Here is the second post from Meghan Easley. Her profile is at the bottom. She is just the sort of person Christian Social Entrepreneurship needs. She has ministry experience, works at a seminary, and is getting a Masters in social entrepreneurship. You couldn't ask for a better bird's eye view for the church and social entrepreneurship!
What is the difference between a business accelerator and the church? At first glance? Everything.
At second glance? Nothing. Here’s why:
1. Business accelerators are filled with people who have great business ideas. They are skilled in a variety of arenas and come together to share ideas, pair into similar groups, and build successful companies. They are creative forces, they are good at coding and they spent college and half of a career studying and being an engineer. So are the people at my church. I am friends with graphic designers, accountants and general visionaries who are constantly filling air space with crazy ideas they have for businesses or careers. I am constantly in the swirl of pitches for new styles of music, new restaurants, and new phone applications. As a church attendee and social entrepreneurship student, I am always adding new ideas to my phone as they come to me. My church is filled with great idea generators around me in our common gatherings of worship.
2. Business accelerators provide incredible community for a gathering of high-achieving entrepreneurs in one place to learn and grow together. They offer community support that helps teams develop pitch decks, business plan development and a growth strategy. My church is also pretty good at building and sustaining community. We gather together weekly, coming together as a larger church to celebrate and worship God. We are breathed out and form smaller groups throughout the week to do life together. Our community is filled with growth, development and becoming people who can enact a peculiar reality. While imperfect, church provides an overall stable and supportive community for my life, faith and work.
3. Accelerator groups are filled with mentors that are matched with entrepreneurs hoping to enter similar sectors. They pair new business leaders with mentors who can build their idea, support leader development and coach them on how all the pieces of the start-up fit together. They become not only business guides but also the guide on how to run a company and its culture successfully. Whether formalized or not, church has been and continues to be an incredible source of mentorship for me. It has young and old, experienced and unexperienced, mashed together and given the chance to learn from one another. The older generation coaches and guides, teaching the younger how to live faithfully and lead well. The young bring a passion and energy that cannot be replicated in any other way.
4. Accelerators give businesses access to seed capital and start-up investment from other greats in similar businesses. They offer new businesses the financial support they need to build their idea and launch toward creating returns. Sometimes an angel investor offers a modest amount, other times a venture capital firm jumps in for larger contributions. They recognize that it takes a little to get a lot in return on investment for a good idea. Somewhere on a sliding scale, my church has capital. It has money to keep the lights on, to run Sunday School craft sessions and support overseas missionaries. The general church budget in America may be shrinking, but the people in the pews are an incredible pool of capital. They show their support for products and services with their wallet and attempt to tithe well in a church community. There are the wealthy and the poor, squashed together to create a surprising capital soup.
Churches have all the makings of incredible business accelerators. They are filled with ideas, skills, communities and capital. They have all the makings of an extraordinary launch pad for people to implement what Jim Collins calls in his book the “Hedgehog Concept.” It is the overlap of passion, talent and economic engine to focus on what it can be the best in the world at. The accelerator knows this, and gathers together around the hedgehogs to launch new, innovative businesses into the marketplace. But our churches, a jigsaw puzzle of passion, talent and economic engine, have not figured out how to overlap the pieces to form the new concept that set them apart in the world. When they do, they will be able to make changes and create companies ready to change their neighborhoods and the world.
Meghan Easley is a graduate student studying both theology and social entrepreneurship in Southern California. She works for a research and development organization that looks to support healthy faith maturity in young people. Her time is spent innovating in the overlap of impact and ethics. Learn more about her work at www.easilymeg.com.