One day down
Sleep deprived, stressed, hiding in the office to cry, then pulling it together and working hard physically, attempting to speak a foreign language, smiling at potential customers, doing everything for the first time, from start to finish, from nerve-wracking open to exhausted and exuberant close. We did it! There was cash in the drawer to prove it. Success!!! We made it through… Day one.
We arrived home near midnight, our three small boys in tow. As we straggled through the door, my husband turned to me and said, “So what shall we do tomorrow?”
I stopped. I stared at him. Then I’m pretty sure I laughed. Barely.
All the focus for years and months had been to start a business. Now it was started. We were worn out, but the real work had just begun.
Later we learned that starting a business is like having a baby. In so many ways. One moment it appears unbelievably fragile. The next moment it’s screaming its lungs out in a show of robust strength. Helpless. Demanding. Exceedingly needy!
There was one American woman who understood this business-baby analogy before we did. She visited us the first day at the shop, congratulated us, and gave us a lasagne.
Our business is still open. It’s a miracle. We have two profitable locations and are planning for a third. We have 50 employees, including managers and managers in training. It’s moving toward sustainability and reproducibility.
For our part, we wanted to quit many, many times. Some days we still feel like we just can’t “do this” any more. We fail often, and in many different ways. Most of the time we feel like we are operating out of weakness and not strength.
Personally, I have had very long lists of things that I told God I needed, repeatedly, which He did not provide. Good things. Things that made sense. Things that would further this work, His work. But God knows us, and He knows what we need.
Here are some of the things that He did provide, and continues to provide for us:
My husband and I are in this business together, and we don’t agree easily. In fact, when we do agree, we take it as a sign from God that we’re heading in the right direction. This has been a safeguard for us. It was important when making decisions to start the business, but equally important when one or the other of us wants to quit. We agree that we have to agree.
God sold our house for us. We didn’t even have signs up in the yard. He just brought a buyer knocking on our door. Twenty-four hours later another interested buyer called us. We got more than we would have asked for.
That money started our business. We put our treasure in, all our eggs in one basket, and it compelled our hearts to follow. We invested everything we had in terms of abilities and time.
It sometimes feels like the business has us by the throat, and if we had a house in a far away country… We don’t. That is part of God’s provision for us too, to keep us moving forward in obedience, financially putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t look back. Don’t look down.
Our first employees were a youth band: a singer, a guitar player and a drummer. High school graduates who had worked in factories or not at all. We told them that we were starting this business for them. We told them we had a vision for the world. We told them that there would be a future.
The drummer is still with us. He is experienced now. He is trustworthy. He is a manager who tells his new employees, “This business is different.”
We had a favorite thing we used to say. We’d say, “We’re building this business to be a strategic tool that God can use,” and we’d think about the people in difficult-to-reach parts of the world whose lives could be changed through the impact of business as mission.
Then in one of my really dark days, as I let out a storm of complaints, God revealed something to me. Our business is a tool right now. A sharp tool. A strategic tool.
God is using it on the difficult-to-reach parts of my heart, and telling me that my life could be changed.
I revisit that moment on the threshold. Half in. Half out. Stopped in my tracks. I am always somewhere between triumph and utter despair. But at the end of the day when God speaks it is not rhetorical. It is not a joke with a bitter edge. It’s a loving invitation.
“So what shall we do tomorrow?”