London is like a second home to me, having lived there for twelve years. I spent the holiday season in London with my family and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-connect with the entrepreneurial and impact community. Lu Li, founder of Blooming Founders, hosted her inaugural #powerwomenchat event on January 9, 2017 and invited me and my good friend Servane Mouazan to a conversation about impact investing and entrepreneurship. Impact entrepreneurship is growing and I’m witnessing more and more people getting started in impact investing. The conversation with Lu was timely and what better way to start the new year than with a vision for building and investing in businesses that take care of the village, not just generate financial returns.

Lu Li is the founder of Blooming Founders, a community of female founders, freelancers and women in startups, and author of Dear Female Founder, a compilation of 66 letters of advice from women entrepreneurs who collectively have made $1 billion in revenue.

Servane Mouazan is the founder of Ogunte, a London-based organization that helps women social entrepreneurs, and their supporters, make a positive impact on people and planet. I’ve collaborated with Servane before, as a guest speaker and advisor to early stage entrepreneurs in Ogunte’s Make-a-Wave incubator programme, and sharing resources and tools for aspiring impact angels in an angel training course we piloted called Activist Angels. Poignantly, Activist Angels was one of the proving grounds for the impact investing resources and tools I had developed that went on to form Integrated Investing.

Those resources and tools are available in a book, called Integrated Investing, published in 2016 and launched in London at the Blooming Founders event.

Lu asked me what was the impetus for writing the book. I had already been developing resources and tools to make better investment decisions. When I started in impact investing, I found that many people were just transferring investment approaches from the conventional, but broken way of thinking about business and investing. I learned that everything from why we invest to the mindsets that affect our decisions had to shift. Practically speaking, I needed to develop new ways to evaluate businesses, the impact outcomes they could achieve, and communicate why we should invest in them. As my thinking progressed, I was approached with questions about what is impact and how to choose impact investment opportunities. I always felt these questions couldn’t be answered in 2 or 3 minutes and that people inquiring weren’t getting the whole picture. So I wrote it all down – as a resource, compass, and guide for new and experienced impact investors looking for better ways to make investment decisions.

Another question from Lu which I found interesting was whether people dismissed impact investing or didn’t take it as seriously. I shared a story of how I’m at the intersection of a number of communities including the impact community and more traditional angel investors and venture capitalists. I talk about the impact I’m having as an investor and angel fund manager, that it’s not just the impact of the ventures we invest in, but also how we invest and who invests with us. Pique Fund applies Integrated Investing in its evaluation of ventures and its decision-making and it was created to be more inclusive to a diverse community of investors. Pique Fund now has 29 investors, 24 of which are women, representing 80% of the fund’s capital. The mix of accredited investors and non-accredited investors is about 50:50. Accredited investors, by the way, are high-income earners or people with more accumulated wealth and non-accredited investors are moderate-income earners or less accumulated wealth. The terminology comes from securities law and regulations for who can or cannot invest in private ventures. I also talk about where Pique Fund is on the spectrum of impact and how our portfolio companies have an impact in various parts of their business model. It could be directly through their value proposition, with direct positive impact on their customers, or it could be elsewhere in their business model, such as having a more ethical supply chain or more inclusive hiring practices than their non-impact oriented counterparts and competitors. When I communicate this information to other investors, who might not consider themselves impact investors or might be a bit skeptical about impact investing, I see them embracing the idea of impact investing. I can see them start to think about the impact they could have or maybe even the impact already in their portfolio. The point is impact is starting to permeate the mainstream. I hope one day impact becomes a natural, obvious consideration when evaluating investment opportunities, choosing what businesses grow, and supporting those to flourish.

It’s been a long, winding road and I’m still on this journey. Being able to speak confidently and convincingly about impact investing didn’t happen overnight. It is happening over several years, with practice and real action of putting investment dollars to impactful ventures. Developing the resources and tools of Integrated Investing certainly gave me the foundation from which to act and speaking about investing to take care of the village. I hope you’ll find it helpful as well.

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If you’re in Toronto in March, meet Bonnie Foley-Wong on March 20, 2017. Register here for the Toronto book launch of Integrated Investing.

More resources and tools for getting started in impact investing can be found in Integrated Investing: Impact Investing with Head, Heart, Body, and Soul, available at all major online book retailers.

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