Importance of Social Impact in Startups, according to Mitch Kapor
How do we identify gap narrowing social impact solutions in our missional enterprises? Mitch Kapor presents some of his thoughts on social impact.
These impact issues are complicated. There’s no simple formula about it. It pays everybody to be thoughtful about looking at the full range of impacts if they’re going to do something, and the bigger and more disruptive it is, the harder the analysis is.
Much has been happening for Second Story Coffee Roasters, including small-scale renovation of the shop location, the pre-open of our business, the launch of our website allowing customers to join a coffee subscription club, and the planning for our grand opening event on June 4th. This has required all of us, all days of the week. (Though I usually spend at least one day fully in my PJs, drinking coffee and reading, to make up for it!) We had heard that starting a business requires the investment of your heart, your time, and your finances, and it is totally true. We are excited for what we have begun, but it is up to God now whether or not it will flourish. We still have not been able to find investors, please pray that God would provide them.
Because we are deep in the details and processes of starting a new venture, which one of my favorite people once described as "trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant," it is easy to forget the WHY of what we are doing. We have taken a time or two together as Second Story staff (Rob, Tara, and Masayoshi) to discuss, debate, and pray about what God has in store for us as a shop and business within the community of the Oya neighborhood of Shizuoka, Japan.
The vision statement of Second Story Coffee Roasters is the following:
We exist to cultivate a safe and vibrant middle space, where mainstream Japanese can encounter the values of the Kingdom of Jesus and experience gospel-centered community.
God is already moving within this vision, giving us relationship with the workers of the cafe next door to us, a few of whom seem drawn to us and with whom we have been able to discuss: What is the meaning of life? Why were humans made? Why do we exist? We are grateful.
But we are also exhausted, us and our fellow Second Story workers. Really, we experience the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9, where Paul recalls God's words to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." We are a weak and motley crew, four of us not native to the language and customs, none of us experienced in business, six children between us, some of us living with illnesses of varying kind, but ALL of us being brought to a place where we remember by WHOSE strength any of this is possible. Several times a week, I have the thought, "What we are doing is CRAZY. Why would God choose us for this job? For the job of living in Japan even?" But the answer to that is never far behind, when I am reminded softy of the heroism of our Creator, who challenges his people to daily pick up their cross and follow Him, to be willing to be a weak tool in His strong hand, for ends and goals known mainly to Him alone. Following Jesus into the unknown of faith is the job of every Christian, and we are greatly encouraged by thoughts of His people around the globe, doing hard things for Him.
Please pray with us for the success of this business, so that it might open doors to the Kingdom for the people around us. We long to see the impact of Jesus's love on this Oya neighborhood, where we have lived and labored since our move to Japan nine years ago.
Wife, Mother, Founder, Writer
Previous posts from Jamie and SSCR.
Does capitalism promote greed? Are capitalism and altruism incompatible?
These are questions Dr. Peter Heslam, Director of Transforming Business at the University of Cambridge, discusses in his article, “Capitalism – is greed its creed?” Heslam concludes that greed is a heart problem, not a problem with capitalism. Capitalism, it seems, is an opportunity to express greed. Although his short article does not answer if capitalism is based on greed, Heslam provides some historical and Biblical perspectives on greed and the need for trust and serving others for markets to work.
Read the full article at the Transforming Business website.
It's said 4 of 5 business start-ups fail.
Why risk so much with the potential of failure? You may be asking a similar question.
We are tackling how to launch new business initiatives centered on the Gospel and Kingdom of God. We desire these businesses to be catalysts for the Gospel to transform lives, change communities, bring reconciliation, and glorify God. Ideally this would happen whether or not the business succeeds, but we are working toward sustainability and success.
Businesses help address several major issues in countries around the world, one of which is access. In many places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, or parts of India, people have restricted access to the church or even a single believer. In other places, like Japan or Turkey, hearts are closed to Jesus. A current example of access is a business in an unreached people group of Southeast Asia that employs several hundred and impacts thousands in their family and relational networks. These are people engaging the Gospel and Kingdom of God naturally throughout their work every week.
Business is only one context to help people have access to the Gospel. Ultimately, we know the Gospel will bring transformation, not business.
If you want to be part of launching or joining Gospel and Kingdom centered businesses... there are a couple businesses that have critical needs in Central Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. The best way to start is by participating in an Entrepreneurial Readiness Workshop.
We hope to see the Kingdom multiply around the world. It is worth the risk!
– GEN Desk Director
“Tom, you’re no longer strange to me.”
What in the world did Ivan, my close friend of two years, mean by that?
My wife, our two middle-schoolers, and I had moved into a country that every national who had the chance was fleeing. Food was scarce. Utilities were sporadic. Unemployment was skyrocketing. Corruption was rampant. New criminal gangs were terrorizing the populace as they were fighting each other and carving out their territories.
Our move from the suburbs of America to this collapsing country didn’t seem odd to me. It seemed more like an adventure to make a difference in the world by distributing humanitarian aid and leading bible studies with young adults who had never seen a Bible.
I met Ivan and his wife on our first day in his country. They were both college graduates and were unemployed. I hired them as our language tutors, our interpreters, and our first employees. We shared life with them for hours on end for 5-6 days a week for two years.
The bible studies seemed to be going well. Ivan was translating the materials from English into his native language. Using his artistic ability he also illustrated them with pen and ink drawings. Ivan was a new believer himself so our times in the Word were rich and special for him.
I thought I was really connecting with Ivan, so what was that comment about me, “no longer being strange?”
After our first 18 months in the country, I changed my focus from humanitarian aid to missional enterprise (BAM). As the enterprise grew we were able to employ more and more people. Job creation took the place of humanitarian handouts. Gainful employment restored dignity and removed the stigma of inferiority.
The needs of our enterprise began to create auxiliary enterprises that provided employment for more people. This ripple effect of wealth creation made more sense to Ivan than our previous attempts of propping people up with bailouts.
So why did Ivan think I was strange? When I asked him he gave me two reasons:
He also gave me two reasons why I was no longer strange to him:
It makes me wonder how many others have thought of me as strange when I thought I was just trying to help.
- Missional Entrepreneur, GEN Desk Contributing Writer
We often praise individuals who are entirely themselves, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and achieving success. We are exhorted through scriptures like Psalms 139:14 to stand as individuals and focus on how God has created us.
“ I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
It is true how God has uniquely crafted every person. But if we are imposing or separating ourselves from others through our "uniquely individual" perspective, how do we address "adapting" to engage the values and customs of the other cultures we are seeking to live and disciple among?
In “The Missional Entrepreneur,” Mark Russell addresses a crucial topic regarding the necessity for missional entrepreneurs to understand and respect their new cultural context.
In the past, many missionaries sent to the "lost " were Americans. As Americans, we have been raised in an “Individualistic, Universalistic, and Monochromatic” environment. In other words, Americans are taught and naturally bring to the mission field how to:
The cultural values Americans have been raised in are viewed differently in the cultures they are seeking to live and disciple among. For example, Asian and Latin American cultures often function as “Collective, Particularistic, and Polychromatic” socities. This challenges missional entrepreneurs to:
Understanding and abiding to these cultural adaptations is not denying your self or your heritage. “Contextualizing” is living out the calling to serve as a relational and personal witness, to give up our self, and to love others first in a new set of cultural values. Paul describes his journey as:
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Every missional entrepreneur will face the challenge to remain comfortable and stagnant in their own cultural context. Yet, remaining unwilling to see the world through a different perspective, or understand the customs of different cultures, will weaken our ability to see the gospel of Jesus and his Kingdom advance through generations of laborers living and discipling among the lost.
- GEN Desk Director
Consider Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier for further reading on cultures, adaptation, and contextualization.
Every mission agency wants to start up a new BAM program.
Why and what is Business As Mission (BAM)? What purpose can it serve in advancing the Gospel? Can transformational discipleship be espoused through practices commonly associated with a secular lifestyle?
These questions and more are ruminated in the Church and Christian ministries. What is now being introduced as utilizing business to promote missional evangelization is scrutinized by many and only fully understood by a few.
The Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 59 is the organized effort of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization to effectively explain, and endorse, the worldwide adoption of BAM practices. The paper identifies the misconceptions of BAM implementation, and the foundational principles necessary for effective discipleship through business practices.
At a meeting last summer, a question was raised, “Is it easier to turn a businessman into a Navigator, or a Navigator into a businessman?” The coordinators at the Lausanne Conference encountered the same question, and deduced the following response:
“It is easier to teach ministry to a businessperson than business to a mission person. They focus on good business practice and integrating ministry into the business rather than starting a mission and trying to posture it as a business. If the business thrives, so does ministry to its employees and community, all without foreign funding or donations.”
Business practices receive a bad rap due to their focus on monetary gain. Yet the focus of BAM is not to raise money purely for the dispersal of financial profits to existing Christian organizations. It is true that this is one of the goals, and is often a practice highly prioritized in BAM operations. However, the pursuit of BAM is to utilize the context of business as a powerful tool for evangelizing to the lost.
In the Navigators, the Global Enterprise Network (GEN) has a wide variety of BAM works and describe them as missional enterprises. A missional enterprise (also known as Business for Transformation – B4T) is a small subset of the BAM space but is distinguished by the triple bottom line.
Read more from Larry Sharp about the BAM Movement.
- GEN Desk Intern
For more information on the Lausanne Movement and BAM visit: http://businessasmission.com/library/articles-papers/
Tunehag, Mats, Wayne McGee, and Josie Plummer, eds. "Business Goals And Mission Analysis." Business As Mission (2008): 1-88. Lausane Occasional Paper No. 59. Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Web. 24 July 2015.
"Business as Mission Research." Eden's Bridge. Eden's Bridge, 27 May 2012. Web. 24 July 2015.
As I walked down the hill out of the abject poverty of the Roma (Gypsy) district in a southern Bulgaria town, my stomach began to turn. The smell, the filth, and the despair were all overwhelming. While trying to keep my stomach content where it belonged, I prayed.
Noticeably, I sensed Jesus saying, “I am up there.”
My perspective changed. The powerful filth and smell suddenly dissipated. Jesus was present and his promises alive, even in the lowliest of places, to redeem and restore people who are precious in his sight. And He’s inviting laborers to bring His kingdom to these undesirable places.
This experience was at the tail end of a seminar on social enterprise sponsored by The Navigators’ Global Enterprise Network in Central and Eastern Europe. Over 50 Europeans sought input from Christian experts in social enterprise from around the US and Europe. Everyone was united on how to bring the hope of the Gospel and answers to address the desperate poverty.
Two themes emerged:
In post-Christian secularized Europe, the Bible has been discarded as old-hat. There is rampant mistrust toward the church. Pastors and missionaries have no respect in society. And generally the Gospel is seen as wishful thinking.
Everyday life is the greatest opportunity to share about Christ. But in order for this to happen, the messenger needs to be normal to the listener. A key means for the messenger to gain this heart access is through enterprise. When followers of Jesus own and run enterprises, they are afforded opportunities to be Jesus in everyday life to everyday people and bring real answers to things like poverty through work.
An added bonus: We’ve discovered that when you connect a secularized person with the needs of the poor or marginalized, that person starts asking questions about the meaning of life, purpose, and faith. Throwing open the doors for the answers found in the truths of the Gospel. Enterprises aiming to help people in need become a vehicle for the Gospel to be demonstrated.
Currently, the Global Enterprise Network in Europe is starting and supporting enterprises that serve handicapped children, provide jobs for the homeless and addicts, and promote education for Roma children. We long for greater impact as the movement grows. After all, Jesus is there among the desperately needy.
- GEN Consultant
GEN Desk Commentary –
What kind of enterprise do you feel would best help address poverty?
“So you’re really staying!” was our friend's reaction with a noticeable sense of relief and excitement.
Our conversation came after living in Japan for five years, enrolling our children in Japanese school, and learning the language. We assumed surely after those steps, we had communicated to our friends a desire to be invested in their culture and lives. But there was something missing as they waited for an abrupt and unexpected departure.
We realized there is something about working with a college club that had kept us from being viewed as committed members of society and life in Japan. However, we noticed an instant change while sharing our vision to start a business in Japan. It communicated our commitment to relationships and opened opportunities for our friends to participate. This friend in particular excitedly shared her own ideas and expressed desire to serve and help us. We believe that part of her reaction was her new ability to understand what we are doing vocationally, which also allowed us to move forward relationally.
As we have prayed over making the transition from "traditional missions" as full-time campus ministers to missional entrepreneurs (by pursuing a direct-trade coffee roaster and shop next to the university), we have felt like we are in a process of aligning what we believe with what we are doing.
Many of the ways God had been opening doors for us fell outside of our assigned ministry as collegiate staff, which gave our lives a slightly fractured feeling. The lack of alignment pushed us to explore the idea of an organic and incarnational ministry that goes to where people naturally reside contrary to an invitational ministry that calls students into a club outside of their day-to-day life.
As business owners, we believe that we will be able to be a better living witness of the gospel as contributing members of the community than as peripheral oddities with a job frequently misunderstood by the majority of the Japanese population. We believe that the whole of life can be sacred – whether roasting coffee, changing diapers, or working as a salaryman – and is a misunderstanding of the Gospel to only view time directly tied to Bible study and church as valuable. There is a great temptation to consider the remaining time as something simply to be survived or in competition with what “really matters.”
We hope to be change agents to what it means to be Christ’s followers in Japan by entering the business world and roasting, brewing, and selling coffee to the glory of God.
– Bryan and Jamie
GEN Desk Commentary –
How do we better incarnate the gospel in the setting God has us now? Please share your thoughts or comments below.
In environments distrustful of business receiving the blessings of community leaders becomes paramount. While it is always a benefit in establishing any mission-planting to receive the blessings of key leaders, where business is viewed as suspect, sharing your vision, your intentions to bless, and the promise to treat the people of this location with dignity, respect and justice can actually be used to bring community leaders on-board quicker than in other situations. However, one of the things that these leaders will be interested in knowing is how long do you plan to stay and what will you leave (enough large corporations from nations across the world have entered local environments and after a short period of time left, leaving everything from environmental chaos to workers who are physically broken and unable to return to their previous vocations). Part of what you must share is a promise to stay within the region beyond the first difficulties. In business-averse environments the willingness to incur early-stage business losses is important if the people are to ever again welcome a business to their setting or see it beyond a launching phase. Of course there are always limitations – we are running a genuine business, not a charity – but building in plans for how long you can suffer financial losses is important, and it is important to clarify that with local leaders.
Finally, and this is true for all missionaries, but for business enterprise missionaries even more so, your lifestyle is something that will be closely watched. In much of Latin America the wealth has remained in the hands of the few for generations, and these people who own much of the commerce-generating activities, live at level far above that of their workers and consumers. While this is less-true in other-parts of the world, the general rule is that business people live in great wealth while those who are the back-bone of the wealth production suffer. Living as close to the level of the community, your workers, and consumers is essential in communicating that your for-profit enterprise is a different thing than that which they may have seen before. And so are you.
Before you can even have the chance to begin to operate, begin to incarnate the Gospel the enterprise God has called and empowered you to do, the environment where you plant your business can make or break your ability to not just be financially viable, but to incarnate more than just the gospel of western business imperialism of “greed is good.”