Start small. Think tall.

It was fifty years ago this past August 3rd when David and Barbara Green, along with their friend, Larry Pico, opened the first Hobby Lobby store near the Oklahoma Capitol building in Oklahoma City. It was just 300 square feet and wasn’t even David Green’s full-time job.

Having started a framing business out of their kitchen two years earlier, David and Barbara had struggled to procure a $600 bank loan to get things going. Finances were tight. Even after paying back the initial money and asking for more credit, the bank turned them down. But with the meager start-up capital, coupled with David’s salary from his job at the TG&Y – a five-and-dime-type retailer – Hobby Lobby was on its way.

Within a year, the burgeoning arts and crafts company had moved into a 1,000-square-foot building. By then, Green had quit TG&Y and devoted his full attention and energy to the growing family business. They quickly added a second store.

The company almost went bankrupt in the mid 1980s when an expansion into carrying luxury goods coincided with a gas and oil crash. Customers in Oklahoma reduced their spending to the sheer necessities. Hobby Lobby was forced to reorganize and return to their arts and crafts roots. By the 1990s the business was back in the black and on track. Stores were added and sales boomed once again.

With more than 900 stores today ringing up over $5 billion in sales each year, Hobby Lobby employs over 43,000 people across 47 states. The average store is 55,000 square feet and carries more than 67,000 different products.

How did they/do they do it?

Devoted and committed followers of Jesus Christ, the Green family proclaims four primary principles:

  • Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles. 
  • Offering our customers exceptional selection and value in the crafts and home decor market. 
  • Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals and nurture families. 
  • Providing a return on the owner’s investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community. 

“We believe it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” founder David Green says. “He has been faithful in the past, we trust Him for our future.”

The future hasn’t always been a foregone conclusion for the retailer. Back in 2014, the company faced the prospect of crippling fines for refusing to cover the cost of abortifacients in their healthcare plan, as mandated by so-called Obamacare. They said the declaration violated their religious freedoms – and by a 5-4 ruling, the United States Supreme Court agreed.

“My parents were both pastors, and all of my siblings are involved in ministry,” David Green once reflected. “I felt like somewhat of an outsider going into retail, but I’ve found a way to minister through Hobby Lobby. We have always operated our company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles, including integrity and service to others. We believe wholeheartedly that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has been successful. Therefore, we seek to honor Him in all that we do.”

The company does this by championing their faith, whether thru the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which they began and now run – or closing on Sundays to enable their employees to worship God and rest. They also pay well above minimum wage and are regularly considered an excellent place to work.

As Christians, we feel good when we reinvest the money God has given us into businesses that honor Him – and Green’s pledge can and should reassure shoppers that the company’s priorities are well placed:

“Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work,” he has said. “For me and my family, charity equals ministry, which equals the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that we have been blessed by God’s grace, and we believe it is because we have chosen to live our lives and to operate our business according to His Word, and we are very grateful for that.”

Keep it going, Hobby Lobby!

Photo from Shutterstock.