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17 companies you may not be aware are religious-based

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Sept. 13, 2013 at 4:13 a.m.


A few of the nation's most profitable companies, including Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, are either founded on religious principles or currently operate under a faith-oriented business model. But here are 17 other big-dollar companies in the Crossroads you may not have known were religious-based.

1. Marriott International - Marriott brand hotels include many recognizable names, including The Ritz-Carlton, Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Renaissance Inn and Fairfield Inn and Suites. The company's founder, John Willard Marriott, was an active member and leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a devout Mormon, Marriott's hotels became known for offering bibles in the rooms along with the Book of Mormon. The hotel chain recently announced it will no longer offer pornographic pay-per-view channels in the rooms.

2. ServiceMaster - Better known as Terminix, Merry Maids and TruGreen, the company was founded by Marion Wade in Chicago in the 1920s. Wade's vision shaped the company's mission statement to, "Honor God in all we do; help people develop; pursue excellence; and grow profitably."

3. Curves - This made-for-women fitness center offers more than 3,000 locations across the nation. Evangelical founders Gary and Diane Heavin opened the first gym in Harlingen and eventually franchised the business model. The Heavins have made headlines in recent years for openly making financial contributions to Christian-based organizations, including CareNet, McLennan County Collaborative Abstinence Project and other pro-life pregnancy centers.

4. H-E-B - Texas' largest privately-owned company was founded in 1905 in Kerrville and operates on Christian principles. H-E-B Vice Chairman Howard E. Butt Jr. is the president of the H.E. Butt Foundation, Laity Renewal Foundation and oversees the Laity Lodge Foundation, a Texas-based Christian retreat. Butt describes himself as a "spiritual reformer" and contributes his voice to "The High Calling of Our Daily Work," a 60-second radio spot airing on more than 2,000 stations nationwide.

5. Guinness Brewery - A pint of the famous dark beer can be purchased at any restaurant or bar in the Crossroads, but founder Arthur Guinness, an Irish Protestant Christian, began his company in the 1700s based on Christian mores and his commitment to philanthropy. Guinness and the monks of his time brewed beer as a safe alternative for people to drink when they fell ill drinking contaminated Irish water.

Today, Guinness is available in 150 countries and one of the most popular beers in the world and still incorporates its faith model.

6. Habitat for Humanity International - The company describes itself as an ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to a ministry of eliminating sub-standard housing and homelessness. The ministry is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

7. Wal-Mart - Even though the world's largest retailer has made headlines for secular business practices, the company's founder, Sam Walton, was a devout Presbyterian and Sunday school teacher, who respected the values of thriftiness and hard work. Today, Wal-Mart is the largest vendor of Christian merchandise.

8. J.C. Penney - James Cash Penney was a born-again Christian and son of a Baptist preacher, who founded his popular department store in 1902, originally called The Golden Rule Store. Penney based his business model on Christian principles, attributing his business and personal successes to trust and faith in God.

9. Aflac - Aflac is not a Christian company, but the insurance giant known for its quacking-duck "Aflac" commercials operates on a faith-based model. Paul S. Amos, Aflac's president and CEO, has openly stated that the company was founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christian principles continue to drive the company's direction.

10. Whole Foods - The stores' CEO, John Mackey, a practicing Buddhist, managed to weave his spirituality into the operation of the company. Many of the products sold in the stores benefit charities, allowing Mackey and co-founder Walter Robb to achieve their higher purpose in life.

11. Jet Blue - With flights available out of Dallas, Houston and Austin, JetBlue offers affordable options for local jet-setters. The company's CEO, David Neeleman, is a devout Mormon and active member in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His book, "The Mormon Way of Doing Business," describes his faith-based business model.

12. Forever 21 - It's one of the largest retailers of trendy and fashion-forward clothing, but Forever 21 is making another mark in fashion. At the bottom of each of the store's yellow shopping bags, John 3:16 is printed in black ink. The Bible verse in full context reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

13. Tyson Foods - John Tyson founded the famous chicken company on faith and ethical business. A benefit of the company is the 120 chaplains available to its employees.

14. Interstate Batteries - The company's mission statement says they aim "To glorify God as we supply our customers worldwide with top quality value-priced batteries ..." Interstate operates on biblical principles and retains chaplains on staff.

15. eHarmony - It's not ChristianMingle.com, but eHarmony's co-founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren is a Christian psychologist who helped launch the company on Christian-based principles. The company boasts 565,000 marriages since the dating website went live in 2000.

16. Mary Kay - Mary Kay Ash, makeup guru and founder of cosmetics empire, Mary Kay, ran her company on God-first principles. Ash based her company on her strong Christian faith and contributed her success to the model, "God first. Family second. Career third."

17. Timberland - Jeffrey Swartz, the Jewish billionaire behind Timberland shoes and clothing, ended his ties with the company last year when he learned human rights were being violated at the company's Chinese factory. Swartz is a public human rights activist and observant Jew who wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. to read the Torah.

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