In the late 1980’s, before it was vogue to use the word “startup” my mom became the first employee of a new business. As the youngest of five in a financially strapped household with a single mom, I spent many hours at my mom’s side while she worked. I went with her to talk with employees, respond to alarm calls in the middle of the night, visit bankers, talk through negotiations with lawyers, review marketing materials, and fiddle with broken copiers.
I know first-hand the personal sacrifices of starting and growing a business. I also know the inner drive that makes the journey fun and rewarding.
In the early 1990’s we were driving between my school and soccer practice when my mom got a call on her car phone. One of her former employees had opened a competing store just a block away from her top location.
When she ended the call, this squirrelly thirteen-year-old helpfully piped up “Didn’t he sign a non-compete when you hired him?”
She didn’t seem to appreciate my counsel, but before she could compose an answer I figured it out. “Oh, you got him when you bought that location and since he was already an employee of the former owners you probably didn’t have him sign a non-compete.”
I learned a critical lesson about acquisitions that day, but more importantly I discovered that business was fascinating.
Fast-forward a decade and our family’s financial situation changed dramatically when my mom’s company went public. The IPO—often held out as the zenith of entrepreneurship—is a wild ride. I have seen the unique challenges and opportunities of family wealth.
When I moved from the private practice of law to the National Christian Foundation Heartland, it was motivated largely by a desire to help families like my own. I wanted to help other business owners and their families experience the freedom that comes through generosity. No matter how large or small, every gift given in surrender to the Lord is an act of worship. Every such gift can bring us closer to God.
Chip Ingram has said, “Generosity is a gateway to intimacy with God” because when we surrender what we have - whether that's gifts of financial resources, our personal talent, some of our time, or even our own reputation and influence - to the Lord of all creation we get to know His goodness and provision in new ways. I will never tire of seeing the joy, the fullness of life, people experience through giving.
These early experiences growing up around business combined with a passion for generosity has produced in me a desire to explore this idea of reclaiming business as a means of accomplishing good in the world.
At Impact Foundation, we believe business can be a powerful way to create positive social change in the world. My husband challenged me last night though.
He said, "You keep talking about these sexy social businesses that are in attractive industries - the artisanal chocolate company that employees Kurdish refugees rescued from sex trafficking. What about "regular" good businesses, like the hardware store down the street, that create jobs, add to the local economy, treat employees and vendors with integrity? Can't they be Impact Companies too?"
Maybe. The phrase needs parameters and a clear definition in order to retain its usefulness and I'm not willing to say that any business whose owner acts virtuously is an Impact Company. But regardless, these businesses certainly belong to the larger idea of reclaiming business. It's a big idea that has theological, sociological, and ethical implications. We'll explore it further on the blog in the coming months.
For me, understanding my story and where I've come from has helped me understand my journey and attraction to this movement. What about you? Where have you come from and why are you here?