Startup Asia Women: Pushing the Impact Envelope

Yesterday, Angels of Impact was honoured to be one of the presenters at Startup Asia Women’s Pushing the Impact Envelope at Unilever Level3. It was an insightful day of learning as corporations, startups, and individuals came together to learn how we can further social impact.

Firstly, our Co-Founder and Chairwoman Laina Greene spoke about how women are empowering the bottom of the pyramid. She shared about three main points: Poverty and Sustainability, Women and Sustainable Impact and Moving Beyond Charity.

On No Poverty, which is UNSDG #1, Laina shared how she believes poverty is the root cause of all evils. Take, for example, environmental degradation: it is often the poor who are forced to cut down the trees and participate in other unsustainable practices as their only means of income and livelihood.

Laina also implored the audience to think about how are we perpetuating poverty? A shirt that the worker was paid 60 cents to make can be bought at $50. She encouraged the audience to be conscious and ask where the items they bought really came from. She then shared about Angels of Impact’s specially curated online marketplace of sustainable and ethical products which aims to bring forward the stories of the social enterprises we work with and encourage conscious consumerism.

Next, Laina touched on women and sustainable impact. Data has shown that women are good investments. If we only have one dollar in the world give it to women who will solve the problem! Laina discussed that although we have achieved the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty in the world, there is still a phenomenon called the feminisation of poverty — where women represent a disproportionate proportion of the poor. This is because they are often the invisible infrastructure of society — they are the ones who have to walk for miles to find water, tend to the children and chores and carry out subsistence farming. As a result, they often get left behind when economic opportunities come.

However, research shows that women are key to ending poverty. Income in the hands of the mother has a tremendous impact on healthcare and nutrition,far greater than the in the hands of the father. Thus there is a need to see women as the solution to ending poverty.

Laina then touched on the need to move beyond charity such as through social entrepreneurship. For example, Angels of Impact works with social enterprises which have transparent and ethical supply chains like Krakakoa, Javara, Toraja Melo and Siam Organic to lift communities out of poverty.

Angels of Impact at Pushing the Impact Envelope’s MARKETPLACE showcasing some of the products from our partner social enterprises

Laina then closed her speech by reaffirming Angel’s of Impact’s massive transformative purpose of creating a world without poverty in unity with women and bringing social enterprises to the market. She encouraged the audience to live out the 3 UNSDGs of #1 No Poverty; #5 Gender Equality and #12 Responsible Consumption and Production. Just starting with those have the potential to make huge impact.

Later in the evening, our Co-Founder and CEO Audrey Tan shared about the what, whys and hows on investing in women social impact enterprises.

Why begin Angels of Impact in the first place? One of the key reasons was a report published by Acumen and Monitor Group report which found that a lot of women businesses and impact businesses were too large for seed funding but too small for impact funding. This created a gap where they were not able to access financing. Furthermore, only 7% of Venture Capital funds go to women-owned businesses.

Audrey moved on to share that we should not see women businesses and women social entrepreneurs as victims who need help but rather to see that there is a need to include them into the agenda.

It’s about giving women a voice. Research shows that women entrepreneurs are capable of handling large amounts of funding. According to Forbes, women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenue with 50% less money compared to their male counterparts. This shows that women are not victims, women are good investments and that we can invest in women.

Next, a lot of impact investing spaces and groups are actually closed networks. Billions of dollars have been channeled into impact funding however many women-led social enterprises are still not getting access to the funding.Furthermore, many of these impact investments networks were for accredited investors only. This meant money was being circulated in closed networks.

Audrey moved on to share how ordinary people can contribute to impact investing. For example, we can help fund local social enterprises. Many of these social enterprises have been trying to fundraise and close their funding gap for a long time. Angels of Impact comes into matchmake social enterprises to angel funders and angel investors. However, expectations of returns from an impact investor’s standpoint needs to be changed as high returns in a short period of time is not realistic for many social enterprises.

She went on to share the personal story of Dinny Jusuf, the founder of Torajamelo, which is one of the social enterprises that Angels of Impact works with. Torajamelo works with women weavers across Indonesia to produce clothing, gifts, accessories, etc. Many of these women were victims of abuse or sex trafficking, and Torajamelo is able to give them a dignified livelihood and income. However, Dinny was unable to gain access to funding.

Inspired by Dinny’s story, Audrey invested some money into Torajamelo — money that would have otherwise gone to donations. This model of financing is known as an evergreen fund, where the money loaned to these women entrepreneurs can be repaid back into an evergreen pool and re-invested to even more women entrepreneurs.

Audrey closed her speech by sharing how Angels of Impact also invests time by linking women entrepreneurs with corporates, some of whom include companies such as Facebook, Google and Bloomberg. Many of these companies now purchase products from social enterprises such as Krarakoa and Javara for their pantries. By doing so, corporates are able to integrate doing good directly into their supply chains.

We would like to thank everyone who came down to listen to Laina and Audrey speak, as well as all the other presenters who shared their own nuggets of wisdom. It was extremely heartening to see so many people passionate about furthering social impact all gathered together in the same room. Special thanks also to Startup Asia Women, who made the event possible and such a success. Last but not least, we would also like to thank everyone who expressed their interest in supporting our mission, and we look forward to further expanding our outreach from here on.

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