by Lauren Abele
For entrepreneurs looking to positively impact people, planet, and profit by launching a triple bottom line enterprise, financing opportunities are scarce. Why? Traditional investors—like banks, angels, and VCs—tend to look exclusively at financial return on investment and ignore social impact when making an investment decision. On the other hand, most foundations and other nonprofit funders, which traditionally have funded projects with high social and environmental impact, are either unable to or not interested in funding for-profit companies. With this funding dichotomy, where is there room to do well and do good?
For companies like 6dot Innovations (which produces an electronic Braille labeler for the visually impaired) and Just Shea (which produces sustainable skin care products), applying to present at the Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit was a unique opportunity to share their business idea with investors who get them.
The Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit is part of the Pipeline Fellowship—a program that trains women philanthropists to become angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice. In addition to creating capital for social entrepreneurs, the Pipeline Fellowship seeks to increase the number of women angel investors (currently only 13% of U.S. angels are women) and the number of women-led companies receiving financing (in 2010, only 21% of entrepreneurs seeking funding from angel investors were women-owned ventures. Of these, only 13% of women-led ventures seeking funding from angel investors secured capital).
Working at a for-profit, social venture startup myself, I know the frustration of hearing someone ask, “Well, why aren’t you a nonprofit? Isn’t there a grant you can apply for?” It can be a bit crushing. Part of the job inevitably feels like educating others on how and why innovative business practices can and should be used to address social issues.
There’s good news for triple bottom line entrepreneurs: the Pipeline Fellowship activates triple bottom line investors. We select our Pipeline Fellows based on a number of factors, including their interest in and commitment to social change. Most of them are active philanthropists who are eager to gain knowledge about investing and make empowered decisions regarding both their financial and social portfolios. They get it.
Each Pipeline Fellow commits to invest US$5K for a collective US$50K investment in the woman-led social enterprise of the group’s choosing. The inaugural Pipeline Fellowship class (NYC 2011) will be announcing their investment in late October. Stay tuned!
Interested in becoming a Pipeline Fellow? Applications for the 2011-2012 Boston- and 2012 NYC-based Pipeline Fellowship programs are now being accepted on a rolling basis until Monday, August 29, 2011. To apply, go to: http://pipelinefellowship.producteev.com.
Are you a woman-led social enterprise interested in pitching at a Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A. Lauren Abele is the COO of Pipeline Fellowship. Pipeline Fellowship aims to diversify the investor pool and connect women social entrepreneurs with investors who get them. Lauren holds a BA in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and an MPA in Economic Development and Comparative and International Affairs from Indiana University’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). Follow her on Twitter at @laurenabele.