In a grey house located on the north side of Kansas City lives two adults, three kids, an Ikea sectional, and an idea. Some people might refer to the idea as a dream but it's not like it's been a life long hope. The idea goes like this: What if we could create a business that helps others?
You probably felt the ground shift below your feet from such an audacious thought.
The idea of business intrigues me because I've spent my entire career in non-profit work. Our concept of business is a service that adds value to people's lives and because of this value people are willing to pay for the service. It's not that different from how I view a good non-profit - a service that adds value to people's lives and because of this value people are willing to donate to that service.
We got to the idea of business because non-profit work has not been very secure. After years of financial struggle and coming up short in fundraising we asked, "Why us?" For years, in regards to my personal ability to fundraise I silently thought, "Why do I suck at this?" The worst question was, "How come no one else cares?" Slowly but surely the negative aspect of these questions began to choke out a calling.
Do you know the feeling? Have you sent a calling to it's grave?
After enough time in what felt like a constant state of suffering we started to change the questions we had been asking ourselves. We replaced some of the previous questions with, "What if financial security wasn't determined by external factors but internal disciplines?" "What if the hardships and challenges (along with successes) were preparation to speak life into someone else?" "What if the ways we failed were guideposts to a different direction?"
I have come to believe the maturity of person can be measured by their response to a closed door in an opportunity. Either you kick, scream, manipulate, or claw your way in or you recognize the door isn't open at this time and that's okay, there's a door opened somewhere else or can you patiently wait for the current door to be opened. A self-preserving person is unable to wait or recognize another door could exist.
So for us, a business has been an open door. It's not something we've planned on. Actually, it had never been a dream of ours but it's becoming one as more doors open. I've learned to ask some new questions in my life and they might be useful to you as well.
1. What's your most natural way to serve people? Mine is to connect them to something helpful that will make their life better. Connecting people to "new and better" has always has been a passion, its what has always attracted me to leadership. But I think I am just now learning to lead like I was made to.
2. How do you look at closed doors? When I stopped blaming myself and others and started to recognize I was trying to force myself through closed doors I started to see lots of different opportunities. And to my absolute surprise, these new doors had revenue behind them. We can proudly say we started a business off of one thing...an idea. As frugal people that was the right start up cost for us.
3. Is your calling modern? If you are like me and entered a domestic non-profit career before 2000 you survived on generosity. If people didn't give money than you and I didn't have a job. But now we live in different times, the recession plus advancement in the internet and technology have changed the "means" by which we can live a "full-time service position". More and more people are living a life in mission funded by a product or idea they have created and sold online. A great example of this is Jess Connolly and her husband who have created an online shop of prints along with a online network connecting creative women for the sole purpose to fund their family as her husband plants a church Charleston, South Carolina. Want to read about a modern calling? You can read their story here.
We're excited about the things to come. We're excited about having a modern calling, which doesn't make us choose between this full-time job or that full time job. It's great to be in a situation where you can live a life of service and have a means to buy your kids some sweet Nikes. And so the idea continues to grow. And it looks very different than most. But if you are anything like us you might just need to follow through on that idea you've had for a while and discover it won't cost you everything and you can discover a whole new way to serve.
Think about it.