Hi there –
I’m Colin Betzler, co-founder of Bought Beautifully, and as of September, the newest official member of the BB team. I know this announcement is likely old news for many of you (yawn), but for those not be tuned-in to Facebook or Instagram or maybe just interested in learning more, this letter is for you.
The Backstory of Bought Beautifully
Now, to be fair, it’s not like I’m completely new around here. Emily and I met 15 years ago while studying abroad during college. It’s pretty much like she tells it, I was pretending to be a pura-vida, cavalier surfing gringo with bronzed skin, blond locks and a palm hat in Costa Rica…is it any wonder she fell in love? She’ll also tell you that she quickly realized that the real me was more of a slipper clad, sweats wearing guy, a measured realist and not nearly as carefree or intriguing as the surfer but ¡Gracias a Dios! still sort of interesting to her.
We’ve been married 12+ years now and have been partners in this Bought Beautifully experiment in one way or another since its inception. The initial idea of Bought Beautifully came to us when we felt God prompting us to reflect on where and how we were spending our money.
We were quickly reminded that what we thought was “our” money was actually God’s money and that in our role as stewards, there was an expectation to manage it responsibly for His glory, to see dividends from investments reflective of His heart.
Upon closer examination, we realized that many of our habits and material purchases were likely breaking God’s heart.
In our quest for the lowest-priced-best-deals, we had been oblivious to looking beyond the price tag to see the actual costs of production: inhumanely long work hours, poverty-trapping pay, and unsafe working conditions – all byproducts of the shiny products in front of us.
So, we asked ourselves these questions:
What if as Christians, we applied our faith by analyzing and altering our spending habits? What if we traded the quest for low-priced-deals, trendy items, and unnecessary splurges for products that poured love into and measurably improved the lives they touched? Products whose sale perpetuated a new economy based on love and seeking justice? What kind of crazy impacts might that have on global poverty, social justice and financial inequity?
Bought Beautifully was created out of our desire to act on these questions.
The Making of a Decision
Up until joining BB’s staff, I had been a very manly cheerleader, praising God’s goodness and Emily’s hard work from the sidelines – serving on the board of directors, supporting at home, mopping floors, building display pieces and participating in the occasional fashion show or photo shoot.
I can’t really explain it, but over the past two years, I became more and more affected by the work of our partners. I had a front row seat to understanding the challenges our partners face, but also the real transformations that are happening because of their work, devoted servant leadership, and ultimately, the reality of God’s love for all people. I eventually got to a place where, in my greatest moments of clarity, it was hard to ignore the life teachings of Jesus, not to mention the promptings that I continued to feel on my heart. I don’t want to come across as overly dramatic, that’s not who I am, but this decision has seemed to carry more weight than any other one I’ve made.
If you’ve met Emily even for just a minute, you know she is authentically inspiring – so much so that this past July, after more than a year of anticipation and planning, I officially stepped away from my former career to join her in chasing our common passion for Bought Beautifully.
So – here I am, experiencing new highs and lows like never before. Seeing our world through a very different lens, having newfound time to spend wrapping my mind and heart around what it looks like to heed Jesus’ call to love God and our neighbors, and trying to escape the temptation to second-guess whether we have made “the right” or “responsible” decision.
With this transition to working as a full-time volunteer with Bought Beautifully, we have doubled-down on our commitment by throwing our lives behind Bought Beautifully and the work our partners are doing around the globe.
A Big Question – An Unknown Answer
Wait, Colin, did you say volunteer – how does that work for your family? It works OK now but obviously isn’t sustainable forever. That said, we’re going into this with a long-term mentality and have planning and saving for some time now to be able to take this risk. Ultimately, we hope that by increasing BB’s capacity now, we’ll be more effective in bringing our partners’ products to a larger market. If and when this happens, BB should be able to sustain some level of full-time staffing. After all, we make sure our partners pay fair wages, so I suppose we should plan to eventually pay fair wages too, right?
Like any start-up business, we understand that in the early years paying salaries isn’t the highest priority…our hope is to hang in there until a higher sustainable threshold is reached. And why are we even talking about compensation? The reason compensation is important is that it makes the Bought Beautifully model sustainable into the future and not just a flash-in-the-pan charity project dependent on a few do-gooders that may come and go.
Thankfully, I’ve been constantly encouraged in my new role learning from and being challenged by wise and talented disciples, theologians and activists, including Shane Claiborne, a Christian author. Shane is gifted at poking holes in the walls that we Christians have been building around our self-defined world for years.
Shane has a great quote about serving and mission that I want to share with you. I think it does a nice job of communicating the holistic view we take towards living out Christ’s love through our work at Bought Beautifully.
That’s great isn’t it? Bought Beautifully is a lot of things but it is decidedly not just a short-term charity project to “give people fish”. While we believe in living generously, we don’t believe in perpetuating injustice through anyone’s continued dependence on hand-outs or pity purchases. And as I mentioned before, we don’t want it to just rely on the goodwill of a few people – we want it to work as a successful business in the reality of our market-based economy.
Bought Beautifully emulates a model that goes far beyond basic charity to actually empower and restore lives while reconciling the world’s social order with true justice within the confines of our existing economy.
Giving people fish and teaching them to fish are worthy endeavors, but if we never think to tackle the bigger questions related to the inequity and injustice that otherwise persist, we stop short of what’s needed. Jesus had the awesome ability of taking a surface-level issue and getting straight to the heart to shine light on the underlying issue. In this same way, we want to help deconstruct the systems that prevent people from providing the next generation of their community with a just and Christ-inspired future.
This is what we are trying to do at the deepest level at Bought Beautifully – to take something as basic as your purchase of a stylish and unique gift – and deliberately create a steady heartbeat, pumping out life-giving sustenance to the very people who are loving without judging, serving without discriminating and being the hands and feet of Jesus to their communities around the world.
Excited to be Here
I am so looking forward to staying in touch with you while sharing more about our journey and the inspiring work of our partners. Please reach out to let us know how we can continue to improve and refine what it means to commit our lives to follow Christ in all we do.
And, since I’m on a Claiborne kick – I’ll leave you with just one more.
“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.”
So – thank you again for joining with us to stumble, speed-walk, trip, dance and fall into this continuing adventure. We couldn’t do it without you.