Praxis partner pursues entrepreneurship
Jon Hart describes his career journey and encourages students to pursue embody their faith. | Photo Courtesy of Robert Harp
Jon Hart, a partner with Praxis Labs, a community which seeks to help entrepreneurs and their endeavors to shape culture, visited Crowell School of Business to lead a workshop on Monday. While he now leads an exciting and meaningful life, he had to endure risks and challenges to become the influential figure students see today.
Q: Why are you passionate about encouraging young entrepreneurs?
A: “What [entrepreneurs] build can actually be a modern apologetic because people want to see what you’re doing with your life… We’re really passionate about helping Christ-followers who want to do this really well and represent their faith really well in the marketplace and create things in the world to solve real problems, real needs and kind of be this embodied witness to the world around them.”
Q: You have been working for Praxis for almost five years now. How did you get involved?
A: “I was working this big corporate job trying to figure out how to be an agent of change and be an innovator and live out my faith there, and really just struggling because of there was just almost no way you can get anything done. Then I was helping my friend start a nonprofit [and I realized] you can respond to feedback from the customer and make a change right there and then, instead of what I was doing, which is these huge layers and levels of bureaucracy. I just realized I wanted to do something that… had a lot more creative agency to make an impact on something.
“Then I actually went to an event, something called “Q.” It was a gathering of really thoughtful Christians who were outward facing to the culture asking the same questions I was... I was just sort of blown away by it because I felt like these were my people. These are the people that were asking the same questions I am—deep faith but want to be outward facing for the culture and help renew the culture and not just condemn it. And at the Q in DC, I actually met the Praxis guys.”
Q: Originally, you are from Minnesota. How did you end up in New York?
A: “At the time I had taken a job with this big company, and it was a very good job. I liked it. It was a good company. I liked the people, but I was living in this nice suburban house and commuting in my nice car to my nice suburban work environment… I just compared my life when I went and visited [my friends] to what they were doing, which was there were six of them living in this apartment in a really not nice part of New York City. There were bed bugs and drug dealers in the lobby, and they were barely paying any rent because that’s all that they could afford. They’re working at Starbucks and bar tending so that they could have nights and weekends there and work on their [film] project. I was just like, ‘Man I’ve got to be a part of that. I’m just going to be lulled into comfort my whole life if I just keep doing this.’
“I just decided to look into moving… New York is a challenging place to live, but I think it’s made my faith much stronger and more authentic because I’ve been faced with those challenges.”
Q: What were some of the challenges that grew your faith?
A: “My first few years in New York, I wasn’t always committed to church. I had a job where I had to work on Sundays. Actually about 50 percent of the time I had to work on Sunday... It’s a city where you just have to be hyper intentional about the decisions you make… You really have to seek church out and church community if you want that to be a part of your life.”
Q: In what ways do you think you have spoken into the lives of a lot of young entrepreneurs?
A: “We’ve done the Praxis Academy now, our week long intensive, for four years, and we have over 500 alumni from probably 125 different colleges and universities, mostly in the United States but a few internationally. I see myself as more of a guide in showing them this thing. Just exposing them to these different stories of people who are living in a different way as Christians who are really truly embodying their faith through entrepreneurship and expressing it to the culture in a winsome way.
“I think because we spend so much of our lives working, our work is our best apologetic because that’s the thing that people around us will see the most, how we work and what we decide to work on.”
Q: If there is one thing that you would like Biola students to take from your lectures what would that be?
A: “That they choose to pursue a cherished topic rather than a job… There are certain causes or problems that we’re just more drawn to with our lives than others. There’s a lot of things that you can work on and I find a lot of young people that don’t take it very seriously what problems they’re trying to solve with their career, so they’re primarily asking where should I go work instead of what problems should I work on? And I want them to ask what problems do I want to spend my life working on… So we always think about teaching people to think problem first and then company second because then you enter that company thinking redemptively, how can I participate redemptively with working on this problem with my life.”