Lessons from the Ground- Be Nimble

Last fall, we launched Jubilee Ventures in South Bend, IN. The hope was that our work on the ground would inform the way we direct the future of CovEnterprises, and vice versa. We wanted to create learning loops that allow us to not only champion best practices across the denomination but to apply innovative concepts and approaches on the ground.

All that sounds very exciting, but I’m learning that no matter how refined your concept, the work is always harder because it deals in real life (part of the reason we wanted to launch this anyway, to resist trafficking in ideas!). 

As we have launched this project, aimed at creating tangible pathways for business ownership in our community, I have constantly been reminded of just how important it is to be nimble. In a previous social enterprise experience, we had, what we thought, was a brilliant idea, but jumped into some financial obligations that saddled us with a lot of overhead early on. That meant that we were locked in, not just to a place, but to a concept and the project faltered because of it. This time around as we build out our initial business, we are doing everything we can to make sure that our financial obligations are necessary and meet a direct opportunity for developing income streams to match (and exceed those obligations). There is a certain amount of risk in any venture, but there is a difference between that risk and unnecessary overhead. 

Being nimble has afforded us opportunities to consider things we didn’t anticipate early on. We’ve been able to partner with local entrepreneurs and help find creative ways of supporting their business ventures (an expression of our mission, even if it lays outside of ‘what we are working on’). We’ve also been able to free funds to help folks ‘pay’ for our services who weren’t able to afford it. This means that we have an opportunity to invite those who have material resources to help support our work in a new way, and in so doing, the impact is multiplied. 

Being nimble allows us to fill a niche in our market that is essentially empty. While we work to refine our process, we are finding a large pool of work (income stream) that we didn’t exactly anticipate because we didn’t get too big too quickly.

Our encouragement to you is to consider similar dynamics as you launch, how can you stay nimble so that you can respond to the changes you will inevitably encounter?

What about you? What lessons are you learning along the way that might help others in the economic development world be more effective both in business and in impact?

About Adam Gustine

Adam Gustine leads CovEnterprises for Love Mercy Do Justice and the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is also the founder of Jubilee Ventures; an economic incubator in South Bend, IN. He and his wife, Ann, live in South Bend with their three kids.

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