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  • Jenni Lien

Testimonies From My First Term Building a Christian Business in Business School

In September 2022, I started a full-time Master’s program at the University of Waterloo. This Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) is like an MBA for Entrepreneurs. While a traditional MBA prepares you to lead in large organizations, the MBET prepares you to build your own venture. I’d been thinking about it for years, but going back to school full-time in my hometown after spending over a decade building my career abroad… it was scary! But eventually, I wanted it. More than that, I believe God wanted it for me. So I booked a one-way flight, packed and shipped my things, and walked in faith, still feeling a bit scared and was just 50%, 70%, and now 99.9% (still walking in faith!!) sure that this is exactly where God wants me.


University of Waterloo MBET students
From Ignition Week! Touring local startup accelerators and incubators

One thing I didn’t realize when I joined the program was how unusual many think it is to be building a faith-based business in a secular business school. I say this after speaking to a number of Christian leaders and hearing their shock. At the end of November, I pitched my business idea for the first time, and prior to this conducted a number of interviews with top leaders in the field (more details to come! I am so excited to be building this and to share soon). People whose programs I have taken — that God used to change my life and draw closer to him. People who are linked to ministries and churches that are household names. People who had zero connection to me, knew nothing except that I was a student wanting to serve in this area, who generously shared their time… and who were largely shocked that I was freely talking about wanting to build a business in this area in a secular business school.


E7 Engineering Building at the University of Waterloo in Canada
Our beautiful building and campus

I’ve always been open about wanting to build a Christian business. I spoke about it in my MBET application, in class introductions, for class assignments, for my business pitches, and even in my application and interview for a position with the Student Venture Fund (which provides students with hands-on training in venture capital investing with guidance from industry experts and supervision by finance faculty). My instructors and classmates have been supportive (one even believes in it enough that, despite being from a different religion, he wanted to work on it together!), and I got an analyst position with the competitive student venture fund. Prayer pause: Lord, am I ever thankful for these opportunities. Help me to develop strong business and finance skills, so I can serve you better. One term done, two more to go!


Student at the University of Waterloo
Ah forgot to take photos on pitch day so here's one from a work day!

Another interesting thing was what happened when I met a well-known local investor. Earlier, when I said I ‘pitched’ my business idea for the first time, I actually pitched it nine times in one day. One of our professors organized a pitch day, where he invited local investors, professionals (e.g. lawyers and accountants who specialize in working with startups), and leaders (e.g. with local incubators and accelerators) to hear our pitches. We had 15 minutes with each person — 3 minutes max to pitch and then time for Q&A.


Working with my friend N, what most of our days/nights looked like this fall term! Hard work, but nothing better than pursuing a God dream, amen?

It was a bit hectic preparing for the pitch, as we were doing it alongside assignments for four other classes. And it wasn’t just preparing a pitch based on an idea, we were validating via interviews, desk and market research etc. Not only that, but I knew I was still healing from the burnout I experienced earlier in the year and wanted to make sure I was relying on God first and foremost, and staying healthy. So I did my best to pitch my idea (articulating and executing a God-given vision is still hard work, amen? It doesn’t always just happen with no warfare etc.), and most were kind and asked good questions, but I felt a bit discouraged that no one was really understanding it. Natural, perhaps, as none were regular church attendees (they told me). By the time we reached the last pitch, I was ready for lunch... It’s still hard when we’re doing what we feel God is calling us to, but then others don’t get it. But may we trust we know God’s voice.


My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

To my surprise, in this last meeting, they (the investor and someone else from his fund) genuinely seemed interested in what I was doing — even if it wasn’t really their area. My last slide asked for connections — if they knew of any pastors, ministry leaders, or others who might be interested in learning more, I’d be happy to speak with them. The investor then mentioned something about “profit,” and I started sharing about the rise in funding for Christian apps since COVID… when he gently interrupted me to clarify he’d meant “prophet.” That he knew someone that could be interested and if I would be interested in speaking witht them… yes! Absolutely I believe God’s prophetic gift is alive today.


Not sure if this is an unusual thing to happen in a meeting, but here’s what I know:


There is a need for Christians to be encouraged, discplied, and inspired to live wholly surrendered to Jesus.

Ok yes, in business school, some encourage me to avoid a ‘lifestyle’ business and build something that has a large impact. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with a lifestyle business and if God does want to use me to build something big, surrender at his feet daily must be the foundation of the business. There is literally no point in building a huge house on sand. Amen? But we know that God wants us to shine his light and that he’s prepared good works for us to do before we were even born.


MBET students at the University of Waterloo in Canada
Our class, after this year's Christmas party

We don’t always see the full vision at the start and may we not let the pressure of worldly success hinder us from starting. God absolutely uses us where we are — he knows where we are! And there is a need right now! Throughout the Bible, we see God use so many works in progress people :) We can serve him right where we are while keeping close to him and pursuing our God-given dreams, what he’s called us to, one step at a time.


Let’s seek God daily! Let’s have confidence knowing we are equipped for this work and that God is our ultimate judge.


God will provide. God will connect. God will guide.


God is good.

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