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Kingdom entrepreneurs: start your business in a garage

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Photo by Tim Easley on Unsplash

“Insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” - Einstein

Many entrepreneurs think it is a strange idea to start a business in the garage.  After all, don’t we need lots of money, investors, partners, office desks, computers and communication equipment?  Don’t we need to “build it and they will come”.  Not so – say many experts and some who are among the most successful today.

Here are ten successful giants who started in a garage:
  1. Google. Sergey Brin and Larry Page started in Susan Wojcicki’s garage in 1998.
  2. Hobby Lobby. David Green started making picture frames in his parents’ garage when he was in high school, sensing he was destined for business creativity and not academics.
  3. Microsoft.  Bill Gates and Paul Allen started developing software in a garage in Albuquerque.
  4. Maglite Flashlights.  Tony Maglica was an immigrant who did not speak much English in 1950.  By 1955 he saved $125 to buy a lathe but did not have his first flashlight sale until 1979.
  5. Hewlett-Packard.  Dave Hewlett and Dave Packard invested $538 in 1939 and built one product, an audio oscillator which they sold to Disney.
  6. Apple.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak conceived of the Apple I and used purchase orders to buy parts to construct the first 50 units in their garage.
  7. Amazon.  Jeff Bezos started selling books out of his garage in 1994, in Bellevue, Washington.
  8. Yankee Candles.  Michael Kittredge was sixteen in 1969 when he melted crayons in his family garage to make candles which he sold to the neighbors.
  9. Walt Disney. Walt and Roy started in his uncle Robert’s garage in 1923 filming Alice Comedies, which later became Alice in Wonderland.
  10. Harley-Davidson.  William Harley and Arthur Davidson experimented putting an engine on a bicycle in a 10x15 shed in 1903.
There are many more examples, but it is interesting that half of above companies are in the technology sector, but half the list are not tech companies at all.  Why then might starting in a garage be a good thing?

First and foremost (as start-up entrepreneurs are catching on to), it is more important to follow lean canvas business modeling, than have a detailed business plan, a full-scale product development cycle and sophisticated marketing plan.  The key word is ‘lean’.  Raymond John of Shark Tank fame explains that it is all about two things – knowing the customer and getting out there to sell the idea to meet their need.   He calls it the “power of broke”.  He says people with lots of investment capital, often waste it on non-essentials; the lean principle allows the entrepreneur to pivot and make important adjustments.

To be sure, these garage entrepreneurs had plenty of failures but without massive capital outlays, it was easier to recover losses and move on, building on what had been learned.

Kingdom entrepreneurs striving to build companies in lesser developed areas have added complexities considering culture and language variances and the integration of the Quadruple Bottom Line into one business.  So, starting small is even more important.  Rent or borrow a garage or basement and start to experiment, then pivot and try again; all the while talking to potential customers about the product and listening carefully to what they may want.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Work must be celebrated in the Church

Saturday, January 06, 2018

I sat across the breakfast table in a downtown restaurant talking to an attorney who owned a sizable law firm.  He was a leader in a large evangelical church which was familiar to me.  I had been introduced to him by a friend and we had a good conversation about what God is doing around the world through business – creating jobs and making disciples of Jesus.  Then he made this startling statement:

“I don’t see how what I do as an attorney has anything to do with what you are talking about…I don’t think I have anything to offer.”

How can that be?  What did he mean?  Bill Peel of the Center for Faith and Work states, "I believe the gap between what is preached and what is celebrated continues to cloud how people assess the value of their work to God," says Peel.1
  • Over two-thirds (70%) of Christians still cannot envision how the work they do serves God.
  • Almost four out of five church-goers (78%) doubt that the work they do is equal in importance to the work of a pastor or priest.
Citing these statistics and others from the Barna Group and Center for Faith and Work cooperative research, Peel states, "Clearly, increased preaching and teaching about faith and work is a positive and praiseworthy step, but more is needed. Churches must become fully engaged in shaping people spiritually for the workplace. A powerful next step is to schedule time in worship services to publicly celebrate all kinds of work that advances God’s creation …this simple action can help people connect God’s truth with their work in life-changing ways."

Pastor Jim Mullins2 who also has business experience, suggests that all types of work, not just pastoral and missionary work should be publicly celebrated.  Their church now has a 5-minute interview each Sunday morning of people from various occupations so that they may celebrate their work and affirm its importance in bringing glory to God.  Says Mullins, “These interviews have slowly helped all of us to understand that ‘vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world,’ as Steve Garber says.”

Interview Questions at Redemption Church, Tempe, AZ

Mullins continues, “While there is some room for customization, we ask four basic questions in each interview. We repeat the same questions, because they give our congregants a weekly reminder and opportunity to reflect on their own work.

Question #1: How would you describe your work? 

"We want a snapshot of the daily life of the interviewee. This answer often builds common ground between the interviewee and others within the congregation, even if they don't work in the same field. 

Question #2: As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Gen 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 10:31, Eph. 5:1, Col. 3:17)

"We want to ground the intrinsic value of work in the character of God and frame our work as an act of “image-bearing” (Gen. 1:16-28, 2:15). Therefore, we ask the interviewees to connect their work to some specific aspect of God’s work. In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman offers six categories of God’s work that give us a helpful framework for our vocations:
  • Creative work (artists, designers, architects, etc.)
  • Providential work (entrepreneurs, janitors, civil servants, bankers, etc.)
  • Justice work (lawyers, paralegals, diplomats, supervisors, etc.)
  • Compassionate work (nurses, nonprofit directors, social workers, EMTs, etc.)
  • Revelatory work (scientists, journalists, educators, etc.)
  • Redemptive work (pastors, authors, counselors, etc.)
Question #3: How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world? (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:10-20

"Some people subconsciously think their work should always be fun and fulfilling, often assuming that the presence of pain and struggle invalidates the goodness of their work. We want them to see that, in a fallen world that is filled with sin and its effects, each occupation has unique hardships and comes with its own thorns and thistles. 

Question #4: Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mk. 10:35-45; Eph. 5:1, Rom. 12:14-21; Col. 1:24-27)

"We want to broaden the application of Jesus’s command to love our neighbors. Many people assume this command is mostly applied as interpersonal acts of kindness, but we try to demonstrate that love can also be indirect and systemic.”

I was teaching a college course in a Canadian college not long ago when a woman in the class made a statement to me about half way through the course.  She was a faithful believer, served on mission trips and tried to live righteously in her sizable company which she had founded and where she was the current CEO. Michelle said to me, “for the first time in my life I have come to realize that my business is my ministry.”

All of us need to do what we can to celebrate every profession, every workplace skill, every occupation and every business as that which God desires to bring glory to himself and bring people to worship Him.
1   Is the Gap Between Pulpit & Pew Narrowing? Read the Latest Research  ©2018 Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University

2  “The Butcher, the Baker, and the Biotech Maker”, Jim Mullins, The Gospel Coalition, October 29, 2014.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission