Over 120 individuals met in Houston, Texas, United States, last August for Fruition Lab 2017, the first conference of its kind to specifically engage emerging entrepreneurs with Christian principles. Its second annual conference, sponsored in part by Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi), brought together students, young professionals, pastors and seasoned business leaders from all over the world to progress in their pursuits, professionally and spiritually.
Based on the premise that Christians serve a God who can do the impossible, Adventist entrepreneurs met to network and empower each other in their endeavors. “There are no limits to what each Christian can accomplish for the kingdom, regardless of age or experience,” organizers said.
And as participants acknowledged, the Fruition Lab conference proved successful in all its aims—to educate, connect and inspire.
Sixteen Adventist entrepreneurs took the stage, from nonprofits to fintech startups. Each shared their stories of successes and trials, blending their testimonies with inspired practical guidance on how to begin and progress in business.
“Passion is being willing to do everything to accomplish anything,” Fruition Lab co-founder Jeff Tatarchuk told attendees the opening day.
Speakers such as the Florida Hospital Innovation Lab team encouraged the audience to pursue creativity and action, reminding them that “innovation is not a threat.”
Unlike typical entrepreneurship conferences, speakers also emphasized Christian values such as their dependency on God, generous giving and following God’s call.
Christian entrepreneurs are not self-managed; instead, their “boss is God,” said Denzil McNeilus, who works in the banking business.
Others shared their consistent dependence on God even when failures came. Hit hard by the Great Recession in 2008, Phil Boyer started Instant 2290 with fellow church musician John Gonzales, while still working his day job. Instant 2290 addressed issues with the United States’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 2290 that owners of heavy vehicles faced. Because they strive to be a business that displays Christ, they provide the best service possible, beating competitors in the same space.
Entrepreneurship can be a difficult path, evidenced by 30 per cent of entrepreneurs reporting to have depression, doubling the rate of non-entrepreneurs.* Fruition Lab is like the promised 7,000 to Elijah: a community of believers that encourage and support each other. “Surround yourself with community,” said Faith Davis of DAF Technologies, tying her success back to the positive influences within her life.
“I was inspired to see entrepreneurs from curious stages like me to seasoned entrepreneurs speaking and sharing their stories”
Ruben Harris, of Breaking Into Startups, also reminds us that “every online action should lead to an offline interaction.” Despite being a popular blogger and podcast host, Harris stressed the need for mentorship and interpersonal relationships to accomplish the impossible, such as choosing Christ and being a successful entrepreneur.
Gary Rayner, of Interpreta, a company that updates, interprets, and synchronizes clinical and genomics data, ties his success to godly people such as his wife, who believed a high school dropout could accomplish more, such as build multiple successful companies and obtain several master’s degrees. "You’re never a success alone,” he reminds the audience.
Fruition Lab 2017 brought together emerging entrepreneurs with other new startups and experienced veterans, creating meaningful, healthy connections through conference-hosted networking sessions, one-on-one speaker lunches and even morning workouts.
Speakers inspired the audience by describing their faith in action, from how they operate their businesses to why they started.
“What is driving me and who am I doing this for?” questioned Sarah McDugal, author of the book One Face and brand strategist. McDugal discussed the highlights and struggles with her own business pursuits, and how knowing her “why” keeps her moving forward.
“Jesus’ love is gifted—unearned, regardless of their phase of personal development,” she said. “Successful businesses are guided by principles and values based on that same love.”
Another speaker, Justin Khoe, said his journey began with a simple prayer to God, “Use me how you want.” The young Bible worker now shares his faith “in the first person” to over 30,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel That Christian Vlogger, tackling the questions about Christian life with Bible truths.
“I was inspired to see entrepreneurs from curious stages like me to seasoned entrepreneurs speaking and sharing their stories,” said Southwestern Adventist University student Kyle Dellosa. “They are really no different,” he continues. “They just have experience. That is something that I hope to bring with me for years to come.”
Ten attendees participated in the pitch competition where they each had three minutes to share their business and funding requests before a panel of judges including entrepreneurs Henaa Blanco, of Satellite Phone Store, Charles Bracken, of Getix Health Holdings, and Ruben Dias, of FastTrack VC.
Various types of businesses were presented such as Clarence Tan with Coda Quest, an engaging educational game; Kyle Emile, of Free Intelligent Conversation, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating conversations with strangers, and Deborah Bough, a rising Swiss singer and songwriter which pivoted from singing secular pop to inspiring Christian music.
“Passion is being willing to do everything to accomplish anything”
“Ask and you shall receive,” became a reality for Jeremy Dixon,who pitched for two million dollars to help Frooze Balls, his New Zealand-based snack company, to enter the US market. Besides winning the pitch competition, he also won three eager investors willing to fully fund the endeavor.
Now, Fruition Lab is taking these ideas to the next level. In development is Launch Pad, a new platform which enables aspiring entrepreneurs to take their great ideas from concept to launch. Many have dreams that God has placed on their heart. A vegan food truck? A nonprofit for homeless services? An app that can change how people communicate? Fruition Lab’s Launch Pad will help Christian dreamers succeed in their calling and purpose.
The original version of this story was drafted by Junie Joseph, founder of Blessedto.com, an online Christian apparel, accessories, and gift store.
* Michael A. Freeman, M.D., Sheri Johnson, Ph.D. and Paige Staudenmaier. “Are Entrepreneurs Touched with Fire?” http://www.michaelafreemanmd.com/Research.html