Posts tagged with: Social enterprise

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, August 3, 2015

Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like to travel. It’s exciting and fun to see new things, whether it’s a natural phenomenon or a man-made wonder. Some like to travel for the food: local specialties and exotic fare. Travel is good: it broadens our horizons, gives us new ways of seeing our world and often leads us to new friendships.

But can travel be more than that? Can it do more good than simply what we gain from it? Yes, it can.

Medium recently published Travel As a Force For Good: Social Enterprise and Community Impact, part of a series on travel and social enterprise. Two of Medium’s writers, Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll, explored various parts of the globe, seeking new horizons, but also see how travel can positively impact local communities.

Many homes in the developing world use oil to heat and light their homes. It’s easy to get and inexpensive, but it creates thick black smoke, which in turn creates breathing issues. Medium’s travelers were in a Maasai village near Arusha, Tanzania, to visit a local family. Unfortunately, it was a short visit:

We followed Kisioki into the hut’s central room and I was accosted by acrid smoke. Within seconds, I could barely see. I labored to breathe. I blinked repeatedly, trying to clear the smoke and sting from my eyes.


lemonade-stand-illegal-425ds072709Entrepreneurs – those people among us who seek to serve others through business – are an optimistic bunch. So says the 2014 Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report, published annually by Amway Corporation, the world’s largest direct sales company. It’s a good thing entrepreneurs are optimistic; they have a lot of work to do. According to Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel:

Entrepreneurs play an important role in growing economies. They create jobs, encourage competition and help communities grow and flourish. As the business environment has changed through the years, so have the reasons people decide to venture out on their own.”


Over at Christianity Today, HOPE International’s Chris Horst, whose article on a Christian manufacturer was recently highlighted at the PowerBlog, focuses on yet another Christian business, this time dealing in mattresses:

“This is one of the sleaziest industries in the world,” says business owner Ethan Rietema. “Customers are treated so poorly. Stores beat you up, trying to get as much money as they can, but they couldn’t care less if you get the right bed.”

Rietema and Steve Van Diest, both former campus ministers, are bringing rest—and integrity—back to a business largely devoid of it. Four years ago, a Christian entrepreneur invited the Colorado natives to begin deploying their relational abilities in strip malls rather than on college campuses. They now co-own three Urban Mattress stores in Denver and have franchised four more. And, they argue, their current work is just as important as their former ministry….

…”I don’t have to do mental gymnastics with the product I sell,” Van Diest says. “It’s not a frivolous item. It’s not an image-conscious product. People come here after being worn down by horrible sleep, replete with aches and pain. If we can provide them with a small glimpse of grace for a third of their lives, that’s kingdom work. That matters to God.”

Every entrepreneur begins by identifying a need. For Rietema and Van Diest, it was better customer service and consumer information. Urban Mattress has grown its business by directly countering a status-quo industry environment of price misinformation, offering “consistent and fair prices that promote transparency and honesty.” No faux “blowout sales,” no shady product labeling, no overly hasty, overly pushy customer interactions.