Growing up with a family business and the leadership example of my father, I was fortunate to gain business exposure and experience during most of my life. I had many opportunities to test and implement business models and product concepts. Through my successes and failures I gained a deep appreciation for the value of people and sustainable business excellence.
During my 26 years in the family business I was blessed with the benefits of success; though in year 22 I became disillusioned with what “success” meant, and increasingly felt pulled to seek a life of greater significance. I was 44 years old and felt emptiness, a void that success couldn’t fill. I had bought into the belief that business success contributed to happiness, but it wasn’t working.
It was then that I re-surrendered my life to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and began to see the world and my purpose in it differently. As my faith developed I began to get more involved in church and outreach activities. I worked with a variety of organizations for the homeless, and I did a mission trip with my daughters in Mexico. Each experience penetrated my heart and increased my desire to help those living in a hurting world.
The Mexico trip rocked my soul. I came home to my affluent surroundings of luxury autos, large custom homes and well manicured lawns (mine included) and literally felt sick to my stomach. My paradigm had shifted and I had new eyes. Before the “Mexico effect” I held the belief that people in less developed countries had the circumstances they did because of their poor choices, irresponsibility and bad governments. If they really wanted to change things, they could and there was nothing I could do about it.
My restlessness led me to seek more answers. I attended a Bob Buford “Halftime” event in Dallas, which produced a strategic life plan. A plan that focused on building a legacy of significance that centered on touching lives in sustainable ways. Helping “the least of these” who were willing, ready and able, but lacked the resources, support and opportunity.
During the next three years I built an outreach program at my company that included a giving strategy, core values, and mission. Much was accomplished to help those in need, but I witnessed something even more valuable. The company was receiving open heart surgery. The employees had their own “Mexico effect”. Their hearts, like mine, turned to a greater interest in others. As a result, the business culture and performance was enriched. That same year the company had record sales and profits, but my brother (co-owner) and I had a parting of ways and I had to leave the business.
In the fall of 2010 I went to Ethiopia and Kenya with 11 other businessmen to meet with pastors, business leaders and see the results of micro-finance. I witnessed the poorest of poor in the most inhumane circumstances developing small businesses with a high level of work ethic and attention to detail. They had a peaceful and a loving spirit that seemed so out of place considering their hopeless circumstances. Though they had the skills to make great products, they lacked access to a sustainable marketplace. In addition, corruption is widespread.
While walking through the Kibera slums of Nairobi, a vision came to me: What if a one to one relationship could be created between the fortunate few and the marginalized many in the poorest regions of the world through the purchase of high-quality, handmade, market-relevant fashion supporting dignified jobs for poorest on the planet? And what if each “crafter” was paid enough to take control of their lives and provide essential family needs (shelter, food, clean water, clothing, and medical)?. A relationship providing tangible, sustainable life change, and a chance to break the cycle of poverty and slavery. Not a hand-out, but an investment in the well being of others who don’t have the same opportunities we enjoy in the U.S.
After my return from Africa I couldn’t shake the hunger to develop a business model to help the hurting. As I shared my vision with friends it became increasing clear that I was to move forward to engage the fortunate few in helping the marginalized many. Welcome to CAUSEGEAR, For Human Justice!