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Child human trafficking – a short definition of this dehumanized state

Saturday, April 28, 2018
small child

Part 1 of a 3-part series on human slavery and freedom business

The worldwide human trafficking industry today conservatively estimates 40 million victims. It is organized crime, second in size to drug trafficking. There are more slaves today on earth than ever before, albeit with a different dehumanizing face than the slave trade, or the slavery plantations of the 19th century. Not all are sex slaves, as many fall victims to forced child labor.

My wife and I recently toured NGOs and freedom businesses in Cambodia so as to understand the basic issues, challenges and solutions to this terrible situation. Here are some of the things we learned.

1. The sex industry in Cambodia is driven by Cambodian men, unlike other southeast Asia nations which lure men from northern nations to their country’s exploitative industries. Many companies hire children to factory jobs whose families gladly place them in sweat shops due to extreme financial stress.

2. The problem is driven by a demand side and a supply side. Demand by evil men willing to pay for sex with increasingly young children fuels the brothels and KTVs of Asia. The disempowerment of deadly poverty drives the supply of young children sold by their parents for money needed for basic food for the rest of the family.

3. Poverty has many explanations. In Cambodia, migration is a giant issue as parents leave for Thailand to earn money with children left with aging grandparents or neighbors. Sometimes children are left alone because parents die of diseases such as AIDS; often women are left alone with children and no source of income.

4. NGOs, some large and some small, are the leaders in rescue and restoration efforts. The focus is on the physical rescue of children from their desperate life, and then restoration from the physical and emotional trauma. This involves soft skill development in self-confidence, communication skills, morality, family values education, counseling, demonstration of love and care. One such NGO is Destiny Rescue. Another addressing soft skills well is World Vision.

5. Nations like Cambodia are shame cultures. For example, it is a shame not to provide for the needs of the family but less of a shame to be a prostitute. Such distortions can create a values warp and contribute to human trafficking. Children do it because they are helping the family.

6. Freedom businesses are for-profit industries that employ victims as the key component of re-integration, providing adults with the skills and vocational training to hold a job. This is the only way to break the systemic cycle of dysfunction. Many more such businesses are needed. One business says it this way: Sak Saum is about a changed life with one mission: seeing people set free and empowered for their future.

7. Ultimately the demand side of exploitative economics can only be broken when the entire world comes to believe that it is not OK to buy sex, especially that of children. This is why morals education and the Christian gospel is so important. The supply side can be solved as poverty is reduced and the poor have the basic necessities of life. Job creation is gigantic in these countries.

8. We appreciated that almost all people we talked with did not highlight individual names or photos of children or adults who were being restored and reintegrated. They made a point of not showcasing specific people, but focused on collective units and on strategic processes.

9. Several people reminded us of two things: We cannot solve all the problems of 40 million slavery victims, but we can help some, and that is what Jesus would do. Secondly in Cambodia there does appear to be some macro success. It seems that since the trafficking issue was exposed about 2003, the government and NGOs have seen it reduced to specific pockets. For example, child slavery is not so endemic in brothels any longer, but still exists in KTV bars, where young girls particularly sell drinks to men who offer a price to take them off-site for their dehumanizing acts.

Part 2 will focus on the process of Rescue, Restore, Re-integrate.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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What do Kingdom investors say and want?

Saturday, April 21, 2018
welcome sign

A recent meeting of “Great Commission Companies” in Nepal invited practitioners and investors from other south Asia countries to share insights on issues related to investing in Kingdom companies. IBEC has coached and consulted with several companies in Nepal and we maintain a keen interest and involvement in that country.

The group in Nepal uses the tagline, “We are a group of Christians based in Nepal … committed to glorifying God through business.” Here are some of the conversation nuggets which one of the owners passed on to us.
  • In another neighboring country, it was realized that the # 1 problem is a spiritual one. People who live compromised lives spiritually, generally compromise in their business practices.
  • We do not approve of loans more than $10,000 otherwise people become overwhelmed.
  • Kingdom investors look primarily for a business that is touching lives for God.
  • The business owner must be willing to be mentored. Mentoring covers the ‘nuts and bolts’ but moves deeper into the underlying mission.
  • Regular financial reporting is mandatory.
  • Loans must have a modest rate-of-interest since interest conveys the message that there is a cost associated with the lending of money and real costs must be understood.
  • Investors generally do not invest in new startup-ups; but they wait for a track record and a clear understanding of peculiarities and demands. 
  • Investors look for evidence that the owner understands the business is ultimately owned by God and he/she is a steward.
  • Team is important. Lone rangers generally fail.
Business is complex and it is a lot of hard work. It is not for the faint hearted and is tremendously challenging. One bit of advice shared at the meeting may sound trite but it sums it all up:

“Keep your eyes on Jesus while at the same time make as much money as you can.”

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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The ultimate startup guide

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Winter 2017/2018 issue of Inc. Magazine’s cover story was entitled, “The Ultimate Startup Guide”. It was sub-titled “21 pages of wisdom gained the hard way by successful founders”. I couldn’t resist buying it in the Palm Beach International airport.

The article was entitled The First 90 Days and was billed as a checklist of real-life advice from successful founders. Supposedly the decisions made in the first three months of a startup can make all the difference. So, what do the likes of Adrianna Huffington, Steve Blank, Pierre Omidyar, Sara Blakely and Elon Musk have to say?

Leigh Buchanan, Inc. Editor-at-large
The idea behind a minimum viable product is to get your offering as quickly as possible into the hands of customers to generate feedback. But first you have to make sure you are solving the right problem. Market data and surveys won’t tell you that. For those insights, you have to get as close to the customer experience as possible. 

Jon Kolko, founder of Austin Center for Design
Your first job is to know your customer. Not just who she is but also what she wants, what she does and how she feels about what she does. That means embedding in customers’ lives and work…ask the customer-master to let you observe her in action…ask potential customers of you can spend time in their offices or on their factory floors…ask open-ended questions about the experience and workflow. This process provides pragmatic understanding of pain points and an emotional context that lets you see things through your customer’s eyes.

Adrianna Huffington, Co-Founder of HuffPost
The first question was “What problem are you solving and what are you bringing to the market that is not already there.”

Nathaniel Ru, Co-CEO of Sweetgreen
In the first days…you need guidance and advice from other entrepreneurs. At the very least, you’ll want an experienced eye to look over your business plan, if you decide to do one.

At Sweetgrass, our mentors asked a lot of tough helpful questions – about our financial model, our brand positioning, our restaurant design, and more. The emphasis is on what you can learn not about your industry, but rather about your idea. 

Randy Komisar, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Once you’ve identified your value proposition, go back and look at real companies that have done something at least roughly similar…seriously question whether this is something anyone wants…identify your leaps of faith: what you don’t know but assume about the market. 

Steve Blank, Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and launcher of the Startup movement
New entrepreneurs misunderstand what Kickstarter is for. They think it is a way for customer discovery, to test their product’s appeal…the minute you commit to Kickstarter, if you get funded, you are entering two years of indentured servitude until you deliver that product. Instead to the hard work of customer discovery, which will likely take more than 90 days. Once you have a product you know solves a real customer problem, then Kickstarter can help you scale demand. Kickstarter before customer discovery is the lazy entrepreneur’s approach to starting up. 

David S. Rose, Entrepreneur, Investor
Every single serial entrepreneur with whom I have spoken has told me, “If only I hadn’t tried to do it myself, I would’ve saved $100,000. A penny saved on professional advice is $100,000 lost in cleanup expenses. 

Although it may come as a surprise, investors do not fund ideas, no matter how good or how potentially profitable they are. A typical angel investor looks at 40 opportunities for every investment made; a typical VC looks at 400. And the investments they make will be in companies, not ideas. Spending months trying to raise funds for ideas is fruitless and dispiriting. 

Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx
Focusing on solving a problem is a great way to keep motivated when the going gets tough. And if you’ve had the problem, others probably have as well. Before going further, make sure that assumption is true by testing your ideas with potential customers…she founded Spanx because she wanted to look better in her favorite pants. 

Philip Krim, Co-Founder of Casper
To excite investors, focus on the big picture, not the details. Early stage investors get excited about hearing your story, and how you’re going to change the world and why. They do not respond to a tactical conversation and you need tactical spreadsheets, but they do not sell the dream.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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What is your role in Business as Mission?

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Recently  I taught a session on Business as Mission at a conference in Portland, Oregon.  About 60 attended.  I used several videos to tell the story of how God uses Business as Mission to accomplish his purpose in the world.  The videos demonstrate how Kingdom for-profit businesses make a difference by creating jobs and making disciples for Jesus.  A careful and intentional integration of incarnational gospel living and culturally appropriate proclamation of the Good News is key to individual and community transformation.

But I always like to leave the audience with a clear pathway to how they can get involved individually.  For some it will involve moving overseas, but for most it means finding ways to connect while here in the homeland.  This blog by Joyce Ahn from the Business as Mission website gives important ideas for finding our own unique role in the world of BAM. Note the three items at the bottom especially the one entitled, "Twelve Stakeholders..."

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Fulfilling Jesus’ two “Greats”

Monday, April 02, 2018

As we celebrate the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, we reflect on his words to us before his death, often referred to as The Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

The Great Commandment
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40)

The Great Commission
He also gave us the Great Commission:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20) 

New "Intro to IBEC" video
This new 2-minute video shares the heart of IBEC, to love our neighbor, through the creation of jobs and the transformation of lives and communities…and through those jobs and the people leading Kingdom businesses, to make disciples, followers of Jesus. I’d encourage you to watch this and reflect on how you fulfill his Great Commandment:

Intro to IBEC Ventures

What role do you play in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission? Are there new ways you could do both better? On a larger scale? In a deeper way? Where you are now or stepping out into new territory? 

For me, that meant a move from my home of 21 years to a new community and a new job where I have the opportunity to daily show the love of Jesus to family, coworkers and community members from around the world. I’ve continued to support IBEC in a small way by bringing the IBEC blog to you each week, and pray that in doing so it has encouraged you and expanded your horizons to see how God is using IBEC to fulfill Jesus’ two “Greats.”

Blessings over your life, your work and your family. 

Carolyne Hart, Marketing and Membership Director, South Dakota Art Museum and former Director of Social Media, e-Marketing and Strategic Initiatives, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission