The Hobby Lobby Way to Success

Growing up poor as he did, David Green learned to get the most out of everything. The company he founded still helps people do that.

By David Green, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

As appeared in

Have you been to Hobby Lobby?

A lot of people come to our stores, especially around the holidays, for arts and crafts supplies, home accents and more.

Our shelves are filled with picture frames, fabric, glue, beads, glitter, clay, ribbon, baskets, candle rings, table runners, wreaths...everything you might need to decorate your house and make gifts for Christmas.

We have more than 430 stores in 35 states, and I’m often asked how the company got started. The quick answer? With a six-hundred-dollar loan and a 300-square-foot retail space.

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For the real story, though, I’ve got to go back to the five-and-dime in Altus, Oklahoma, where I found a job–and something more–my junior year of high school.

Altus was a small town when my family moved there in my early teens. There was an Air Force base, a hospital, a post office, a dusty courthouse square with a few stores and churches–including the one my dad pastored.

We lived in a tiny two-bedroom house. My parents got one bedroom, my three sisters got the other and my brothers and I slept on rollaway beds in the kitchen.

To get to the bathroom, we had to walk through Mom and Dad’s room, and it was pretty common to see them kneeling by the bed praying–for an ailing church elder, for a neighbor family struggling to make ends meet. Maybe for our own family, because we were struggling too.

The congregation, all 35 members, did their best to help. They held “poundings,” bringing five-pound bags of flour or sugar or potatoes to worship, anything they could spare to feed our family. Still, there were plenty of times our cupboards were bare.

If company was coming, we would stock the fridge with “leftovers”–we’d put tinfoil over empty cans or plates on top of empty bowls, as if they were full. Folks had enough worries. No need to make them worry about the preacher’s family.

“We’re not poor,” Mom declared. “You’re never poor when you have something to give.” She crocheted doilies and made fried pies and sold them to raise money for missions.

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We kids were expected to work too. In the summers we picked cotton. As soon as the girls were old enough, they waited tables or worked in the donut shop.

“Someday I’ll get a job and bring something home for you,” I promised Mom. A new dining room set, I thought, or a sofa that didn’t have stuffing coming out of it.

“Just look for what you can do for the Lord,” she said. The problem was, I didn’t know if there was anything I could do for the Lord.

I couldn’t be a preacher or a missionary or a teacher. Unlike my brother, who was a gifted speaker, I could barely say a word in front of people. I got tongue-tied just giving a book report in English class.

My siblings all got excellent grades and were destined for Bible college. Me, I tried hard, but I wasn’t much of a student. I had to repeat seventh grade. Things didn’t get any easier in high school.

By junior year, I was just looking to sign up for classes where I wouldn’t have to speak. Math was a safe choice; I was pretty good with numbers. Then I noticed something called Distributive Education. “What’s that?” I asked a teacher.

“D.E. is a program that allows students to work for one of the businesses in town. You earn class credit and get paid too.”

Our family could use the extra money. “What kind of job would I get?” I asked.

“Sweeping up or putting away boxes,” he said.

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Your Comments (14)

I would love to have a story like this. I wish I could mentor with the Green's and start a shop of my own. That would be a dream come true. I do most of my shopping at Hobby Lobby. My problem is I spend too much time in each department. I love to sew, needlework, quilt and almost any other craft. I wonder if they would help me with a $600 loan to get started?

this is still america and he still has his rights..keep taking every right from people despite his wealthy status he is still an american success story. So should he give up his beliefs just because others think he should' this is a double standard...

I hear so much bitterness in some of the comments here. Mr. Green was (from a young age) taught the importance of honoring God, people, and the lives of the unborn. Plus, he has an absolutely gorgeous store (walking through it is like passing through an artist's palette). When you stand up for your convictions some people will hate you for it. Be blessed Mr. Green ~ and Hobby Lobby! P.S. It's interesting how some of the folks commenting seem to dislike him simply because he has money. Remember too, he has and is prepared to give up millions for his convictions.

I'd like to thank Mr. Green and Cal Thomas for explaining that his hobby stores are "churches" where only those who are members of his faith and adhere to his personal religious doctrines are welcome. As a Christian who believes in the freedom from religious oppression in the United States and from Taliban type of efforts to force others to adhere to doctrines that they may not share, I will never offend Mr. Green's "hobby church" by patronizing any of his establishments every again. Mr. Green may be free to dictate religious doctrines, if he can find employees who are willing to have his religion forced on them and patrons who don't cherish religious freedom. I only wish that more of these store-front churches were exposed so that patrons like me would know to avoid them. Employees deserve to have legal medical benefits available whether they choose them or not.

Interesting with so much of God's work to do this guy hangs on to his billions of dollars.

Rather than trying to slander his name out out of bitterness and jealousy, please try and do some research.

He gives away..over half of all his profits to christian missions and ministry all over the world

Rather than try to cure malaria or fix the U.S. public school system, he’s turned his arts and crafts empire into a massive missionary organization, the equivalent of the largest church bake sale in the world. Hobby Lobby takes half of total pretax earnings and plunges it directly into a portfolio of evangelical ministries. Green keeps the total amount of his charitable contributions private, but based on information received from him and discussion with various recipients, FORBES estimates his lifetime giving at upwards of $500 million.

Abroad, Green is putting Scripture into the hands of nonbelievers. “People ask, ‘How are you going to get a Bible to everyone in the world?’ We’re doing it,” Green says. Through foundations he supports, he has already distributed nearly 1.4 billion copies of Gospel literature in more than 100 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia. The OneHope Foundation targets children age 4 to 14 with Scripture tailored to them, while Every Home for Christ sends evangelists with Bible booklets door-to-door in some of the poorest countries on Earth. “It’s not like you give them that but don’t give them food; you do both,” Green stresses. But the priority is clear: “If I die without food or without eternal salvation, I want to die without food.”

Green and his family show what giving looks like “from a biblical perspective,” says Rob Hoskins, president of OneHope. “For high-net-worth individuals, particularly people that created first-generation wealth, to look at the growth of their business, not for them to maintain a lavish lifestyle or accumulate generational wealth but for the cause of Christ–they’re a shining light in the Christian community.”

Green makes a distinction between “good” causes–employing people or researching cures for disease, for example–and “great” causes, which will echo beyond our temporal existence. “I don’t know how to get anywhere else once you start with that one thing: that the Bible is God’s word,” he says. And Green has taken God’s word digital. He sponsors the YouVersion Bible app for mobile phones, equipped to offer almost 300 different versions of Scripture in 144 languages–all available at the tap of your finger. It has already been downloaded more than 50 million times.

I know. Good thing he's saved his billions for his LEGAL FEES 'cause he's BREAKING the LAW.

I don' beleive is realy he the Godly man that he calls him self.

You don't personally know him, now do you? He is a wonderful person who is a friend of the family. My father has sat in him home on more than one occasion. How would you like someone judging you that has never met you?

Marge Inness, Mr.David Green is simply stating what the bible says. And there is only one truth. The world and its rulers wants you to believe that's not the case.

A beautiful story and a great lesson showing how faith, family, and friends are all you need in life.
Thank you David Green for your integrity and hard work. Your stores and staff are blessings.

It is too bad that Mr. Green feels that his religion is the only one and that HE alone gets to decide who gets the morning after pill. But of course, he is male and does not have to bear the fruits of a rape. I guess the Pharisees are alive and well.

I found the article about David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, quite interesting. Is he not also associated with a college?
Thank you!

my comment the article about David Green; be inspirated, humble, generousity, etc.