My husband and I have a small business which we list with the IRS as a ministry but pay taxes like any other business. We operate it as a Christian nonprofit although we are not registered as a nonprofit company. We are registered with the state with what is known as a DBA, “Doing Business As”. We got the application form from our bank. But you could apply with your Secretary of State. We also have an EIN number, “Employer Identification Number” which we applied for through the IRS. We don’t have a resale license since we don’t sell anything. But you need to apply for that through your local government if you plan to retail items.
The core of our business or ministry is mentoring, encouraging and advising others in the start up and operation of their businesses or ministries. We encourage both Christians and non-Christians alike. Our job is to help others to see how they can fulfill their dreams or visions or to help them to deal with a critical juncture in their business or ministry especially if they are dealing with something that is out of the ordinary. We usually go to them whether they are in this country or in other nations.
When we first sought which direction we were to go in we tried crafting, cleaning and service as well as traditional ministry in church leadership and itinerant ministry. But that’s really not where our hearts were and so we weren’t able to be successful in those pursuits.
I decided to go back to school and return to teaching but our son became educationally high risk and I had to home school him. During that time others we were close to started telling us to follow our vision and dreams. This changed our direction.
We have successfully done what we do since 1993 and have been on the road with it since 1995.
Even though we operate more as a ministry than as a business in regards to our income, the principals of starting and running it are similar to what an income driven enterprise would be doing.
These are Some of the Things that we did and still do and Advise Others to Do:
Do what You see or Hear:
We kept seeing us going to different places giving people things that would encourage them or help them in what they want to do. We saw us giving things away and not selling them. We saw us helping others to realize their dreams. So that is what we did and that is still what we are doing. If you follow what you see or hear you will start to understand how to go about causing your vision to come true.
Vision too big or Impossible:
That could be a very good thing because some of the best ideas came out of huge or impossible visions. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Donald Trump are three people who come to mind. They started with what others thought were impossible dreams. But we can all see where that got them. They built huge empires that have benefited a lot of people and have changed the world as we know it.
No one thought that our dream was worth investing in or pursuing. There are people around the world who are fulfilling their dreams partly because we didn’t listen to our critics. There are also others who, having been encouraged, are also encouraging others to pursue their dreams.
Are You Considered to not be the Success type of Person:
Steve Jobs started his venture in a garage with Steve Wozniak and later was fired from his own company. He didn’t let it stop him and he eventually regained the company he helped to found. A similar thing happened to Donald Trump, he looked like he was going to lose everything. Everyone seemed to have him already dead and buried. Then he came back better than he had before.
We had everyone speaking against us and telling us that our vision wasn’t viable or a possibility. But the vision kept haunting us, so we decided to follow it. We have done eighteen years of successful work and now know people around the world who are successfully doing what they dreamed of doing and also taking chances because we decided to take a chance. You don’t have to be a success type of person. You just need to be willing to make your vision a success.
Don’t Have the Resources:
We didn’t have the resources in the beginning and often still encounter that same situation. But we have always found the resources to fulfill our vision. We have borrowed, have been given resources and have found various ways of coming up with what we have needed to go out on a trip, to acquire supplies or to ship those supplies to their destinations.
What we learned about our vision was that if it is truly a vision that God has given us then there is a way to do it. We just have to keep looking around until we see the way that we need to go.
In the very beginning I had to make a trip but all I was able to come up with was the round trip ticket. I went, thinking if I had to I would stay at the airport and walk to the conference that I was to speak in. I packed my own food in case it was the way I would need to feed myself. When I arrived I was given two places to stay, I was fed and was transported everywhere I needed to go. You can say that they were obligated to do that since I was speaking in their conference. But I was also given spending money twice, even though I didn’t tell anyone that I had nothing to spend.
In the year that my husband and about 500 of his fellow employees were fired with no unemployment or pension I already had a ticket for Belgium. We discussed it and prayed about it and decided that I still needed to go even though our only income was food stamps and a tiny yard job. I used the small credit card that I still have and money that we had somehow managed to save. The rest of the finances came as I needed them and in some cases my transportation, room and food were provided for. I was also able to pay for a place to stay, pay for food, pay for gifts and take the bus and the train into two different parts of Belgium.
Later that year, I also needed to go to Milwaukee and Chicago by plane and train, which I was able to do. Since I stayed overnight in the airport and took my own food I only needed expenses for transportation and gifts. We were given some money for the ticket and I used the credit card again, plus managed to save a little bit out of groceries.
We have borrowed money, used our credit card, been given money, sold items and saved money out of the already existing budget and any extra income we get. These are the ways we have financed our ventures but there are other ways depending upon your circumstances.
I know a woman who is a published writer. She was able to get a small grant to help her in her writing. If you are an artist or writer you can check out the local art organizations for their annual grants. If your projected or existing business has some sort of special exception such as disability, minority, owned by a woman or is in an economically impacted area, there are possible grants that you could apply for. There are other possibilities which vary according to your region.
We started in our home and never left. First it was a small space in our bedroom then it outgrew the bedroom and was moved into a shared room. We know a woman who had part of her house converted into a separate hair salon. Others have converted their garages. There are two others who use a home office for their work. One is an insurance agent, the other a salesman. I know others who do handwork in beading, crafts and carving and they all use their homes or an outside shelter on their property.
There is no overhead when you use your own home plus you can’t beat the savings on the commute.
I would suggest that you start in your home and don’t move out until your business moves you out of your home. If it is big enough to move you out of your home then it may be large enough to support the overhead needed to rent or buy a separate location.
Don’t Know how to Start:
Back in the beginning I knew what my vision was and I knew my direction, but I didn’t know how to step into it. Then I heard a teaching on how to walk into your ministry or business. I read the same advice again recently on how to start writing a book. First you need to take a long hard look at your vision and write down everything you see and understand about it. Then out of that make two lists of everything that is needed for you to fulfill that vision.
The first list is of the things you can’t do yet. The second one is of the things you can do. You will be surprised at how many things you can do. Then do something, every day, that is on that list of things that you can do. I did that and walked into the things that I couldn’t do. By doing that I was able to walk into my vision. I still follow that advice for every project and trip because there are always some things that I can’t do until I have done the things that I can.
Keep True to Your Vision:
Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs stayed true to their visions and didn’t get distracted with other possibilities that are outside their vision. But they did branch out to things that complemented what they already do.
We regularly review our vision and make sure that we are still on track, to see if the new direction we are looking at will complement our current course of action. We may be able to branch out all over the world and be in a lot of places doing a lot of different things. But it’s all in the same direction with the same focus.
Surround Yourself with Others who will help You to keep on Track with Encouragement and Honesty:
Sometimes we are too close to the action and it helps to hear from others who are in agreement with our direction.
We started this venture with the help of most of our current advisers. We go to them over every big decision and all trips. Many times they have seen things that have helped us to be more focused on some areas or have confirmed what we already understood. On a few occasions they have also warned us about not going in a particular direction or to be more careful about the direction we were going in. Their input has always been very helpful. They have saved us a lot of expense and headache and possible failure.
Find Yourself a Good Mentor Whom You Admire and can Learn From:
Our first mentor was actually responsible for encouraging us to step out into what we are doing. He was very hands-on and specific in his instructions. He helped to direct us clearly in those early years.
When we had to replace him with our current mentors they have encouraged us in a somewhat different more flexible direction which we were ready for. Their style of mentor-ship is different but also very encouraging. They have had very important things to say to us at important junctures in our decision making which have helped us to see our way more clearly.
Watch for Helpful and Instructional Information that may be Outside your Comfort Zone and Field:
These are some examples of things that have greatly helped me:
Donald Trump’s example has been very encouraging to me, though I can’t wrap my head around the kind of competitiveness that is in his show nor his investing in real-estate. But we do invest in people and can relate to his gaining an empire, nearly losing it and regaining it to become even better. His determination to pursue his vision and to never consider himself to have failed may seem arrogant to some. But for someone who is out there putting everything on the line, it’s very encouraging to know that we can succeed too if we don’t give up.
The best article I have ever found on mentoring was from a secular magazine on an airplane. It was not written from the typical Christian point of view or even from the expected secular point of view. This article was written about the company MENTTIUM which specializes in corporate mentoring.
Their view on mentor-ship became core to what we do. We may be the mentor in the beginning. But the mentored always has something to bring to the table and at times they become the mentor. It’s not one way and there isn’t a superior or senior partner to the inferior or junior partner. It’s a completed circuit of equals who each have something to offer each other. One may have more experience. But the other may have a wider perspective on some key elements. All of our partners began as our mentored who branched out into their own visions.
I enjoy watching the poker players who are good enough to be on the late night poker shows. They use money to help create favorable situations. They also create favorable situations without using the money and often get even better results. They use bluffing, intimidation and implication. We do the same thing in what we do by using faith, obedience and encouragement. So watching these very gifted people in what they do helps me to look at what I do and to seek to do what I do better. I still don’t know how to play poker but watching others play it has helped me to look at what I do and to examine it carefully.
Networking and Making new Friends and Contacts Will Grow Your Reach and Impact:
We began what we do through networking. All of what we have done has been through word-of-mouth, contacts, friends and networking. The internet and the networking sites have also helped. We have a fairly extensive network in Belgium, California and Alaska. A lot of our opportunities have come from friends, friends of friends, contacts through activities with friends and networking through those connections. It especially helps when we meet those who have a similar focus and we collaborate on projects. The opportunities grow out of the joint projects. We have also been making more contacts and friends through the networking sites
Be Flexible and Don’t Give up too Soon:
Our original visions and continuing visions often don’t come with detailed directions on how to fulfill them. That part comes by continuously trying different avenues until the vision succeeds. Even when we have succeeded we can succeed even more by finding more ways to improve or to use the original success to create even more ways of fulfilling that vision.
I heard a speaker once say that the cemeteries are full of broken dreams. I instantly knew that wasn’t true. The graveyards are full of broken dreamers. The dreams will still be fulfilled by someone else.
I’m determined to walk my own visions. I don’t want someone else to do them. So, yes, I’m quite willing to be very flexible to find a way to get something done and I refuse to give up. I’ve also learned that some things can take time to be developed especially if some of the parts and people aren’t yet available to be involved in the solution.
Integrity and Excellence are a Must:
Integrity means that you will do what you promise, that you are dependable and consistent or have a good explanation for why you cannot do it and offer an alternate solution. It means that you don’t leave your client in the lurch. It means that you take responsibility for a mishap and will institute an optimal solution to the problem.
Excellence is necessary if you want to succeed in what you are doing. It means that you produce your product and service with the best possible quality and commitment to the final product and to the service rendered. It’s about creating something that is going to help your audience and to help improve or help a given situation for them.
I can’t think of a higher complement than to be told that I have integrity and that my product is excellent and that it has helped to improve someone’s life.