Impact Investing Finds its Force For Good

By Russ Stoddard / Jan 11, 2017

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I love the people you find at Certified B Corps. They’re smart, welcoming, collaborative, competitive, creative, and generous—genuine badass social entrepreneurs who accelerate change by putting their hearts into their work—and their money where their mouth is.

We recently joined a group of more than 20 B Corp CEOs contributing $50,000 in charitable donation seed money to help launch the world’s first B Corp accelerator, the new Force for Good Accelerator / Fund.

May the Force Be with You

This is the world's first accelerator specifically created to nurture, grow, and launch women- and people of color-owned, “Best for the World” B Corporations that focus on climate-change solutions, local living economies, or worker ownership and inclusion.

(“Best for the World” designation goes to companies that score in the top 10% of B Corps globally, of which there are now more than 2,000.)

The Force for Good Accelerator / Fund will support early-stage social entrepreneurs with the mentoring, access to capital, and a network of business connections.

Pretty. Frickin. Rad.

But before the fund could accept money from investors, it needed to raise the $50k to cover the compliance, legal, and administrative costs of registering the fund. That’s where we, along with companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, The Honest Company, and Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, came in—donating funds without any expectation of a financial return.

Funding Women-Owned Companies

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  • Once this was accomplished, the Force for Change fund was on its way, galloping to more than $400,000 raised via crowdfunding from 66 investors in just under two months. The fund’s initial goal is to ultimately make as many as 10 investments of up to $100,000 each.

    The fund has already made its first impact investment in Spotlight:Girls, a woman-owned company that seeks to empower young girls by building social and emotional intelligence through its GoGirls! camp-based learning experiences.

    Go Girls

    Major props for developing and spearheading the fund go to partners Ryan Honeyman, Kevin Bayuk, and Jenny Kassan of Lift Economy and Lift Economy Law, a California impact consulting firm whose mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life. The trio, along with Shawn Berry and Erin Axelrod, also of Lift Economy, will run the fund.

    Impact Investing for Social Enterprises at Oliver Russell

    This contribution continues the transition of our giving program. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year at Oliver Russell, we’ve donated nearly $2 million in cash and services through our Call To Action program, primarily to nonprofits. We made a strategic decision last year to expand the program to include impact investments and contributions for social entrepreneurs and their for-profit businesses.

    Nonprofits—we still love you!

    In addition to our donation to the Force For Good fund, in 2016 we contributed more than 876 hours in services to: B Corp Flynner Homes (branding); a collaborative promotion of more than 20 B Corps (digital marketing and community building via 25 Days of Awesome); sustainability marketing for B Corp Treefort Music Fest; and a digital storytelling video for GoodWell, a Benefit Corporation.

    Numbers can be amorphous, so let’s add a little perspective here: Those 876 contributed hours equals one person working 8 hours a day, nonstop, including weekends, from January 1 through noon on April 20th.

    Not too shabby.

    Last year, we also explored the world of equity investments. We made our first direct impact investment in a social enterprise (Works Progress Administration, a craft brewery currently in planning). We are slated to make another impact investment in 2017 and have an exciting opportunity we are exploring.

    Does this sound like your usual company? We hope not. So stay tuned—we’re on the move, and it should be interesting to follow along with us as we challenge business norms.

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    Russ Stoddard

    Russ started Oliver Russell in 1991. He’s committed his career (nearly 30 years) to social responsibility, first inside the corporate world and then as an entrepreneur who’s started four companies and five nonprofit causes. Russ is the author of "Rise Up - How to Build a Socially Conscious Business," and his creative work has been honored with local, regional, and national creative awards. These days, Russ focuses on brand strategy for clients, spreading the Certified B Corp love, and connecting kindred spirits to multiply social impact.

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