GROWING A BUSINESS GOD'S WAY
This story about The Urban Homemaker originally was written for EducatingforSuccess.com.
About 15 years ago, my husband was growing more dissatisfied with his job, but it wasn't really the job, he realized that God was calling him to be a different kind of father, a father who spent more time at home. Although he had often considered a mail order business, neither he nor I had any idea what we would sell or how a home business would supply sufficient income to enable him to quit a full-time job. Over the years, many father's have found themselves in the position of God having turned their hearts towards their children and their children's hearts towards their father, and many wives have agreed and wanted to get a home based business going so Dad could come home. But how do we do it? Can we trust God to provide for our needs?
This process doesn't happen overnight usually , nor does it happen by an act of our will, or by getting just the right product, just the right website, just the right education, or just the right combination of anything. This is a work of the Lord that he works out in our hearts and through our daily lives over time.
When we decided to be self-employed we did a lot of research into what it means to be self-employed. During the "doing our homework" process an acquaintance told my husband that he believed that "God was having more Christians go into business for themselves in order to get their attention." If you pay attention to the leading of the Lord, I believe a business will eventually be born and thrive sufficiently to support your family as you walk daily in faith that He is able to supply the needs of your family and show you the way in which to go. But He is also wanting to get our attention in order to purify us. Just as Job was brought to the end of himself, so too, God can more easily deal with us in that way in a business because although we in reality are no more or less secure, it is easy to feel less secure.
Let me tell you how God has led our family over the last 15 years. Duane's first attempt at business as a horticultural consultant flopped completely after about six months when the work abruptly stopped coming in. Not having any savings or deep pockets, this was a very difficult time for our family as we literally waited on God daily for our food and enough money to keep our house payments current. During this time, I learned by necessity a lot about canning, preserving and baking, so I continued to teach occasional baking classes in the local park and recreation district as Duane sought out full-time work. Months went by, no steadywork came, our finances and our existence were less than bare bones, but we did not incur debt either and our needs were always met.
One day I got a call from the large city newspaper about featuring me and one of my classes in an upcoming feature on Easter Breads for the Food Section. Wow! My classes filled up and I even added a few classes to the schedule. People wanted to buy some of the supplies and equipment I was using. I started a "newsletter" and a mailing list, keep in mind this was before the days of internet marketing. Enough orders came in to cover the expenses with a little left over to buy a bit of inventory to keep on hand. We wondered, should we keep on doing this business as we were just covering expenses. As we prayed, "Lord should be continue?", a phone call came in asking if I would do a class for a homeschool support group. We took this to mean, keep on keeping on.
A few more months went by, we were now living nearly one whole year without regular employment, just odd jobs and the grace of God. Then one day, the mail came with five copies of a Christian woman's magazine I had subscribed to. Printed inside the magazine was most of the information I handed out in my baking classes with my name and address as well as a letter accompaning the magazines requesting that I consider becoming a regular columnist. Another open door, but what would I write about? Yikes, I don't even like to write! Again, we walked through the open door to see what God would do.
The next month I received 100 letters from magazine subscribers interested in my "catalog" or having bread baking questions. At that time I had a one page "price list" of 10-15 items. I answered each letter personally and sold a little bit of product. I wrote articles for the magazine month by month, got more letters and occasional orders. Finally we decided to make a "catalog", a one page tri-fold brochure, and mail it to everyone who had written to me. I mailed this brochure with a newsletter to my little mailing list and got more orders. Enough orders came in and I decided to do another catalog - five pages now - and get a table at the homeschool conference.
My little avocation/hobby was turning into a business that made enough money that I could actually save some money each month.
After about two years of producing occasional catalog mailings we were faced with the decision of whether Dad should come home full-time to help me or if I should manage the business on my own and hire help. Eventually we made the step of faith for Dad to come home. Now we had to adjust to Dad taking over "my work" to do the work "his way".
God had our constant attention, as shortly after the decision for Dad to come home was made, one of our main suppliers started giving us grief and refused to sell to us anymore. The magazine I wrote for, our only advertising avenue and source of prospective customers, stopped publishing. It looked like the business was now done for. I wondered, "Why did I ever go into business in the first time?"
Nearly 10 years have passed since I thought we were out of business. We experienced huge business expansion and prosperity during the Y2K craze, of 1998-1999 followed by years of flat business. But we are still in business.
Duane has always wanted to have a family business to get the children involved in from the beginning. When they were younger, we used to pre-sort the catalogs and prepare the mailings around a table set up in our family room for what seemed like weeks at a time.
When the children got older, Laura, our oldest daughter, started answering the phones to take orders and answer questions at age 13. When business boomed and we couldn't get enough help, she did the shipping. She learned how to determine the best way to ship a package, whether via UPS or USPS. She learned how to maintain and order the box inventory and as well as maintain postage in the postage meter. She learned how to inventory product so we could keep the inventory replenished. She has learned to use her time wisely, set priorities, complete schoolwork and work for us at the same time. She has learned the daily discipline of working and maintaining priorities. Since she has always been paid for her work, she built up a substantial savings account over time which has paid for pursuing many of her outside interests including phototgraphy and Bible school.
My son, Stephen, at age 8 started out running packages up and down stairs (we did our packaging in the basement), and putting away incoming inventory. Later he learned to "pull orders" from inventory prior to their being boxed. Now he has learned how to handle all of the shipping. He has attended Ebay U and wants to sell some stuff. He wants to learn how to invest money wisely and get a return. We want him to master Cashflow 101. Mary, age 9, prepares outgoing catalog mailings weekly and does all the house cleaning and lunch dishes, enabling me to attend to my responsibilities in the business. In fact, she wants to eventually have her own cleaning business.
While our family and children have learned many job skills over the years, we have also learned that working with family members involves more than give and take. Resentments can build up when communication is not open. Asking for and giving forgiveness may be hard. Submission to authority teaches us to submit to our Lord. Envy and jealousy, and all kinds of fears associated with owning your own business can get in the way of doing what God has tasked us to do. Keeping on keeping on can get tedious.
We learn to "count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds" and that "In repentance and rest is our salvation, in quietness and trust in our strength" when business is flat. We have learned that "God will fulfill, his purpose, for me;..". (Ps 138:8) We learn to apply Romans 8:37 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, and that nothing else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." We learn to apply all kinds of scriptures daily as the needs arise and that if we trust in the Lord with all our heart he will direct our paths.
When Christians go into business God gets our attention. He works it all out in His time, as we are faithful to do what he calls us to do. The Urban Homemaker, our family business, has spent the better part of a year re-doing our website with outside professional help at considerable investment in time and money on our part. We are committed to teaching "old fashioned skills to contemporary people" and we offer bread baking equipment, products for better health, and related books in the Spirit of Titus Two. We send out a semi-monthly e-newsletter committed to offering information of interest to homemakers, book reviews, family favorite healthy recipes, and occasional product specials. We remain committed to teaching old-fashioned skills to contemporary people so that they may fulfill the Titus Two mandate.
We hope that you will visit us on the web at www.urbanhomemaker.com visit , request our catalog, sign up for our e-newsletter and let us know what you like and don't like about our new website. We are here to serve you and learn with you as we seek His kingdom until the Lord returns.