Tag Archives: Gelt Bus

Banking Amish-Style

By Sabrina Völz

When my col­leagues and I start­ed this blog, I would have nev­er in a mil­lion years thought I would be writ­ing about a bank. But near­ly five years lat­er, here I am. I wouldn’t even be sur­prised if this sto­ry ends up as a case study in busi­ness text­books around the globe.

Pri­or to the Amish Con­fer­ence 2019 on Health & Well Being in Amish Soci­ety held recent­ly at Eliz­a­beth­town Col­lege in Penn­syl­va­nia, I went on the Amish Enter­prise Tour which intro­duced con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants to Amish busi­ness­es in the area: Ruth Anna’s Gluten-Free (whole­sale) bak­ery, DS Stoves, and The Bank of Bird-in-Hand.

“The Gelt Bus” Pho­to cred­it: Sab­ri­na Völz

Today, farm land in areas, such as Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed by var­i­ous Amish groups, is hard to come by and quite pricey. With an aver­age of 6 to 7 chil­dren per Amish fam­i­ly, farm­ing is no longer an option for every­one. Thus, more and more Amish, includ­ing women, are open­ing up their own cot­tage indus­tries and small busi­ness­es. Apart from reli­gious con­sid­er­a­tions that need to be nego­ti­at­ed with their church lead­er­ship, Amish entre­pre­neurs have encoun­tered sim­i­lar prob­lem to those of many peo­ple in main­stream soci­ety while start­ing small and mid-sized enter­pris­es. Branch banks found­ed in oth­er parts of the coun­try often do not seem to be inter­est­ed in small loans and fail to under­stand the local peo­ple and their ways.

In order to meet the needs of this seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion, 15 peo­ple, 10 of whom were Amish men, decid­ed their area need­ed a com­mu­ni­ty bank. So they did like the Amish do. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The Bank of Bird-in-Hand is the result of the joint ven­ture between Amish and non-Amish investors as well as pro­fes­sion­al bankers. The Gelt Bus (Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch for “Mon­ey Bus”) was only one of the adjust­ments to tra­di­tion­al bank­ing that had to be made.

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