The path of a Canadian Christian business leader can be a lonely one. Without a supportive church community to support their practical, spiritual and venture endeavours, many Christian entrepreneurs feel misunderstood, stigmatized and decide to “go it alone.” There are 3.5 million entrepreneurs in Canada, of which 630,000 identify as Christian (Pew Research, 2019). To address this growing niche, Tyndale launched the Centre for Redemptive Entrepreneurship last month.
The new open learning centre will be a place where Christian entrepreneurs will receive the support they need to fulfill their calling, network with like-minded people and grow in every aspect of their lives. Director Philip Yan, a Tyndale alumnus, business founder and social entrepreneur, spoke with staff writer Melissa Wallace to share his plans for the Centre and his hopes on filling a gap within the Christian community.
The Centre for Redemptive Entrepreneurship (CRE) launched on June 1st. Why is a centre like this needed?
Based on data from the Canada Revenue Agency, 10 per cent of Canada’s population claim that they are entrepreneurs – that’s one in 10 people. Seventy-four percent of millennials in an RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) poll stated that they would love to start a business, if help was available to them. Both the city of Toronto and Canada have quickly become the hub for startups and entrepreneurship, but the sad thing is that quite often, social progress is being defined without the gospel. It’s a big gap that we want to fill.
What does “redemptive entrepreneurship” mean?
It’s a new phrase for a lot of people. We know “redemptive” means to buy back or save someone or something, restoring it to its rightful place.
I think Praxis Labs, an innovative like-minded organization based in New York that coined the term “redemptive entrepreneurship” describes it best. There are three ways to work: exploitative, ethical and redemptive. We’re most familiar with the exploitative way, in which people “take all they can get” and have an “I win, you lose” attitude. The ethical way to work is to do things right, do no harm, play fair and add value. People pursue an "I win, you win" attitude and aim to be good and do good. The redemptive way is much less common. It is creative restoration through sacrifice – to bless others, renew culture and give of ourselves. The motivating force is other-centered: to love, to serve and to solve. In this way, the mentality is "I sacrifice, we win." Redemptive entrepreneurship is a different way of working, and we hope that through the Centre, we can care for entrepreneurs, bring the community together and pray for and support each other on our journeys.
What is this going to look like?
Our goals for the first year include a six-session course from Praxis Labs that I find very inspiring for entrepreneurs to reframe, reflect and reimagine some of the things we do with a fresh perspective. We also plan to develop an ecosystem that will connect four groups of people (founders, builders, funders and educators). We want to help them create synergies and ecosystems to support each other. We will also develop a digital platform to connect entrepreneurs. Finally, we will organize events and training courses to help redemptive entrepreneurs network and be practically and spiritually well equipped.
You’re the founder and chief experience designer of GenesisXD Inc., based in Toronto. Tell me about some of the social enterprises your team has been able to accomplish together.
I was part of three different social enterprise projects, and they all came out of a lament in a certain area. The first one, KLINK® Coffee, grew out of a concern for people who were homeless in our cities. Twenty per cent of them were former offenders and found it difficult to reclaim a new life. Recognizing that they were not prepared for reintegrating into society and that corporations were not ready for them, we created a business of selling coffee to fill one important gap – the readiness gap. We worked with corporations to help them understand the need to help these people get jobs. We connected them, and it proved to be successful.
The second, Red Propeller®, is a recycling company we developed out of a lament for the large amount of waste going to landfills. We managed to divert unwanted and neglected (but recyclable) materials from landfills and provide sustainable employment to those with physical, mental or social barriers through recovering, recycling and repurposing waste materials.
The third came out of a lament for frontline workers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a big shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the frontline healthcare workers were at risk while saving lives. We initiated a mask drive campaign and rallied the community and organizations to donate masks or funds. We developed a system to transport and centralize the materials, train volunteers to sort out quality masks for healthcare use, and distribute them according to our list. In 15 weeks, we donated half a million PPE to 137 hospitals and senior homes in Ontario.
You mention “we” a lot. How important was your team to you in all these ventures?
I don’t think any of the projects I talked about could have been done by one person.
How can people support the Centre for Redemptive Entrepreneurship?
Through the Centre, we want entrepreneurs to be connected in finding innovative ways to solve issues in our society so that they can have the support they need to carry it through. We need partnerships in these areas: (1) Professionals to offer their expert advice in mentoring our participants; (2) connectors in our live and online events; (3) financial contributors to help the Centre become impactful and sustainable; and (4) prayer warriors – because we are promoting a movement of entrepreneurship as mission, we are on a faith mission to shape culture.