By Pat Sabiston
The COVID-19 pandemic has created both public health and an economic crisis in the US that has disrupted lives and created a global economic slowdown (Brookings report).
And yet, Colossians 3:23 is clear —“Whatever you do, work heart
ily as for the Lord and not for men.” To which Rev. David Jeremiah added, “We should stop worrying about what we can’t do, and start doing what we can do.” And that’s how this article begins—with three Christian families doing just that!
Janice and Steve Milesic, owners of two Mattress Markets in Vero Beach, were very candid about their response to the government instructions.
“Initially, when they issued the order to close in March, we closed down, and it was tough,” Steve said. “My wife and I complied with the shutdown order, but on our website, we offered sales ‘by appointment only,’ meeting customers one at a time, following health protocols for safety.”
But the Milesics received mixed messages in that some of their competitors were able to open and were providing services. Yet, government officials told them they were not essential and could not open. Once the couple explained they provided beds to nursing homes, they were deemed “essential,” but only for limited hours.
“During March and April, we lost a lot of volume, but I had faith in the Lord. I wasn’t fearful or afraid, but had calm due to my faith walk,” Steve said. “Even though we were facing this economic crisis, we’d just come off a difficult season in our marriage, yet I had such peace. Even though lenders weren’t lending and every industry was affected, I kept telling our family, ‘We must trust God. He brought us to this point; I’m sure He will carry us through.’”
By Divine Providence through the Paycheck Protection Program, Steve was able to pay his staff. In May, his business suddenly rebounded, perhaps due, in part, to pent-up demand after people received stimulus checks.
“With further assistance from an SBA loan, we were able to grow and expand,” Steve said. “Several of our competitors had to shut down, so we thank God for His provision, in that we now own a second store.”
Rodney Brown, Taking Ground Lawn & Landscape, Inc. partner shares that his business was born in a prayer room.
“I was driving a tow truck and my friend, Joel Bray, was a mechanic,” Rod-ney explained. “He and I were in prayer about what we were to do, and he had a dream. That dream actually coincided with what God was speaking to me! So, I quit my job early in the pandemic, telling God I was going to trust Him because I knew I was hearing God’s voice.”
Everyone around Rodney told him he was out of his mind, but both men felt the Lord’s hand on their business from the very beginning.
“I had just quit my job and was on my way to get our business license. From there, I went straight to work on jobs that God provided,” Rodney said. “Soon after, my partner, Joel, also stepped out in faith by quitting his job, and now we have nine employees!” Along with their wives who handle secretarial duties in the business, the principals begin each day with devotions and prayer. All have a work ethic that dictates they will never overwork to where they can’t minister.
“God is the third partner in our business,” Rodney said. “We try to be a blessing any way we can, like hiring a homeless guy we met or praying for the people where we work. We try to go above and beyond for our customers. For instance, if we are called into mulch, we go the extra mile to make the plants look good before we mulch.”
Their advice to any entrepreneur is simple: “Be in partnership with the Lord first,” Rodney said. “If God put something inside of you, He will always make a way for it. But, don’t ever let the work become more than the relationship with Him. Our customers know we are God-fearing men, and the Holy Spirit prepares the way for us by telling us,
‘This is already yours. I set it aside for you,’ often where there wasn’t even a bid in place. So always keep your gaze on Jesus, and He will direct your steps.”
Gino and Stephanie Guggeri will soon open Gino’s Nut rition Shoppe, and also faced naysayers who questioned opening during the pandemic. “We felt if we don’t do it now, we may never be able to do it,” explained Stephanie.
Gino’s experience is vast, having spent 21 years with GNC. His dream was always to open his own store, but he couldn’t afford it until a high school friend offered to financially back his vision. “I felt led by the Lord to begin plans to open, despite COVID-19, and felt such a peace,” Gino said. “Having God on your side gives you that peace as we stepped out in faith. It hasn’t been easy, but then, nothing is, so we’ve just learned to lean more on the Lord during challenging times.
“And, it’s going to be a fantastic store with unique products like non-GMO, CBD, and grab-and-go healthy meals, dry goods, and sports products,” Gino explained. “More important, most everything we sell will be made in the USA. I feel so strongly that this is from the Lord, what He wants us to do not only as a family but for the community.”
In suggesting a formula for success, Gino explained that in a competitive marketplace, the in-store experience is essential, and excellent customer service is vital.
“Because we love what we do, that love is a transferable gift. We want to educate our clients on how to read labels and know what they are putting in their bodies. However, good customer service can’t be ‘scripted.’ It must be organic.
“People must have a passion for what they do and be anchored in the Lord through prayer. He gives wisdom with business plans and how to allocate funds,” Gino said. “But the main thing is to wait on the Lord, asking Him, ‘Is this what we want or what You want?’”
Gino’s final advice was reflected in all those interviewed. “It’s important for God’s light to shine through. People will see something different about a Christian-owned business, which opens a door for ministry,” he said.
So, with God as your business partner, start doing what you can do in good times and in bad.