Faith in Business
Working through Baptist pastors to reach the community
In North West London the African and Afro-Caribbean (ACC) community has one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurship and business start-ups in the country. It also suffers from high levels of poverty and social exclusion. Mainstream business support services have traditionally failed to reach or influence this ethnic group. The Christian and ‘gospel’ church, on other hand has, and continues to have, major motivational influence because the majority of the ACC population count themselves as Christians, or at the very least respect the traditional role Christianity has played in their culture and history. The church provides leadership, and promotes a strong message, among an ethnic group that has often lacked clear direction, unity or social cohesion.
Spreading the Word – Outreach and ‘Faith in Business’
ABI’s Associates co-director Ruth Djang has been awareof the potential of the church to reach and motivate would-be entrepreneurs for a long time. An active Christian herself, she identifies poor networks, lack of trust and awareness and low confidence as one of the major constraints to business development in the London Boroughsof Harrow and Brent where her company ABI have been established for over ten years. ‘It is difficult to get information out to people about the possibilities for self-employment or business because there is a deep-rooted mistrust of government structures, especially among the young,’ she explains. ‘The church reaches out to many more people, in their everyday life. It is respected and it is part of our culture.’ ABI have been working for over 3 years to bring the enterprise message to congregations through church networks. ‘We’ve worked with pastors in over 30 churches to encourage them to spread the message about enterprise to their congregations, and sign-post them to business support that’s available. Some pastors, particularly from business backgrounds themselves, are very keen. Others need more persuading and feel that such a message is beyond their remit as a pastor.’
The pro-enterprise Christians argue that enterprise can bring people great rewards – confidence, a sense of purpose, better income – and that the church structure provides a supportive way through which new start-ups can support each other. ‘When we started our hair products business,’ explained Mavis of 2Ms ( A hair products retail business) , ‘the pastor congratulated us to the congregation and asked them to pray for us regularly. That made a huge difference to us. And our congregation has supported us in other ways. They did a whip round to help us raise funds at the beginning and we’ve found our accountant through a recommendation from another fellow Christian. Most importantly they given us encouragement at every step of the way. We couldn’t have done it without that.’ The pastor also directed them to the ABI Faith in Business project which gave them training and is helping them to get a loan. Mavis’s church network has linked her to contacts and support that other she might not otherwise have had access to. It has given her an environment in which she feels supported.
The way in which business support is given is also very important. Ernest, of Fashion Girl Direct, explains that it’s easier to build up a trusting relationship with an ACC Christian advisor because they already know a lot about the shared values and lifestyle. ‘He understands some of the moral dilemmas I face running a business as a Christian. He knows that for me my business is a part of my lifestyle. And when I feel things are hard, he is happy to pray with me in the office.’
The North-West London churches have also been powerful in their outreach work. ‘We believe in what enterprise can bring to people and society,’ says Pastor Joseph of the New Life Christian Centre and founder of the Christian Business Network. ‘Just as we encourage our congregation to take the word of God out to their neighbours and community, we encourage people to take the word of enterprise out there too.’ One of the most powerful ways to do this is through cell structure which has been adopted by the London City Churches, believes Ruth Djang. ‘The cell structure brings groups of 10-12 people together regularly, for prayer and to talk through problems and find encouragement.’ She believes that this cell structure provides an excellent route through which to provide information about enterprise, and the possibilities that exist to gain mainstream and Phoenix Development Funded support. The opportunity also exists to form business cells made up entirely of new and existing entrepreneurs who wish to have regular support and advice from each other, who can pray together and share the lessons they have learned.
Certainly many believe that the church is the most respected and established institution in ACC society, for the old and young, and therefore probably the only one with the gravitas needed to carry the serious message about entrepreneurship.
We’ll have to wait to see how well church organisations will be able to spread the enterprise word. Some churches, and pastors, may be more enthusiastic than others. But it’s certainly clear that the ACC church, with its reach across generations and regions, with its emphasis on making the most of your life and it’s culture of reaching out to provide support to your neighbour, whether that be in business or in the neighbourhood, is well set up to take enterprise awareness out into this traditionally hard to reach ethnic group.
Case study below based on visit report by Daniel Start and edited by Peter Ramsden
Summary of Key Findings
The Afro-Caribbean Christian faith provides a ‘social glue’ for Afro-Caribbean communities. There are no other social institutions that have reach into their society with such breadth and depth, across ethnicities and generations. There are few that are so well recognised and command such respect.
- A shared faith helps advisors build rapport and trust more quickly. Shared values, expressed by going to church or praying together, can quickly cement a new relationship. The quality of the advice depends on the quality of the relationship.
- Christianity brings a new set of values and beliefs, challenges and dilemmas, to one’s lifestyle but also one’s business. Faith based advisors are well placed to understand these;
- Perhaps more than in other Christian communities the Afro-Caribbean church congregations have very strong support networks and a great emphasis on mutual ‘can-do’ encouragement. This culture makes them a potentially great resource for new enterprises;
- Churches are slowly coming around to the idea of supporting enterprise and seeing how it fits the Christian message to do the best for oneself and society;
- Some North London churches, take their inspiration from Black Enterprise movements in the US, have made major in-roads into supporting business through the church and have well established business chapters worth £100 millions;
- Reaching Afro-Caribbean business is hard. They tend to be relatively invisible: they are a part of fewer networks, they are more informal and are often not publicly listed;
- The Afro-Caribbean church is a powerful conduit for enterprise outreach. The community outreach philosophy can be translated to enterprise outreach, if pastors are on board;
- The cell structure of the Temple Church provides a particularly exciting and flexible route for propagating the enterprise message;
- Agencies need to be accommodating and sensitive if the church initiatives wish to promote Christianity at the same time as enterprise, even if the event has been funded with enterprise money. There needs to be give and take so that the main aims of the church are not sidelined while the enterprise message is not lost or hijacked;
- Faith-based and church-based enterprise networks hold exciting possibilities for supporting business. Such networks can encourage trust, communication, and mutual-encouragement.
- Afro-Caribbean communities are slightly over-represented by professional and ‘middle’ class blacks, but they still do have good breadth of coverage across generation, geography and class.
- More importantly, no other social groups comes close to having the breadth or reach of the church, plus the credibility and infrastructure to carry the enterprise message.
- The church makes up for some of its exclusivity by being aware of its need to reach the poor. It is strong on outreach, particularly to the poorer and excluded parts of the community.
- The Christian outreach and welfare ethic may have made it difficult to exclude people from support who might have been rejected in a more competitive atmosphere. This may have led to a high than necessary case-load and lower conversion rate;
- The attitude of the pastor to enterprise is variable from church to church, yet it they alone who are able to turn a church to enterprise support, or block efforts. Any culture change, however incremental and laboured, is to be welcomed;
- Church organisations have limited administrative ability and often do not have an office or premises. What they lack in nuclear structure they make up for with strong, wide, informal networks through the community;
- In general direct and more personal approaches (word of mouth and personal work with congregations and pastors) have been more successful than indirect and less personal approaches (leaflets and stands at events);
- As with any word of mouth exercise, the role of enthusiastic people, particularly the pastor, seems to be the key.
- While awareness was raised successfully through churches, and some encouraged referrals, churches were less inclined to get involved in signposting.
- The church mentoring and enterprise network did not take off because pastors couldn’t be brought on board. Those supportive of enterprise probably feared an administrative burden and a better route needs to be thought out to support them in such initiatives;
- If churches are to better support enterprise a different structure needs to established for winning over pastors, establishing a non-pastoral link person and then drawing in the abilities of the congregation to form an enterprise facilitation network;
- Likewise, churches, and pastors themselves, were not able to provide direct business support or signposting services. Instead they referred people to FIB’s own package of training and support, which was very successful;
- FIB’s 1-day training workshops that were successful and appreciated, particularly for their networking functions.
- The 1-2-1 advice and professional mentoring, by faith advisors, was probably the most successful part of the project.
- The service was open to all, and in a Christian manner ABI found it difficult to turn people away from the course. It is possible that success and cost-effectiveness would have been improved had they been more discerning in who they selected and helped, particularly for mentoring;
ABI is a slick, professional organisation run by two charismatic leaders – Vijay and Ruth. They have worked together for many year in Business Links and were passionate about setting up an organisation through which they could help businesses, particularly ethnic ones, to become successful. They are entrepreneurs themselves and have long seen a gap in the market w.r.t business support for ethnic minorities. Both are religious, Ruth Christian and Vijay Hindu. Both are very interested in the links between religion, business, values and lifestyle. Their staff are also motivated and interested. There is a good, lively, sociable spirit in the office, and a sense of shared purpose with staff eating together and all enthusiastic. FIB is a good project, well managed, delivered and presented and Vijay and Ruth are intelligent and sharp in their analysis of it. They are quite protective and competitive about the project too, and are well aware of their IPRs! ABI worked very much with a private sector mentality, but seems to work well for that.
Context to Issues and this project innovated to address them
The African and Afro-Caribbean (ACC) community has one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurship and business start-ups in the country. It also suffers from high levels of poverty and social exclusion. It’s not clear exactly why this is. ACCC do not have a strong tradition of business in their culture (as Asian communities do, for instance) but it’s also likely that there are low levels of business awareness. People think to jobs rather than self-employment, and often do not know how to access support or find the mainstream support available unsuitable. Mainstream business support services have traditionally failed to reach or influence this ethnic group.
The Christian and ‘gospel’ church, on other hand has, and continues to have, major motivational influence because at least half of the ACC population count themselves as Christians, or at the very least respect the traditional role Christianity has played in their culture and history. The church provides leadership, and promotes a strong message, among an ethnic group that has often lacked clear direction, unity or social cohesion.
ABI has been awareness of the potential of the church to reach and motivate would-be entrepreneurs for a long time. An organisation with strong religious beliefs itself, it identifies poor networks, lack of trust and awareness and low confidence as some of the major constraints to business development in the community. Co-director Ruth Djang explains:
‘It is difficult to get information out to people about the possibilities for self-employment or business because there is a deep-rooted mistrust of government structures, especially among the young. The church reaches out to many more people, in their everyday life. It is respected and it is part of our culture.’
ABI have been working for over 3 years to bring the enterprise message to congregations through church networks. The church provides a respected network, with a high profile and an in-built community outreach model of operation. It already encourages networking and mutual-support and, for most people’s beliefs, self-employment fits well the ACC Christian message of making the most of yourself while also helping others.
The main objectives of the FIB programme were:
- To engage ACC congregations in the development of business services for start-ups;
- To provide training and support for those who want to start their own business, grow existing businesses and use their skills to help their own community;
- To assist the development of church-based community / business groups as partners in economic regeneration;
To do this they asked ministers to:
Display leaflets about FIB Publicise enterprise events Provide inputs to the training and services provided Encourage referrals and signposting for business support Identify possible community enterprises Identify potential business mentors and volunteers
And they ran ‘Be Your Own Boss’ courses and training, for Christians, in a range of subjects, some given by ACC Christian business leaders. An extract from the December 2002 progress report gives a taste of courses run each quarter:
21st October ’02 – Business Planning Workshop 6 businesses attended and 4 individuals. This workshop proved to be very successful, as participants were able to start working on their own business plans. 11th November ’02 – Inland Revenue Workshop 5 businesses attended and 4 individuals. Participants were encouraged to identify areas that need to be addressed. The workshop enabled participants to better address tax issues in their business or within their business planning. Managing your Finances Workshop 2 businesses attended and 2 individuals. Unfortunately, this was not well attended. Foundation Certificate in Food Hygiene. 9 businesses attended. The course was relevant to the businesses that attended as they were all within the catering industry and the training ensures that they comply with the law
Other workshops included:
- Start Your Own business
- Employment law for employers
- Time management
They aimed to signpost the majority of attendees to existing mainstream advice and training. They also provided business mentoring advice to those starting their own business. This includes dealing with client calls, arranging one to one advice sessions, writing client reports, assisting clients with business planning and following up to check progress. There was no strict or formal selection procedure, and no particular limit to the advice that could be given.
ABI were successful in securing capital funding from Phoenix for a FIB loan fund which gave loans from £5000 to £20,000 with an 8.5% management fee.
The project was put together and delivered by ABI. Partners, particularly for referrals and promoting the general idea rather than co-delivery, included: Christian Business Network; Harrow in Business Enterprise Agency; The various ministries of the area.
£144,000 over 27 months = £5,400 per month. Another £128,000 came from the ERDF. The project ran from January 2001 until end March 2003
450-700 business reached or made aware of service; 250 have received training or mentoring; The same number signposted to mainstream sources of support; 50 businesses started up check / expand these details. Conversion rates?
On the basis of interviews with those who attended training courses and events: 100% of those interviewed (26) were satisfied or better; 91% (of 35) who received 1-2-1 counselling were satisfied or better; 86% (of 42) of those who expressed an opinion rates the service from FIB as good or excellent
Story & Evolution of the FIB project to date
Ruth Djang, Ghanaian, is from a family of caterers and business people. She was an accountant and advisor for Wandsworth Enterprise Agency when she met her business partner Vijay, Indian, a former entrepreneur, who was also working for the agency. They realised that many local businesses and shops were not using the services available so they started doing outreach shop-to-shop. They produced a Toolkit on how to work with Asian businesses and started a one-stop shop for the enterprise agency.
In 1995 they founded ABI in North London, Harrow, and launched an Asian Business Programme. In 1997 their ‘Changing Futures’ projects to reach AAC Christians began and in 2001 a larger version of hits, Faith in Business, was launched.
At about the same time one of their partners, the Christian Business Network, was also formed, though this has had some problems with capacity and staffing.
It is well known that community strengthens social capital which strengthens business.. A common culture and bonds of trust enable contracts and transactions to be carried out with lower risk fewer transaction costs. Community provides the ‘social glue’ that allows trust and relationships to prosper, thus allowing new contacts to be made, information to be exchanged and advice to be sought. All of these underpin a successful enterprise ecology.
So how well do faith communities perform? Religious communities are some of the strongest because they permeate culture, lifestyle and values and are often reinforced by ethnic bonds too. In the project areas the AAC faith is no exception. The ACC community is actually quite diverse, made up of both Africans (particularly from Ghana and Nigeria, but from many different tribes) and Afro-Caribbeans from the West Indies. In both communities Christianity, particularly with a gospel flavour, is the strongest religion and has provided a social and spiritual forum for these communities for many generations. Since moving to the UK, often several generations before, faith provided a strong tie that has bound these communities through adversity and healed rifts that have formed between the diverse tribal backgrounds.
As such the ACF, like most faiths, provides a ‘social glue’ that can support enterprise and enterprise networks. In particular:
All of those interviewed emphasised the importance of working with those who shared Christian beliefs. To be effective, business support to Christians - whether through partners, friends, peers, mentors or advisors - needs to have a strong Christian flavour and sensitivity. Enterprise becomes a way of life, not just a job. As father Joseph says:
“Christianity permeates lifestyle, is about lifestyle. You cannot be a Christina and run a business without Christian values affecting how you do business. The most meaningful business relationships are with other Christians, or those who understand Christian issues. Business advice from those who do not understand Christianity is, how shall I put it, ‘sterile’ ”
The Christian link seems to allow trust and rapport to be built very quickly. With small businesses and new entrepreneurs it’s important to have such a personal connection because issues and problems are often inter-linked with their personal and private life, and may be part of a more complex set of constraints. Even the simple act of praying together can have a major impact on how well the relationship develops. Ernest, who is a large man setting up a successful business called Fashiongirl Direct, selling hair products by mail-order explains:
“Joseph, my business advisor, was very helpful. He helped me with business plan so that I could apply for funding. I haven’t been successful yet but it was good advice. We’ve talked through various aspects of the business and problems I’ve had raising funds and getting things going. And yeah, we also prayed together a few times, for the business, and for our families, and that has really helped lift my spirits.”
Most interviewed emphasised that Christianity can affect certain business ethics. Thus many AFCE have a strong desire to be putting something back into the community and the world, whether this be through the high standards of employee care, the fairness of their terms of trade or, in more extreme examples, not speculating or risking other organisations’ monies through borrowing. There is a feeling that non-Christians may not be able to understand the central issues and beliefs in Christian business. Those interviewed felt that non-Christians would not understand or support them in these dilemmas and choices.
It was clear that ACC communities already have strong practises of networking and mutual support, whether that be through meeting at Sunday services, mid-week events (such as social clubs or prayer meetings) or through the home-based cell meetings (a part of the London Temple Church cell structure of support-groups). The ACC community also tends to encourage and practise peer-support. People regularly pray for each other, give encouragement, or share advice or even funds. Giving moral support, pep talks and confidence boosters while also looking-out for and helping others, are all very important values and commitments of Christian practise that help build a supportive environment for new entrepreneurs starting out in business for the first time.
‘When we started our hair products business,’ explained Mavis of Brent, who was setting up a fashion products shop, ‘the pastor congratulated us to the congregation and asked them to pray for us regularly. That made a huge difference to us. And our congregation has supported us in other ways. They did a whip round to help us raise funds at the beginning and we’ve found our accountant through a recommendation form another fellow Christian. Most importantly they given us encouragement at every step of the way. We couldn’t have done it without that.’
The pastor also directed them to the ABI Faith in Business scheme which gave them training and is helping them to get a loan. Mavis’s church network has linked her to contacts and support that other she might not otherwise have had access to. It has given her an environment in which she feels supported.
Moral support and confidence boosters are essential requirements for new businesses. A tight network of co-believers is invaluable to providing this. Further, such a mutual-support network can also help with more tangible benefits, such as childcare to attend a meeting, or funds to pay fro a computer.
Churches are slowly coming around to the idea of supporting enterprise and see it as part of the Christian message. While most pastors are more inclined to see social and welfare functions as closer to Christian objectives, more and more are beginning to realise that livelihoods and jobs are part of a holistic approach to well-being and welfare which supports a full and spiritual life. The pro-enterprise Christians argue that enterprise can bring people great rewards – confidence, a sense of purpose, better income – and that the church structure provides a supportive way through which new start-ups can support each other. Certainly this has been a core aim of the FIB project and one in which they have made slow, incremental but important steps.
The pastor is the key to such changes of attitude. Those pastors who have been entrepreneurs are, of course, the most enthusiastic, and the most influential in creating attitudinal change. Such a pastor is Joseph. But there are several other key leaders in London.
The CBN is still small and under-resourced but other much larger and more influential initiatives exist from which the CBN draws inspiration.
Much of these larger London movements draw their initiatives from black gospel organisations the US. Magazines include Black Enterprise.
ACCs have a strong culture of reaching out and influencing. This could potentially be geared to enterprise outreach. In part due to the missionary values of Christianity, but also due to the culture of helping others in the wider community, AFC in the area have been active in reaching out to other community groups, to bring ‘the word of God’ but also to support community projects and broader welfare. The FIB enterprise workshops have been very well received when carried out in communities and have also been an opportunity to spread Christian ideas. Ruth Djang describes the philosophy:
“As Christians we’re encouraged to reach out. I’ll ask my neighbour in for tea is they seem down, or go and talk to young people in the neighbourhood if I think I can give them encouragement. I’ll listen and try and help, but also tell them a bit about how God can help them…It’s the same with our enterprise road-shows. We mix the enterprise message with the Christian message. Agencies need to be flexible about this, and accept a compromise.”
One of the most powerful modes of outreach is the North London temple church’s cell structure. We return to this below.
Overall faith-based networks can provide:
Networks, of business contacts, information and trust, which underlies business deals A shared culture, which can make business relationships more effective, particularly if outreach workers and business advisors are involved. Mutual support networks which can give moral support and raise confidence, a critical input for entrepreneurs just starting out.
Do ACC communities provide added depth and breadth to enterprise outreach?
AC communities are not necessarily the most disadvantaged, but they have good breadth and some depth. The black AC communities of London are some of the most disadvantaged in the UK. Any intervention that can reach out across and into this community is welcome. But how representative, and how disadvantaged, is the Christian element of the community? It is impossible to put any precise figures on it the social make up of church-goers. However, most interviewed agreed that black professional or ‘middle-classes’ were more likely to be church goers than others.
This still leaves a lot of room for others, though. Over 50% of AC say they are Christian and of these half go to church. Churches are increasingly successful in targeting young people, and each congregation is likely to have attendees from the most run down estates. Even those who day they aren’t Christian will usually have some link to Christian people, often through parents or grandparents who came to Britain as Christians, or simply through a knowledge of the central role Christianity has played in their peoples’ traditions and culture.
AC Churches aren’t perfect but no other social groups are as inclusive. True, the church may not be the perfect outreach organisation, but there are few other, if any, social structures that are sufficiently established or credible to do the same job. The ‘Afro-Caribbean’ grouping is too broad and too divided along national and clan lines, and there is often a history of conflict, mistrust and misappropriation [Quote]. Nor do they have sufficiently strong structures or groupings through which outreach can take place. Other social groups, such as youth groups, or parent and child groups, lack credibility to talk about enterprise and livelihood and often too young and not deeply enough embedded in society to be heard. Music and cultural groups have a similar problem with credibility.
The church also makes up for some of its exclusivity by being strong on outreach, particularly to the poorer and excluded parts of the community. While it is difficult to assess the actual depth of outreach it is clear that the Christian ethic to reach out to the poorest fits well with social inclusion agendas to do the same. Those who go to church emphasise that they live in the same neighbourhoods as, and have regular contacts with, the most disadvantaged. They say that reaching out to the poorest, in all parts of society, is a strong Christian ethic and duty. The FIB project held road-shows, with games, food and information, to propagate the Christian and enterprise message combined. [More and more pastors are realising that enterprise compliments Christian ideals well. SEPARATE POINT?]
MOVE: How does the Christian outreach and welfare ethic affect quality control in FIB? Several project staff muted that there were sometimes difficult decisions to make when selecting who should receive business support, or who should not. This was particularly the case with those who had already begun to receive support but were then deemed unsuitable. The Christian welfare and outreach ethic led the project to be generous with cases that did not show great potential. In some cases a more competitive approach could have been used to select only the best. However, this competition often went against the project’s values, and possibly led to high a case load, particularly for advisors. As Ruth Djang explained:
“It is difficult to turn clients away with their dream business ideas when you have gone out encouraging them to come to you. Even if we could see that ideas were never going to work we still gave them some support and help.”
Do ACC organisations have the capacity to deliver outreach and business support services?
Church organisations are not strong at administration or service delivery. The most common faith organisations, the churches themselves, are not well-suited or adapted to providing business services or arranging mentoring services. In general this is because ACF communities are unlikely to have their own building, let alone an office with administrative support. This limits the abilities of the church to engage in wider social or community functions as a formal organisation. The lack of premise is in part due to the difficulty in getting planning permission to build and is not, generally, because of a lack of funds. These weaknesses impacts on the type of activity ACF organisations can be expected to carry out.
The church membership has strong networking and outreach capability, and some of the new organisational structures such as ‘cells’ are quite innovative. Much of the potential of church organisations to engage in the enterprise agenda is through their congregation and its networks. Much of this activity and networking occurs fairly informally. While the formal, more nuclear, structures of the church organisation (as discussed above) may be weak, the wider, extended family nature of the church community are where the strengths lie. The cell structure of London Temple check church demonstrates this particularly well (see box). Structures such as these are potentially very powerful for propagating the ‘enterprise’ message, and acting as ‘cells’ of mutual business support.
BOX London Temple Church cell structure: The cell structure puts less emphasis on the larger Sunday congregations and more on impromptu, smaller meeting in homes. Each cell, of about 10-12, has remit to recruit new members, but also to set-up new cells, either around prayer and support, or around a theme such as child care, health or, in new ABI FIB plans, business and enterprise support. This less structured, more organic approach provides a decentralised and structure which, though low on administrative resources, is empowering to individuals and cells and promotes network expansion. Further, within this structure there is a strong system of communication from the central offices through which messages and guidance cab easily be passed.
The attitude of the pastor is critical to determining whether the church is likely to support enterprise support initiatives. The pastor is almost wholly in control of church policy and the messages it delivers. A church or congregation is unlikely to be successful in launching an enterprise initiative unless the pastor is on board. Some (though not many) pastors believe that enterprise support is not part of the Christian teaching and that pastors should stick to welfare activities. They also believe that Sunday is not the time to be promoting business. Others believe that enterprise is important but that pastors are already over-stretched and are not able to contribute resources or time to the idea. A small minority are actively supporting and promoting enterprise [e.g. Joe XX and Joseph XX]. Even in church organisations have the capacity, it first needs to be established if they have the interest and motivation.
When working with church organisations on enterprise there need to be a compromising of agendas, balancing the faith agenda with the business support agenda. While enterprise support agencies may want to use ACF functions to promote messages and raise awareness of services, churches are naturally likely to want to use meetings or events to promote the Christian message. If these meetings are funded by public money there may be sensitivities to this non-secular approach. However, some latitude is needed when piggy-backing faith networks, and space and respect should be allowed for the faith message to be put across and worship to take place.
What has worked best in the FIB project?
Overall the ABI FIB model has had most success:
Marketing the idea of micro-enterprise, and raising awareness about business support services, via AC faith based networks, Providing faith based training workshop in core business skills, which also act as networking and social events.
FIB has had moderate success: Providing 1-2-1 faith based advisory support to Christian-run business start-ups.
FIB has had less success with: Changing the attitudes of church leaders to actively support enterprise, Recruiting mentors or setting up mentor networks.
In general direct and more personal approaches (word of mouth and personal work with congregations and pastors) has been more successful than indirect and less personal approaches (leaflets and stands at events). This is mainly because the personal approach allows more chance for trust to be built and issues to explored more deeply. Perhaps not surprisingly, customer surveys found that those referred from these more personal events had greater customer satisfaction than those from more formal sources, such as advertisements, probably because expectations had been more accurately formed. FIB has also had success raising awareness through road-shows, workshops, Christian Radio, leaflets and stands at events. ()
As with any word of mouth exercise, the role of enthusiastic people, particularly the pastor, seems to be the key. The project worker on the FIB project was clearly able to create a great deal of interest through visits to churches, congregations and other church meetings, and also by representing FIB at events. However, the key to success was really the enthusiasm of the pastor of the church. In some churches the pastors were already very interested and enthusiastic about the opportunities for enterprises to enrich the lives of the congregation. Where there was less interest, the FIB made efforts to ‘convert’ the pastor, through talks and arranging meetings with other more enthusiastic pastors. While the shifts may have been small in most cases, shifts were achieved, and may have created long-term changes in the attitudes and culture of churches. It is difficult to put a value on these very important but subtle shifts in culture. They may be small but they are powerful.
While awareness was raised successfully through churches, and some encouraged referrals, churches were less inclined to get involved in signposting. The FIB project had hoped that pastors, once educated to the services that were on offer from the mainstream, would be able to direct parishioners to sources of further support or training, from e.g. Business Links, Enterprise in Harrow etc. Pastors were reticent to do this, however. In the least successful cases they simply displayed the FIB leaflets, or suggested the parishioners contact FIB. There were only rare examples of them providing encouragement to contact mainstream. This was, perhaps, because of their own lack of knowledge or confidence in what services these agencies could provide, or uncertainty as to how appropriate they would to the AC community. Further, as mentioned before, pastors were nervous of extending their pastoral remit into new territories. The ability to provide business support services directly, either through discussion or mentoring services, are discussed next.
Church mentoring and enterprise network did not take off, probably because of the administrative burden and reluctant pastors. The original project plan was to support enterprise networking and mentoring through the church congregation. This was not successful and no churches set up such a scheme. The project soon decided to abandon this part of the project. There was potential in many of the churches, but the congregation were unwilling to get involved unless the pastor was very enthusiastic and took a strong lead. The pastors, meanwhile, were very cautious, either because they did not share the ideals, felt the church energies were being misdirected or felt the administrative burden would be too large. More needs to be done to bring pastors on board but more importantly the project support design for the mentoring networks needs more careful design.
Many churches already have large enough congregations and contain a suitable number of would-be mentors (professionals and some business people). However it is unrealistic to expect a small church to take on the burden of organising such a scheme, logging people’s skills, needs and interests, and arranging meetings. Churches would need fully dedicated support to do this, yet only one project support officer was available for the entire area and project. It is possible that a handful could be set up with intensive support and that volunteers take the idea to other churches. Alternatively the cell structure of Temple church could be adapted as this is more self-contained and DIY.
If churches are to better support enterprise a different structure needs to established for winning over pastors, establishing a non-pastoral link person and then drawing in the abilities of the congregation to form an enterprise facilitation network. The potential of the cell or chapter structure of churches has been alluded to in early sections. Ideas for this in the next stage of FIB are described below, under next steps.
FIB developed it own package of 1-day training workshops which were very successful, particularly for their networking functions. Churches, and pastors themselves, were not able to provide direct business support services. FIB, however, has its own set of services that is made available free of cost to those who were directed to it, or who had heard about them. Some of the most successful were the 1-day workshops it ran on a range of topics (see earlier). These covered a range of issues relevant to new businesses, from working with the inland revenue, marketing, basic accounting etc. Clients were extremely satisfied with these courses (INSERT FEEDBACK RESULTS). Many indicated that the most useful function was the chance to meet others and discuss their problems. These workshops also provided an opportunity to apply for business advice and for FIB to assess whether the business or entrepreneur might usefully receive this.
The 1-2-1 advisory, by AC Christian business advisors, was probably the most successful part of the project. 1-2-1 advice was given out to over 250 businesses, though a long term relationship was only developed in about 100 cases. For the reasons discussed at the beginning of this evaluation clients were extremely pleased to be able to have an advisor who shared their faith. This allowed a level of trust and rapport to be built up quickly, which was I turn important if the advisor was to understand the real issues facing the entrepreneur and their business. The use of advisors with the same faith background as the clients meant the advisors were able to offer prayer support and faith encouragement as part of the session if the client requested. This enabled a more holistic approach to business support because the counsellor invariably was confided in about much more than just business.
Overall Strengths of advisory component:
The project able meet with clients at very short notice. This proved to be vital especially when a business has a financial problem; FIB was able to represent businesses when necessary. This included supporting them when meeting with various professionals; They were able to talk to the businesses at a level that best suited them, without jargon; They were able to visit the businesses at its premises. Especially for sole proprietors, this ensured the business stayed open during visits; The project was able to instil confidence in the individual; The use of advisors with the same faith background as the clients.
Advisory Case 1) An ambition to run a beauty shop: Ms M and Ms M are two Caribbean women with a burning ambition to own a beauty business. Their objective is to set up a business that supplies a varied range of hair and beauty products, specifically for women of colour – Asians, mixed race and black. They approached Faith in Business for assistance and guidance on the best way forward. As an initial first step, the FIB Business Advisor recommended a thorough research of the market and the area they plan to base their operation – Harrow Wealdstone. The findings were very encouraging – the Asian and Black population in the area had increased dramatically since the last census report. Armed with this, they were advised by the FIB Business Adviser to develop a business plan and to locate potential shop premises. Following a thorough search of the area, the partners have located the ideal shop just off the high street and have put in an initial offer. The business need is for a £23,000 loan. Of this, the partners are investing £6,000 of their own funds. A comprehensive business plan has been completed and the funding package is now being assembled.
Advisory Case 2) Setting Up a Nursey: Mrs B has always had an ambition to own and run a Montessori nursery. She has volunteered as a Sunday school teacher in her local church for the past 6 years. Her children were older now and she wanted to start her own business. She has obtained a Montessori qualification in preparation for this venture. She heard of Faith in Business through a friend at church and approached us for advice. The FIB Business Advisor advised her to gain as much experience in her chosen area as possible. Mrs B is currently working in a Montessori nursery to gain more experience while preparing to start her own. Over a number of one-one sessions, FIB assisted her to put together a comprehensive business plan and refine her business idea, research the market etc. She has identified suitable premises in a church hall and is now putting together a funding package for the £20,000 she needs to raise for the business venture.
Impact on ABI - Organisational Change & Growth
Impact on ABI
Working with Partners and Opportunities for Mainstreaming
Networking: We attend various meetings/conferences/seminars on relevant issues/meet with other project teams from mainstream providers (local authorities, LDA, Objective 2) to ensure that we maximise awareness of the project, identify project synergies, and explore possible sources of new funds. Publicity: The Faith in Business brand has strong recognition among the target group. We distribute leaflets via outreach, placement in church bookshops, speaking at various events (church based/BME networks etc) adverts in faith based magazines
In general Compared to white, middle-class institutions, of which most government agencies are definitely bracketed, the church provides an extremely convincing and welcoming organisation for introducing messages about enterprise.
Project evolution and the way forward for FIB
Changes made during course of project
The project objectives were refined in light of client feedback which indicated a marked preference for advisors who shared their faith. The importance of this factor had been underestimated at the start, and this involved recruiting new advisors. We also discovered as we progressed that there was no real demand for Business Reviews as the businesses we were dealing with were too young or small to benefit from such in-depth reviews.
We also had to abandon the recruitment of mentors from the churches because it required the churches to be more pro-active and sophisticated in their communications and information gathering from members. We found that while the pastors were very supportive of the idea, they were very slow to get around to putting in the necessary systems to enable the mentors to be recruited and trained.
ABI - Faith in Business Phoenix Case Study DF/01/070 10th - 14th October 2003 Daniel Start
Itinerary of visit
Friday 10th October 03
9.30 – 10.30 Ruth Djang & Vijay – Co-directors of ABI and initiators of FIB Introduction to the project and its formation. How they got involved in ABI and how the project came about. Their own motivations and ideas for what could transform business support in the area.
10.30 – 11.30 Ruth Time with the scrap book, and talking about the activities of FIB, and main stages of it set-up and the key staff, advisors and clients.
11.30 – 12.30 Time with scrapbook, photos, accounts and background reports.
12.30 – 2.00 ABI – Lunch with all staff
2.00 – 3.30 Visit to with Joe Jesuloba (business advisor) to see Ernest Agbarakwe and Andrew, Fashion Girl Direct Ltd, a business supported by FIB, with Joe
3.30 – 4.30 Discussion with Joe Jesuloba, business advisor and lay-pastor, of Kensington Temple church.
Monday 13th October 03
10.00 – 11.30 Pastor Joseph Simpson, New Life Christian Centre. Edgware, and co-ordinator of the Christian Business Network.
11.30 – 1.00 Dr Brian Deer, Cutting Edge Research, evaluator of FIB in 2002 (with Ruth D)
2.00 – 3.30 Mrs Marcia and Mrs Maria – entrepreneurs setting up beauty shop with help from FIB
3.30 – 4.30 Meeting with Vijay, co-director of ABI. Analysis of FIB and forward planning