‘Put your money where your mouth is!’ is the eponymous rallying cry of an organization that connects investors with social enterprises that have real impact. So who better than PYMWYMIC (or Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Community) to give insider information about what it takes to attract this kind of socially-concerned investor to your big idea? Two members of the PYMWYMIC team provide insight: founder, original HUB investor and pioneer in the field, Frank van Beuningen, and his associate, Julia Chapman, who represents a new generation of capital advisors.
Frank describes their mission, “We’re constantly trying to make people aware and help them move capital to enterprises with social impact that are investible. We bring the investors and entrepreneurs together in a gentle way. We say come here and we’ll try our best to connect you with companies that suit your values.”
To do that, they know their investors intimately. “The biggest issue is to understand their passions,” Julia explains. “One investor may be passionate about helping in Africa, while another, for example, invests in Europe because she believes that there is enough to fix here at home before you focus on other places.”
What unites these investors is that they expect both financial and social return on their investments. So when the team at PYMWYMIC considers a new potential enterprise, “we look first at the business model. Sometimes they don’t really have one. And then it’s not really a business yet. In those cases, they don’t need us. They need philanthropy. We are looking for a disruptive business model that can be supported and is scalable,” says Frank.
“Then we discuss internally the impact potential of the enterprise,” continues Julia. “It should be measurable.” In fact, four independent measuring companies are able to provide assessments of impact that help social enterprises track results and provide accountability that investors want. But this can be a costly process for the entrepreneur and it may not forecast the full social impact of a business over time. So Julia adds, “A significant amount of gut is involved.” Two recently considered enterprises – a sustainable mining company and Afripads, washable sanitary products for girls in Uganda – illustrate her point.
“We had lots and lots of discussion about sustainable mining. Of course, we need the products mined for today’s technology. But can mining ever be truly sustainable? They had many metrics on water and wildlife impact.” But the team at PYMWYMIC uses their discussions to determine if the values of a company match their investors’. In this case, the team says “we decided not to go forward for now.”
Afripads, on the other hand, easily filled their impact and value criteria. As Julia explains, “Two entrepreneurs went looking for something that fits their own values when they were travelling in Uganda. They learned that girls don’t go to school for one week each month. Their solution is Afripads.” Over one girl’s lifetime, it can mean more years spent in school. “It’s a great example of impact!”
A final, critical element in assessing potential projects for their investors is the person behind the idea. Frank emphasizes, “The entrepreneur is the most important thing. Is he entrepreneurial enough to make his ideas work?”
To connect their investors with the right projects that share their values, PYMWYMIC works with a wide range of social enterprises. And they’re looking for more, as Frank explains. “We’re constantly looking actively for interesting companies to bring to our investors. We attend lots of conferences, business fairs and expos. But we’ve been around so long now that people know us and come to us directly.”
To learn more about PYMWYMIC, see their website.