Photo by ITeams


Toward Success Criteria for Transformational Businesses

insight
February 3, 2016
Brandon Weidman
Brandon Weidman

Have you ever felt marginalized in the ministry world because your skills and passions are in business? Well, you don't have to.

As part of integrated community transformation (ICT), businesses can provide opportunities for gaining access to hard-to-reach places, create employment in poverty-entrenched economies, empower women in oppressive cultures, and/or serve as a funding mechanism to sustain a project or ministry.

There’s no doubt business has a powerful place in the realm of kingdom work. Even when there isn’t such an obvious connection to ministry, businesses can have transformational impact.

A business that strategically fills a void or unmet need in its own community can play a powerful role in ICT.

A business that provides a neutral meeting place for its community’s members serves a vital purpose in bringing people together. A business whose owner intentionally disciples his/her customers and/or employees creates opportunities for ministry.

An example of transformational business in Masatepe, Nicaragua

In 2013, we launched a small coffee shop called Beto’s in an unlikely place called Masatepe, Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, and there are certainly some unfair obstacles to doing business there. In only two years we’ve been able to grow a small coffee shop with just a few employees to a thriving business with over 15 employees. 

Why has it been successful? 

Several factors have contributed to its success. 

  1. It filled a genuine void in the local market.
    The coffee shop met unmet needs in this community, and so it attracted a lot of customers in the beginning, which served as an incredible way for us to meet a lot of people in our community.
  2. We hired people passionate about transformation in our community.
    As we hired our staff, we decided to use this business as a place to employ a ministry team, so instead of hiring skilled baristas we hired people who were passionate about seeing lives transformed by the power of God in our community and then taught them how to become skilled baristas.
  3. We focused on stability but looked for growth opportunities.
    After the coffee shop gained traction, we added a restaurant and it continued to grow. Then, we found a niche in the Nicaraguan market via unused burlap coffee sacks, and we began to produce coffee-related apparel and home decor in a shop behind the restaurant. As we continued hiring, we sought out like-minded individuals who wanted to join us in seeing Masatepe become a community transformed by the power of God.
  4. The business provided a meeting place in the community.
    Our shop quickly became a meeting place for other like-minded individuals in the community, including pastors who were looking for a neutral meeting place.
  5. We were intentional about encouraging and facilitating conversations about the community.
    We began discussing community issues with our staff and our customers, going out into the community to minister to its needs, and regularly praying over our community. “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV).
  6. We made connections with thousands of people through the business.
    Business in our case has connected us to thousands of customers, vendors, service-providers, and neighboring businesses—lots of people who have their own dreams and desires to see this community transformed.

Initial results and next steps

The business has empowered Nicaraguan workers who previously struggled to provide for their families while pursuing God’s calling on their lives. God has used this business to bring people together to help the oppressed in this community, and this has proven to those of us around it that a business can indeed be a vehicle for God’s transformative work.

In 2016, we plan to continue the growth of the business to further its impact here in our community. We’re expanding to online sales of our coffee and coffee-related products. To that end, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign that will help fund the transition into this next phase of our business. Learn more about our Kickstarter campaign.