Faithful business: a complementary tension

By Jodi H. Beyeler

"Sometimes Christians who engage in business have wondered whether they are accepted as 'full-fledged' members of the church. The idea that business is dirty has a long history. I have written this book in the confidence that Christian entrepreneurs can 'please God' and can function as an integral part of the body of Christ."
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Generations thrive on legacy of entrepreneurism

By Rachel Lapp

Seeds of entrepreneurship planted in 1911 when Jonathan Stoltzfus bought a 60-acre farm east of Lancaster, Pa., have yielded three thriving generations of entrepreneurs: farmers, businesspeople, a conflict mediator and a multimedia specialist among them.
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A mission made possible

By Rachel Lapp

Have you ever received a sense of God's calling so strong that you changed your life to follow it? Kevin ('84) and Patty Yoder Beck ('87) did.
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Powerful ideas and personal commitment - with that 'value added' difference

By Rachel Lapp

For the past couple of years, I've subscribed to Fast Company's e-mail newsletter. I was amused several years ago by a marketing stunt in New York City that involved clothing models walking sheep on city streets to advertise sweaters. 
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The Spirit of Business

March 2004

Generations thrive on legacy of entrepreneurism

By Rachel Lapp

Seeds of entrepreneurship planted in 1911 when Jonathan Stoltzfus bought a 60-acre farm east of Lancaster, Pa., have yielded three thriving generations of entrepreneurs: farmers, businesspeople, a conflict mediator and a multimedia specialist among them. Two of these family members are Jim Smucker '84, representing the third generation, who manages Bird-in-Hand Corp., in Lancaster County with his brother John, and their nephew Eric Kanagy '03, founder of Everblue Media in Goshen, representing the fourth generation of entrepreneurs. While their businesses are quite different in founding, focus, size and services provided, both Jim and Eric say they are continuing a family legacy of entrepreneurism.

Creating a place 'where people still care'

johnjim "I think entrepreneurism was in dad's blood," said Jim Smucker.

Smucker's grandfather, who worked more land in addition to the family farmstead, died when Jim's dad, Paul, was only 17. Paul Smucker took on more responsibilities, and also watched growing interest in Lancaster County as a tourist area.

"Dad looked at where Lancaster County was heading, and saw what wasn't there in terms of a product," said Jim. "He was ahead of the curve. What he did was real entrepreneurism - he took the real risk."

In 1968, Paul Smucker took out a mortgage and took a chance: he built a motel on one of the farms, and then a restaurant. As his business and his family grew, Paul Smucker nurtured the entrepreneurial spirit in his children in small ways, allowing them farm acreage to use and reap benefits from their work. He also set an example for his family as to how businesses can operate within the framework of one's personal values - from the family-friendly atmosphere that the Bird-in-Hand businesses helped set for the community to the respectful intentions for tourism in Lancaster County.

In his late 50s, Paul began making transition plans to prepare to turn over the management of Bird-in-Hand Corp. to his sons. "My father is an excellent example of how to make a transition from one generation of leadership to the next. When we were young and green, he let us make decisions with his money. He was concerned on some occasions about decisions we made - and sometimes we did okay and sometimes we didn't," said Jim. "He was encouraging us to continue the entrepreneurial tradition, as opposed to maintaining control of what the next generation was doing, so that as the 'next generation' we learned about risk-taking and weren't denied the opportunity to try and fail and learn. In allowing us to take risks, he helped us to be creative, and also learn to work together."

Learning to know one another's gifts has been vital to the success of Jim and John Smucker in leading the company in its "third generation" growth. "John and I have a very good relationship, and [we complement one another in our different areas of significant training," said Smucker, who earned a doctorate in management from Walden University; John is a lawyer. "We give each other space and relate to one another out of our strengths. Employees can tell we enjoy working together. All of that sets a tone for the entire company. We're having a lot of fun - it's not just about making the dollar. It's the challenge of working with really good people and succeeding in different ventures that gets me up in the morning." While one of the Smucker family farms is still dedicated to crops, visitors to the heart of Pennsylvania-Dutch country will find that they are the center of service at Bird-In-Hand Family Inn, Restaurant and Bakery; and Bird-in-Hand Bakery at Greenfield; Leola (Pa.) Family Restaurant; and other motels and inns in the area, including Amish Country Motel, Mill Stream Country Inn, Travelers Rest Motel, Bird-in-Hand Village Inn and Suites, AmishView Inn and Suites and Country Acres Campground.

"We want visitors to come here and feel as if they are welcomed and rejuvenated. Visitors want an experience that is real - different from Williamsburg or Disney. And that's what they get here," said Smucker. "Our guests also say they notice a difference in the people and the attitudes - honesty is valued here, and people still care, and visitors receive that from our staff members who work very hard."

He and his brother are committed to their business as an extension of the church - not in proselytizing, Smucker said, but in providing "successful guest experiences" as well as opportunities for individual growth and development for their 500 employees.

"In our industry, there is generally a turnover rate of more than 100 percent; this past year, ours was 28 percent. There is a perception about these jobs being 'low end,' but we don't see it that way. As we identify talents, we try to provide a nurturing environment for employees so they develop abilities they didn't know they had. It is fun and rewarding to see the growth that takes place here. For example, a fellow we hired as a dishwasher 15 years ago is now managing a large restaurant."

Smucker said he feels fortunate to live in a community that seems to support entrepreneurs within the Mennonite and Amish communities. He also feels support from his church for businesspeople - which is not always the experience of fellow businesspeople, Smucker said. "I know some people in business who have been asked, 'Why aren't you really serving God?' For us, a missional aspect comes into our work: this is how we feel called to use our gifts, so we are being missional Monday through Friday," he continued. "We see that example in MEDA, too."

The Smucker family has had a legacy of service beyond business hours as well. Paul and Elma Smucker have worked with Habitat for Humanity for the past 18 winters, and their children and grandchildren have helped with the service project as well. "Mom and dad have perpetuated the idea of serving others in many ways," Jim Smucker said.

The Smuckers are excited about a future project that continues the "no boundaries" idea of combining Christian faith-inspired mission and business - partnering with a local Mennonite organization to develop an Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage center.

"As we promote this idea in the community, people are at first a little suspicious of our motivation because of this business-faith combination," said Smucker. "But as they get to know us and develop a shared vision, they start to see the value of the strengths businesspeople bring to ventures that stem from faith interests. There are organizational concepts that transcend business, church, education or nonprofit institutions - so for business and church to partner together brings potential for utilizing the strengths of both."

New graduates form new media company

mar04kanagy Many college students write a business plan as an academic exercise for a grade. But when Eric Kanagy '03 created a model for a video production company as an assignment in Entrepreneurship class at GC, he and fellow student Mindy (Holsopple) Schlegel '02 put the plan to the test in the real world. Now two years later, their business, the Goshen-based Everblue Media, has supervised several student interns and a permanent employee, made a strategic business partnership with a multimedia firm and completed video projects for a range of clients.

Said Kanagy, "Entrepreneurship runs in my family. My mother ran a conflict-mediation business and with my uncles running Bird-in-Hand Corp. that my grandfather started, I've seen both the positives and negatives of owning your own company," he said. "Part of being an entrepreneur is about risk-taking, and there are certain personalities suited for that. I thought at some point in my life I'd start a company. I just didn't know it would be right after college."

Schlegel, a double-major in communication and Bible and religion, came to think about owning a business later in college, particularly after significant hands-on experience in production - often in partnership with Kanagy. She "truly felt Everblue could succeed" after a summer internship experience (working on a project for the National Geographic Channel) with the International Radio and Television Society Foundation fellowship program in New York City that confirmed their skills.

"I realized we knew what we were doing," she said. "And I also realized I didn't want to work in a cut-throat environment where deals and money are the goals. Eric and I have different but complementary skills, and similar values ¨ and there's no one I'd rather work with."

Kanagy, who has held internships on both U.S. coasts, said he likes the "way people in the Midwest treat each other" and is pleased to start the business in northern Indiana. Kanagy and Schlegel recognized that Elkhart County's high concentration of entrepreneurs in various sectors provided fertile ground in which to plant a business. They also found that their mentors at GC were ready to help them; in fact, the college became a small business incubator for Everblue by renting out video equipment as well as short-term office space.

"There was energy in having relationships with the college's Information Technology Services (ITS) Media Office, where people like Paul Housholder are always looking at new technology to serve the campus. In our experiences working closely with them, we learned how we could translate that into working with clients," said Kanagy. "Part of the reason we could start was because of the resources and support we received from Goshen College. We were able to build up capital and clients."

Schlegel said she has also felt support from people from her church and others in the community. "There are a lot of people who have been where we have been. Even in my Sunday school class, when I share about our struggles, there are people who can relate to the challenges we are facing. People have told us, 'In owning a business, your highs will be higher and your lows will be lower than you ever imagined,'" she said. "We have benefited from hearing about the experiences of others. We asked people who have 'been there, done that.' Then we have gone about making Everblue what we envision a good business to be."

Part of that vision includes articulating how they want to work with clients. Said Kanagy, "We bring our values and ethics to every relationship, and that comes through. Clients value that. In the long run, we know we are operating in a way that reflects us as individuals."

Schlegel said the past two years since graduation have been busy ones. "Starting your own business is a risk, and you have to be passionate about what you're doing and have the motivation to do it," she said. "Through experience, we have learned so much about client relations, selling our services, learning our niche and defining who our clients are: we know we are best suited to work with small- to medium-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations."

All of this learning - while also having to earn a living - leads to significant responsibility. "College graduates who start jobs with established companies learn about expectations for their position as well as about the business environment and policies in that place. When you own your own business, you are responsible to yourself and to your partner - and now, for us, one employee. There is no one 'above us' to report to or rely on: it's all up to us. There is freedom and flexibility, though, to being able to create structures and processes that make sense for us - then evaluate and recreate. It's a constant process of evolving."

When Kanagy and Schlegel hired their first employee, for example, they had to think about yet another element of operations. They have also learned to be more efficient in many areas of the business, including putting together a video from start to finish, Schlegel said.

"We still realize that we can never know enough about what we have to do, and we don't know what will come next week," Kanagy said. "But we also know we can really help our clients. There are a lot of new technologies and different options out there for communicating with customers, and it can be hard to understand. We try to work with clients to help them discern how they can deliver their messages according to their goals. Video is a really powerful tool to integrate into their marketing, and it will continue to be. We help clients think about what they need now, and what will be useful to them in the future."
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