Christian-Themed Summit Gives Hands-On, Practical Tools For Starting Or Growing A Business

By Debbie Kelley The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The "Charis Business Summit" is a unique conference in that incorporates Christian principles into help budding entrepreneurs. The event helps them develop successful business models and growth strategies for their companies.

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Mark and Jenifer Felan say they've been able to build a business versus build another job for themselves by opening Organic Sweat Shack last year near Los Angeles.

Unlike many fledgling owners, the couple won't be concerned about how their infrared heat therapy boutique will fare while they're attending next week's Charis Business Summit.

"We could leave for two weeks and not worry -- it's set up to operate smoothly without us being physically there, which a lot of small businesses struggle with," Jenifer Felan said.

She credits their startup acumen to the knowledge gained from attending past summits.

"Not only do they teach you the spiritual principles, they give you hands-on practical applications," Felan said.

Colorado Springs-based Andrew Wommack Ministries started the annual business summit in 2015 on the campus of its Charis Bible College in Woodland Park.

The reason wasn't because anyone in the organization needed more to do, said Karen Conrad, a former banking executive and marketing director for Andrew Wommack Ministries.

"We were seeing a lot of teaching and training that was inspirational -- you get excited, you get inspired -- but you get back to work and you don't even know where to start," she said. "We wanted to give traction, templates and tools so you can immediately apply what you learned."

This year's event runs Wednesday through Friday, with the theme, "Ignite Your Vision." General sessions and workshops on developing a successful business model, innovation growth strategies, leveraging a marketing plan to produce results and other topics will be offered.

Among the speakers are Billy Epperhart, who has started seven businesses and owned two different franchises, Paul Milligan, director of the business school at Charis Bible College, and Conrad, who will talk about bringing a vision to reality and effective marketing.

The cost is $199 for the three days, which includes meals. Registration is at www.CharisSummit.org.

The information is useful for anyone, Conrad said, Christians and non-Christians ranging from entrepreneurs to veterans who feel they're tapped out on their potential or want to take their business to the next level.

"The business model canvas works for startups and mature businesses," she said, and can be tailored to fit various sizes of workforces. "People who attend will get things from this no matter where their business is at."

Christian principles are woven throughout, such as having a clear vision for the company, which has roots in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk 2:2.

"So we tie that in: let me help you develop and define your vision, or is it still valid, where you want to go," Conrad said. "The speakers all own businesses outside the ministry -- what's unique is we're able to take solid business principles and combine them with the word of God in a practical way."

Based on participants' feedback, adjustments have been made, Conrad said. For example, this year's attendees will receive workbooks they can use during the sessions.

She expects up to 500 attendees, from retail, service and manufacturing industries, as well as Christian ministries.

The Felans debuted their cutting-edge sauna in 2016 in California and have been so successful that they paid a fair amount of taxes for their first year of operation, Jenifer Felan said.

That in itself is unusual; startups normally don't realize a profit for several years.

But they were ready.

"We didn't open until we were already applying a lot of the principles," Felan said.

One important takeaway she learned was to be focused and have a purpose in mind.

"Staying true to the Christian principles has absolutely made a difference," she said. "When you're running a business for God, the stress is less. When you're doing it for yourself, it pretty much gobbles you up."

The Organic Sweat Shack has grown to 60 clients a day and is on its way to franchising.

"We took them through the processes and the template to help them define and refine and make it scalable," Conrad said.

Another summit participant, Jay Garvens of Colorado Springs, estimates that over the 16 years he's owned mortgage and real estate companies, he's attended some 30 business conferences.

He describes the Charis conference as "world-class" level.

"There are genuine people there to give knowledge and materials," Garvens said. "I've found mentors you can sit down with face-to-face."

In the cutthroat world of business, Garvens, a former Army medical helicopter pilot, said it's been helpful for him to have the guidance of biblical values.

"For me, the Christian principles have been a very strong compass," he said. "I am not a person that's filled with integrity and passive behavior by nature, but I've been mentored to know that you're going to beat yourself up if you don't always take the higher road. It's never the wrong time to do the right thing, regardless of the situation."

Garvens said he has adopted the attitude of a "selfless leader," meaning "I take care of those around me before me." And, "if a client jabs me, I turn the other cheek and get a blessing elsewhere."

He plans to attend next week's summit to learn about business structure and marketing expansion, as his mortgage company recently was acquired by a larger company owned by Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey.

"It's business evangelical behavior, in which you let your actions speak louder than your words," he said.

"Marketplace ministry" is a developing trend in business, said Barry Hultgren, owner of Red Letter Publishing, which produces 21 Christian business and resource directories, including one for Colorado Springs.

"Many people have said the real evangelism in this country is going to come through marketplace evangelism," he said. "Business people are out in the world, on the front line, where the church tends to be the safe harbor in the sanctuary. We have businesses willing to hold that flag up -- yes, I am a believer and I expect to be held accountable in what I do. I represent God in how I handle business."

Hultgren said his directories list companies that share the common belief.

"This is not a publication that is indicating these businesses are necessarily any better than the rest of the community," he said. "They hold a Christian value system, and we like to support one another, which in turn ends up with more tithing for the church and helps build the Christian community."

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