A growing number of entrepreneurs are merging their pursuit of profits with a higher calling.
That’s the idea behind a “biznistry,” an idea the combines a business designed to sustain the salary of its employees with the philanthropic idea of pouring a portion of profits into faith-based works.
It’s a term Chuck Proudfit said he coined 13 years ago as he founded At Work on Purpose, a non-profit network he said is designed to help working Christians interested in learning how to be the church at work.
Now the nation’s largest, citywide marketplace ministry, AWOP has more than 8,000 members in Greater Cincinnati and the Miami Valley and is dedicated “to equip everyday Christians to find and fulfill God’s purposes at work,” he said.
When he launched, AWOP, Proudfit didn’t want to do what most businesses do, which is to launch a fundraising effort to start it, he said.
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“Instead I decided to take the profit dollars from my consulting firm, SkillSource, and use the profits to fund the budget for At Work on Purpose,” Proudfit said. “I was joking with the team that I had put together to launch the ministry, and I said ‘the business will fund the ministry and we’ll call it a biznistry,’ and we all started to laugh.”
Despite the humorous label, the name caught on, with people turning existing business into biznistry but also creating businesses from scratch to do the same.
Whole projects began to spring up, he said, including large-scale operations, such as Grace Chapel Biznistry Campus in Mason, on which a SkillSource office, as well separate biznistry efforts, including a gym, hairstyling salon, landscaping company, indoor sports complex and a large archery ministry.
“This is a church that has worship services on Sunday but most of the people in this area don’t know it for the church services … they know it for all the other stuff,” he said.
A biznistry not only create jobs, which is a ministry in and of itself, he said, but also creates profit dollars to use toward everything from funding local places of worship and networks designed to help biznistry growth, to funding mission trips to other countries.
With a biznistry, “everyone has skin in the game,” he said. SkillSource, for example, provides Proudfit’s salary, as well as the salaries of five employees.
“When I generate profit, instead of paying myself a big, fat bonus, I can literally give it away and invest it in ministry work,” he said. A typical business doesn’t do that. The typical business says, ‘Hey, we had a great profit this year, everybody gets a great big bonus.’ In our case, we take the profits that are left and say, ‘How can we pour them into that food pantry over there?’”
“I’d love to give myself a great big windfall bonus, but I know that that’s not where God has me, so I’m not going to do that. I like to call it swapping, to sacrifice with a purpose, to give up something you may want for something else somebody else really needs. That is the heart of the biznistry.”
The Grace Chapel Biznistry Campus features a biznistry development center called ORCA, a term associated with killer whales.
“People talk about … if you’re in the marketplace, you have to swim with the sharks, but the one animal the sharks are afraid of is the orca because the orcas go after the sharks,” he said. “So what we’re trying to say is, if we have to swim as a biznistry in shark-infested waters, we want to be orcas.”
To do so requires viewing one’s own monetary success as not their own profits, but God’s, Proudfit said.
He wants us to serve people who are under-resourced, who are disadvantaged … who need a hand up,” he said.
Robert Adamson, a chef for three decades, owns and runs Miamisburg-based One Bistro, which stands for “Our Neighbors Eat.” Since 2012, it has asked patrons to buy a $6 to $9 meal for themselves and, if possible, pay a little more to offset the cost of a meal for a future patron without the money to dine out.
The person who gets to enjoy the free meal is then encouraged to serve as a volunteer for an hour at the restaurant.
“God really changed my heart,” Adamson said. “Not only my way of thinking, but what I had been called to do. There’s a lot of things that made me realize that it wasn’t about me, that God had a bigger plan for my life, and just the idea of how many people were living with food insecurity.”
Adamson, who is opening a Xenia location of One Bistro “any day,” said he is working toward establishing a Middletown location, first as a food truck on April 1 for six months and then a permanent site thereafter.
“The needs are great, with the heroin problem and food insecurity and poverty,” he said. “I think it’s essential that we’re in Middletown.”
In 2006, Will Housh started Monroe biznistry HVAC.com as an online marketplace for consumers and contractors to purchase heating and air conditioning products and for consumers to hire HVAC contractors to install new systems.
Housh, who was already operating a local family local heating and air conditioning business he acquired from his father in 2008, sold the contracting business in 2012 to focus all his attention on HVAC.com starting in 2013.
The biznistry generates not just a salary for Housh and his employees, but ministry money to be used for mission work.
“We’re transforming the way heating and air conditioning services are bought and at the same time we’re transforming the lives of orphans and widows around the world,” he said. “Our business exists to serve those customers and to grow a great business so that we can support … Back2Back Ministries, an international orphan ministry that’s based here in Mason but is doing some great work all over the world.”
HVAC.com sends its own employees on company-sponsored, all-expense-paid mission trips to Haiti or Mexico in partnership with Back2Back.
“They get an extra week of paid vacation … because we want to channel that portion of our business success into serving others,” Housh said.
The biznistry also makes financial contributions to other efforts outside of Back to Back, he said.
Those efforts go along with the company’s mission statement of transforming the lives of orphans and widows around the world.
“Our culture just really revolves around that, that we want to build a great business and help as many kids as possible,” Housh said. “We have some pretty lofty goals for the business, but a lot of that motivation really does comes from the good that we can do from that platform.”