FYI as you read: Threads by Nomad is our company. My daughter is my partner. Her name is Christen, but she has been Sissi to the family her entire life. So while this is about Business with a Purpose there is a lot of personal thrown in. After all, business is personal.
This blog post has been floating around in my brain since the beginning of Threads by Nomad. I was freaked out scared when we started. Ministers/missionaries are not business people. Or at least I was not! I have changed in so many ways as a minister as a result of Threads by Nomad. I can’t even begin the list the things I have had to learn. I am very grateful to many people who have helped in that process. There is one group in particular that has stirred me to go ahead and put this on paper. I meet with Women Helping Women 2 Network fairly regularly. We talk about goals and we talk about how we can help each other in our businesses. Many of them like me, really did not know much about business or what they were getting themselves into. Like us at Threads by Nomad, they took the leap. Listening and sharing with this group of women has led me to wonder if there are not others who toy with the idea of having a business with a purpose, but have no idea what they are getting themselves into. In this blog series I want to share what I have learned that may or may not be in the books on business. Maybe some of what I have learned can help others. There are no priorities in my list. They are all important….at least they have been to me.
(Read about the first 5 things I wish I had known here.)
1. From the beginning my daughter and I promised grace and forgiveness to each other and to ourselves.
2. It is a gift if your abilities and the abilities of your partner complement each other.
3. There is enough business for all of us.
4. Bartering is not a bad deal, but it is messy.
5. Get out of your little world…intentionally.
6. Network, Network, Network. Networking comes natural to me. I have been doing it for more than thirty years in my role as a minister. I learned long ago you do better if you join others and if you open your door to them. Relationships are key to what I do as a minister. Truthfully there is little difference between this and what must go on in the business world. You must put yourself out there whether it comes natural or not. I am an extrovert. My daughter is more introverted and pushes herself. People will not purchase usually on the first meeting. I recently heard that it takes seven contacts with one person before someone will actually make a purchase. It is more than purchasing. Maybe one person won’t purchase, but they will refer you to someone else. Or perhaps they will steer you to valuable resources. You never know the gift you will receive in a relationship. Yes, this is extremely time intensive. If you are not up for it, then you might want to rethink your idea.
7. Learn, learn, learn. Figure out what you don’t know and pursue it. I knew nothing. Actually I knew less than nothing! I started with SCORE to learn how to write a business plan. I took an excel class to figure out how to make a spread sheet (though I still haven’t mastered that skill!) I went to free workshops. I read books. I read articles. I sat down and interviewed people. I attended webinars. We asked about six different people to be our advisors and help guide us. I am still doing all of these things! The learning never stops.
8. Make use of fund raising programs. We did a kickstarter campaign. We were successful. I credit that success to my daughter for her planning of the campaign. But truly it took both of us getting the word out to those we thought would be interested in our mission. Virtually everyone who gave was someone either I or my daughter knew personally. We also did not ask for too much money. We did not shoot for the moon. We tried to be very realistic about what it would take to get started. And indeed, it took every penny. We had to invest some of our own funds and still are not in the black. That said, we are moving forward.
9. Determine your mission and stick to it. You can’t help everyone. When the idea for Threads by Nomad was born we knew immediately that we wanted it to be more than just celebrating the beauty of diversity. We wanted it to make a very real difference in the lives of those who are marginalized in one way or another. It was natural to consider refugees since we have ministered among refugees for so long. As soon as people heard about what we doing they started sending us information about hiring victims of human trafficking, homeless people, immigrants, etc. You cannot do it all. Maybe down the road there is the possibility of expansion. Biting off more than you can chew will frustrate and confuse you. You will administer your team and fashion your business practices somewhat around the needs and knowledge of the population you are reaching out to. You can’t do that for 2, 3 or 4 different groups of people. Know your mission. Stick to it. Bite off more later.
10. Know the population of the folks you are working with to make a difference. As I said we have worked with refugees for many years. I understood their needs, the limitations of most work places, the talents and gifts they bring, and their desire to thrive here. I understand many of their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. When you have a business with a purpose you are dealing with issues that are not just business. There is not a day goes by that we do not have to help our team with things like paper work, or phone calls, or language, etc. in areas that have nothing to do with their work. We are able to do this because we are experienced with this particular population. Even then it is difficult. Providing work and employment for refugees and working with them as members of our team is very different than in a ministry context. What if I were trying to do this with perhaps women from Asia? I know nothing about Asia. I know little to nothing about their needs or their culture. I am not familiar with the workings of their respective countries and societies. Threads by Nomad partners with groups from other countries like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Togo, Bali, etc. We work through people who know the country, know the talents, know the people, the culture. We would do more harm than good if we tried to go in and forge ahead on our own.