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A Twenty Something Business as Mission Journey : Design & Manufacture of Gift and Tourist Products

Core business: Design and manufacturing of sculptures, gift and tourist products. Partner businesses: (1) Provision of immersion conversational English boarding school and (2) Foster care for orphans.

Market: Initially 100% export, presently 70% export, 30% domestic

Structure: Wholly foreign-owned for-profit manufacturing enterprise with related, but independently registered partner companies – educational institution and non-profit humanitarian organization.

Champion: Did not meet, but heard that founder is a like-minded local entrepreneur, business couple. Present expat manager has background experience in real estate management, initially came over for language study. Met founder and original expat business partner and took over the business when original expat partner left. The business appears to run as a partnership between the original founder and present expat manager.

Business formation:

Initial manufacturing operation started up by like-minded local entrepreneur in his home. Within first year or two a like-minded foreigner joined in, registered the manufacturing business as wholly-foreign-owned. In mid-90s, original foreign partner handed the business over to the present foreign champion. Business moved from high-rent, urban interior location to a rural township location, purchased land, took over a shampoo factory site and over time has built up property to include facilities for the foster home and language school.

Manufacturing facility now has 70 employees from designers (recruited from urban areas) to basic craft, painting, packing and labor (primarily from local rural township). Language school has 60 boarding students and expat English teachers (primarily from the US, provides housing, visa and living stipend, minimum 1-year commitment). Foster home has capacity for 21 orphans, raises funds for medical treatment (primarily heart operations), and is staffed by perhaps a dozen trained ‘aunties’. Facility also includes a western-finished guesthouse that can house up to visitors for short-term visits, English camps and retreats and an activity center.

Vision: Initial vision we were told was to create a business that demonstrated integrity in all its business dealings. Present vision appears to be using the for-profit enterprise as a foundation by which to create other platforms with intentional ministry objectives. The conversational immersion language school allows them to board students for 4 month terms and 1-month short camp terms and catalyze abundant relationship building and sharing opportunities. The foster home allows them to demonstrate compassion by providing funds for medical treatment for at-risk orphans, providing housing and care for up to 21 orphans and training families and placing orphans into homes for foster care. Long-term vision appears to be replicating this for-profit/non-profit model in other locations (not necessarily with the same for-profit business) and expanding their present for-profit business to the south where resources are more abundant.

Story: Did not meet the founder nor really hear much of the story of how they came to move to this rural property or even what/who catalyzed the start of the foster care or English instruction initiatives. Did hear that the founder has developed connections to the growing network of domestic like-minded bookstores and more and more of their market is now domestic.

Lessons learned: Not much shared, just a comment about learning the boundaries on how open they can be in support of the local church – they used to host large church meetings in their large meeting room, now have learned to encourage the groups to divide up and meet in smaller groups at venues off the property.

Future plans: Were told that they plan to move most of the manufacturing capacity south for purely business reasons. They plan to leave the design capacity along with English school and foster care at this facility, and have already started purchasing property at a southern site where the raw materials and transport of their core-product are more favorable. Also hope to replicate the English and foster emphases at the southern site.

Results:

* Provides over 20 expat visas through the core business and allows these people to live in a fairly rural community. All visas provided through the for-profit core business.

* Foster home has provided critical medical care for dozens of at-risk orphans and given them a healthy, loving environment at the Center and placed more than a dozen in local homes. Reported that some of the families who’ve been trained for foster care have been transformed.

* Immersion language school seems to have found a niche and is attracting a steady stream of students and seeing transformation happen as they live on or near the property and have abundant relational opportunities with the teachers.

* Seem to have a good influence on the surrounding township community, offering some training programs (parenting, financial management) and foster parent training. They also have provided some philanthropic initiatives at a local public school.

* Appear to be supporting a growing domestic Christian bookstore network

* Appear to have developed long-term relationships with many western schools, clubs and individuals who regularly provide short-term teams for their English camps and orphan outreach (so much so that they have a full-time expat staff to coordinate visitors and their guest house).

Observations:

* Core business has successfully grown for over 10 years. Do not know how profitable it has been (manager’s comment that one particular product was the first successful one they’ve done) nor what kind of volume they are doing.
* Were told that all non-core businesses are all self-sufficient.

-The language school has gained enough of a reputation (marketing solely via the internet) that they now have 60 students and are growing by 15 per semester.

-The foster home is a 501c3 registered charity and offers child sponsorship, does fund-raisers in the nearby large city and has corporate sponsors. They run training programs for foster parents and offer a financial subsidy for foster parents (monthly stipend, formula, supplies and school tuition)

* When asked about intentional ministry efforts, emphasis was on the non-core business initiatives (school and foster care) and how much they have blessed. Appears that intentionally developing the core-business manufacturing company culture as ministry is not the focus.

* Present expat manager is entirely self-funded via his passport country real estate business. So perhaps all the expats are donor- or self-funded.

* Shared (local and expat) company management and vision seems to be their key for their developing good government relations, developing strong networks with local clubs for developing the domestic market and developing the foster home network.

* Replication. Were told that former staff are preparing to move further west and hope to replicate this model (with some support of this facility).

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posted by Justin Forman | 1.31.2008 - 7:00 AM

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