries.
You’re working with both faith-based groups and public schools. Is there a Christian dimension to the program?
It’s values based. We do quote Scripture within the book, but it’s not strictly faith-based. We definitely have a strong appeal to ethics. Since it’s values based and character based, it’s gotten me into places that I couldn’t go with a faith-based model.
You’re not an engineer, so you had to partner with a developer to launch the site. What kind of advice would you give people about choosing partners?
Integrity, integrity, integrity. This is why it took me so long to get the platform up and running. Our initial developer was a Christian. We eventually found out that after paying him several tens of thousands of dollars, he was not doing anything as far as the development. In fact, he had deceived us by using shareware, something that you can get online for free.
When I first found out, I went directly back to our investor. I didn’t hold anything back. Our investor’s response to me was, “Now you’ve learned. Just don’t make the same mistakes again.” It was a very humbling experience, because he and his family have been behind my work for over ten years. To say that I made a decision, put this money with this guy, and then I had to go back and say, “I don’t even know if we’re going to get anything back.”
The Skillcenter was built on a platform called EntreOasis. We worked with a company called Media Spark to integrate the StartingUp Business Plan Template and customize the EntreOasis platform for StartingUp’s purposes. I don’t even know if the CEO of Media Spark is Christian, but he has become a great friend through this period. I let him know that this developer came and took our funding. He said, “Hey, I believe in what you’ve got. I want to impact the world.” That’s the phoenix story. That situation is what spurred StartingUp Now.
The FBI will release a revised edition of the “Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide” that gives their agents more flexibility when it comes to violating your constitutional rights. It is difficult to believe the agency’s recent action has managed to fly under the media radar, but a great deal of the nation has been overly concerned with Anthony Weiner and his inability to act like a morally reasonable adult. FBI agents will be allowed to use commercial and law enforcement databases to gather intelligence without having to file any records. They will also be given the authority to evaluate “potential informants” by sorting through trash or giving lie-detector tests. In a letter to the director of the FBI, Senator Jon Tester of Montana says “until law enforcement agents have reason to investigate any American, it is unacceptable for those agents to cast a wide, non-specific net when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.” With Big Brother growing more and more powerful, we may soon be living (and not just reading about) George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Wikileaks is auctioning 8 tickets to have lunch with founder Julian Assange as a fundraiser. The bidding began last week and was already at $812 by Wednesday. The lunch will be held on July 2nd, at one of London’s finest restaurants. Along with Assange, guests will have the opportunity to dine with Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Assange is currently on bail and has pled not-guitly for sexual misconduct against two women. Bidding closes today; will you win this once in a lifetime opportunity?
Derrick Kayongo, an Uganda native, was not content with simply fleeing the tyrannical rule of a dictator. Instead he has made it his business to lower child-mortality rates in poor countries. Kayongo and The Global Soap Project (GSP) recycle soap from hotels and create new pathogen-free soap to distribute to struggling villages and families. GSP does not chargerecipients and relies mostly on volunteer assistance. By providing recycledsoap to thousands, Kayongo and The Global Soap project has freed people from having to decide between eating or washing their hands of potential life threatening bacteria. With a more socially conscious generation entering into adulthood, we are bound to see more world citizens like Derrick Kayongo. Tweet
Kreayshawn, no that’s not a typo, was recently signed to Columbia Records, and has been supported by artist, Snoop Dogg. Based on her single, “Gucci, Gucci,” she is not bound to attract a conservative audience, but there is something worth discussing concerning this artist. Kreayshawn was born Natassia Zolot. She dropped out of high-school, made a career directing music videos, and then decided to be a rapper. Her single dismisses label brands like “Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Prada,” because she is above labels. Her claim to fame is supposed to be her originality, but aside from her being a white girl from San Francisco, I’m struggling to find the uniqueness. Once again, a gimic wins over the sheep. How will we effectively market real messages in this sea of confusion called the media? Watch Interview below (WARNING: Explicit language) Tweet
Leanne Archer is 15 years old and has a successful hair care business that had revenues of over $100,000 last year. Robert Nay is 14 years old and, with no coding experience, went to a library and learned how to create an iPhone app game. A month later, he created Bubble Ball, which has been downloaded more than 7 million times. Lizzie Marie is 11 and the star of the cable series “Healthy Cooking with Lizzie.” These are just a few of the successful young moguls. They all had one thing in common: their parents’ blessing! Encourage your kids now to do what they want to do “when they grow up.”
For the past five years, insurance premiums have remained stable, but due to rising costs of energy and building materials (gasoline is up 37%, copper is up 20%, and plywood is up 8%) insurance premiums are rising. Consequently, premiums at State Farm Insurance Co. increased its rates 7.3% on average last year. Experts anticipate more increases for homeowners as a backlash for the recent uprising of natural disasters around the world; some say the increase could be as much as 20%. How will your family brace for the increase?
IBM recently announced that it will offer a packaged software platform for cities with applications such as real-time video feeds and street sensors for police, and aims to eventually offer advancements for urban populations. The first three “solutions” will roll out over the next two years and will provide innovative technology for public safety, water management, and transportation monitoring. The future is upon us!
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Oprah has declared, “I have a dream of O.J. Simpson confessing to me…And I am going to make that happen people.” Winfrey hopes to bring this exclusive on her new interview show, Oprah’s Next Chapter, which is set to launch in January. Although she has referred to her new goal as not “that lofty,” I doubt Simpson would confess unless he was on his deathbed. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing Winfrey start her “next chapter,” and I hope that inspires other 50-somethings to keep dreaming beyond mid-life.
9 MOVIES WINNE MANDELA CALLS BIOPIC PLAYED BY JENNIFER HUDSON AN INSULT
Jennifer Hudson will play Winnie Mandela in biopic ‘Winnie,’ due later this year. Although the film has been set up as a tribute to Mrs. Mandela, she does not support the film and expressed her disdain in an interview with CNN because she was not consulted. Mandela has never seen the script; she has never even met Hudson. They have positioned the film as a love story between Nelson and Winnie Mandela during the apartheid struggle. Mandela has exclaimed, “I don’t know what would be romantic in our bitter struggle.” Mandela argues that the filmmakers have done exactly what the enemy did, “they thought for (me)…they (know) what I thought, what I felt like….” Powerful words.
Watch the interview below. Do you think the film is an act of disrespect?
Tracy Morgan had no choice but to go into damage control after saying anti-gay statements in a recent standup in Nashville, TN. Morgan will go with GLAAD to protest the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which outlaws the discussion of homosexuality before the ninth grade in public schools. Morgan recanted his offensive statements saying, “I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987.” Morgan also plans to do a PSA. It seems like every other week a new celebrity has to go into PR rehab after saying an offensive anti-gay statement. Is this an unnecessary parade, or does this issue need to be publicly addressed?
As our country sinks further into uncertainty about its economic future, I find hope in the fact that some of us have been down this road before and lived to tell about it. In 1999 I was laid off from the company I’d poured my life into, my wife and I had just welcomed our second child, and I was struggling to figure out exactly how God was ordering my steps. To be honest, I didn’t see it. For six years, I had been teaching youth how to start and operate businesses, and now I had to put those lessons into reality for the sake of my family — and to see if I could live out what I had been teaching for years. (more…)
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