How activist angels show an integrated approach to decision-making

Learning from #ImpactWomen

During a Make a Wave Growth Readiness Programme webinar, Bonnie Foley-Wong, CA, CFA, CEO of Pique Ventures (an impact investment and management company with an edge) and Ogunte collaborator, highlighted the way a new generation of activist angels make decisions when investing in social ventures. The key word is “integrated way”.

Here’s Bonnie’s insights to an integrated investment decision-making approach.

For now, put yourself in the shoes of an activist angel.

Investing is an interactive human activity

Yes, you can make number crunching interesting, and tell the story of a business in numbers. “But before you go about the numbers, as an angel, I want to hear about the business model, the narrative, the story. Tell me why you are doing what you are doing. Tell me what you are passionate about. Tell me about your strengths.” says Foley-Wong.

“Then, tell the story through role playing, choosing different scenarios. Talk about units, customers, what happens when you change variations, numbers, parameters and see how the story unfolds.”

Then transition to the hard core numbers.

Never forget that overall, it’s a human process, even when there are technical rules.

Impact investors are astute business people. In theory, they are interested in aligning values.

During the session, Bonnie suggested the audience to use the good old business model canvas and the seven domains model to start telling their story.

“You’ll see these tools have very human questions!”

When looking at your business, or your fellow’s business, put yourself in the shoes of an activist angel and ask yourself these questions:

and the whole range of “why” questions.

So far, nothing new. When you’ve answered the questions, at that stage, the angel has just received information.

They haven’t started the decison-making process yet.

This is the next stage.

Remember that all decisions involve emotions, guts, emerging consciousness, not just numbers and analysis.

There have been a lot of discussions around how our body supports decisions and/or influence risk-taking. “Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves.

Remember this sequence: Intuition= Guts + Emotions + some dosis of experience.

Remember also that we cannot analyse something that hasn’t happened yet.

During the session, Bonnie shared the tool she uses to help people develop awareness, a tool to use the information and knowledge they have to guide their decisions.

1. Knowledge

- Remember to take stock of what you know. Look back at your own experience, your own knowledge, never forget your life experiences.

2. Awareness

- involves risk and impact. It’s a very personal matter. It’s influenced by our own experiences. eg. if I have had many exposure to risk, I might be more risk tolerant…  The things people perceive as impactful are also drawn from personal experiences.

3. Skills

- In conducting research, try the ” what if… then what?“ Grow your decision-making skills through exploration of scenarios, and follow through…

Final Top Tips

The following top tips are valid for activist angels but also true for any entrepreneur, as there’s always an activist angel in each one of us, even if sometimes we’re just providing knowledge or social capital!

1. Integrate

2. Work on your relationship building skills. Ask the other: how can I help you get your job done, which also helps me get my own job done!

3. Connecting: help people realise their ideas. Be relational.

4. Make the ASK.

There are many ways we can help you grow your social venture, check out our services here.

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How to Put Yourself in the Shoes of an Investor

During our first Make a Wave Growth Readiness Bootcamp in Manchester, we played the Dragon’s Apprentice Den!“

The group of participants was divided in two groups One one side: the investors One the other side: the entrepreneurs. (1 participant put her business idea forward and got support from her newly formed team)

1st part

The investors co-designed questions they wanted answers to, after hearing the pitch. The entrepreneurs group decided on one entrepreneur’s case-study to put forward. The designated entrepreneur explained her idea and others asked questions to understand as much as they could about the business.

2nd part

The entrepreneurs pitched. Investors asked questions. Entrepreneurs provided answers and suggestions to support the “founder”.

Key learning from the participants:

Further thoughts…

Investors  can get excited by your passion too. They have feelings and emotions that help them make a judgment beyond just a track record, order sheets or promises of sales. Useful to remember!

There are many ways we can help you grow your social venture, check out our services here

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A few tips if you are crowdfunding

Jay Diamond going through a crowfunding campaign pitch exercise.

Learning from #ImpactWomen

Participants on our Make a Wave Growth Readiness programme in Manchester,

asked themselves:

What is crowdfunding?

Theresa Burton, Ceo and Co-founder of Fundit (Formerly Buzzbnk), the first UK crowdfunding platform for social entrepreneurs, - and Make a Wave Incubator fellow in 2011- gave an introduction to crowdfunding to the Make a Wave Bootcamp’s participants.

“Crowdfunding is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s funding for great ideas from a crowd of people who back those ideas. There’s a specific time frame for funding targets to be reached, and everyone who gives, receives something in return”.

During the workshop, participants designed a mock crowdfunding campaign page.

Here are a few crowdsourced tips, based on the learning gathered during the session:

Good luck!

There are many ways we can help you grow your social venture, check out our services here.

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Need to fuel up on inspiration? #ImpactWomen contemplate their heroes.

By Naomi Pyburn for Ogunte

I’m a big fan of the meditation app, Headspace . I try to use it daily to take some time out and become more aware of my thoughts, maybe combat some anxiety along the way. 

Some days my mind is restless, and I just can’t seem to hold my focus on the breath. Some days I’m surprised by how easy it is to still my thoughts and enjoy the peaceful, expansive moment. 

But one part of the guided meditation that I never struggle with is when Andy (aka the smooth, soothing voice of Headspace) prompts me to call to mind the faces of the people in my life who will benefit from me having a more peaceful mind. 

It sounds so small, but I love it. On a day when I’m not so enthused, the simple act of imagining their faces for a few seconds revives my motivation. I flick through the mini-slideshow of familiar faces: Mum, Dad, partner, close friends, colleagues. As if from a distance, I watch my resolve gather strength, in a sort of mental gritting of the teeth. My determination is new and steely: I must make the most of this session. 

I mention this because the Impact Women I speak to seem to derive a similar effect from contemplating their heroes. There is surely no quicker way to fire someone up than by asking them about their sources of inspiration, the personal relationships which give them the ability to show up and work hard. Expect a rush of fresh energy and excitement to share the names and tell you exactly what it is about them that makes them so great.

It got me thinking that this is not at all a trivial question. Inspiration and motivation are vital parts of our work lives, especially on the tough, rocky path of being a social entrepreneur. It may well feel like all the odds are stacked against you, maybe even that there are those who want to see you fail. It is easy to see how tempting it might be to give up the whole thing.

In a previous post. I stressed that the ‘why’ must be at the centre. It occurs to me that the ‘who’ must also remain absolutely clear in the mind.

As Karen Mattison, co-founder of Timewise, said: ‘In reality, people are interested in people.’ 

In the context, Karen was talking about drawing upon personal stories to engage stakeholders, but I think this applies to all of us. We all need a bank of faces and stories to fuel our fire. 

Luckily for us, like fire, inspiration is catching. Some of the stories in our Impact Women interviews have particularly touched me, and I now carry them in my own arsenal of motivation. 

Strong foundations

Essma ben Hamida, who founded enda inter-arabe: ‘My mother was a model for me - she was the engine of all this. Her life, her struggle, her efforts to empower us pushed me to do what I’m doing today.

My grandfather taught me to help the poor, not by charity, but by working together to make a better life.’

Kresse Wesling, Elvis & Kresse: I had grandparents who wasted nothing and gave everything. My childhood was a gift, a debt I feel both obliged and honoured to repay.’

Katie Taylor, ceo at Khethworks: “My mother. She’s so tough and strong and caring and generous, all in the same moment. For me, she epitomises the fact that women aren’t any one thing. Women aren’t just feminine or more masculine, soft or hard – she’s everything.” 

“She’s such a hard worker, and she’s motivated by results and by helping others, not by getting any sort of recognition. She’s so full of love and she shows it through her actions. It’s so impressive and inspiring.”

“I have some amazing best friends who are fierce female warriors. They all have their own wittiness and compassionate side. They’ve all been through their own struggles, which they’ve faced and conquered with grace.”

“They’ve taught me about loyalty and love, and that the combination of these can get you through anything. I’m very lucky with my friends and family. They really do inspire me.”

The Trailblazers

These, we admire for their audaciousness. Heroes might dazzle us with their achievements, but can also help us recognise particular characteristics we want to cultivate in ourselves.

Jenny Costa, founder Rubies in the Rubble: ‘Ertharin Cousin is a big hero of mine. She’s worked as the US Ambassador to the UN for Food and Agriculture and as the Executive Director of the World Food Programme. She’s an incredibly hard-working and passionate woman, with masses of time for everybody, who puts together strategies for all sorts of areas, dealing with supply chains across Africa so they can become more sustainable.’

Megan Miller, Bitty Foods: “I’m inspired by women I meet who are achieving a really good work-life balance. When they’re really ambitious in advancing their careers and work with fascinating ideas, and have a family. I’m at the stage of my life where I have a young family, I have a two-year-old at home and I’m 7 months pregnant with my second.

‘One of my previous bosses, a mentor of mine, was a senior executive at a big multi-national company, and she has four children. She was very skilled at balancing her work life and her home life. She would sit in meetings, asking the tough questions and analysing numbers on a spreadsheet or in a presentation, while holding her newborn. And then, she would turn to her child and be able to give them her full attention. It was that ability to switch so effectively that I found so impressive and inspiring.”

Hyasintha Ntuyeko, Kasole Secrets: Dr. Minou Fuglesang - the executive director of Femina Hip. I am inspired by her way of mentoring people, and by the great work of her organization for adolescents in Tanzania.’

Ruth Anslow, hiSbe, the ethical supermarket: I most admire the founding entrepreneurs who combine unabashed ambition, business activism, and heart. Therefore, I’ll say Anita Roddick (Body Shop), Benita Matofska (The People Who Share) and Sophia Grinvalds (Afripads).

Jane Davis , The Reader: Cath Powell MBE developed an old recreation ground in Lytham St Anne’s into the most amazing community park (Park View for You). I visited her to see her work as we were moving into Calderstones – it was a total inspiration. I loved it, and loved the passion and energy Cath had displayed (over more than a decade) to make it happen.

Fellow Rumblers

Often, immediate inspiration and support comes from the people who are rumbling with a similar problem to us. They seem to be the ones who best understand what we are going through, because they are in the same fight, and we can find solidarity there.

Sasha Kramer, SOIL: ‘Isabel [Medem] inspires me because she’s walking a very similar road to mine. It’s so rare to find women who are dedicated to this sector long-term, and who are actually grappling with the very same issues I am. As a personal and professional support, Isabel is invaluable.’

Katie Taylor: ‘Rebecca Hui is really terrific. She is the CEO of Roots Studio and a Tata fellow. We first met here in Pune through a friend, and she is one of those incredibly open, empathetic people. 

‘It’s nice to have other female entrepreneur friends to share problems and advice with. They can be helpful as a sounding board for new ideas, or to just listen and say ‘Same here’.’

Wild cards

Sometimes wells of inspiration can be found in unexpected places, like historical figures, and in the words of great thinkers and writers. These can deeply influence our thinking and ground our motivation.

Poonam Bir Kasturi, Daily Dump: “The mathematician Eugenia Cheng inspires me - I think of her as a social entrepreneur.” 

Essma ben Hamida: ‘I am inspired by women throughout history. My grandfather used to read us lessons from the Quran, and the example set by the prophet’s wives – Khadija, Aisha. In our civilisation, we have great women. People don’t see that when they look at Islam so much. Though I am not a great believer today, I took in the beautiful values of the religion and now I use them in my work.

‘Going back further… to Carthage – a city founded by a woman, Dido! Today, I tell my clients and colleagues that we succeed as a microfinance institution because we help Tunisian women rediscover their talents. These women are the daughters of Dido: something in our blood is entrepreneurial. The Phoenicians were the best traders of their time, and we carry that history. Unfortunately, after that time, oppressive rules confined women to the home.

‘For me, this is the beauty of what we are doing. Tunisian women were dormant entrepreneurs: what they needed was the spark to come back to life.’

Katie Taylor treasures this quote when she is pushing herself to think creatively about new problems:

‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.’ - Gilbert K. Chesterton

Brené Brown, author and social researcher, speaks of her crystalising moment when she read this speech by Theodore Roosevelt. His words helped her make connections in her theories about vulnerability, shame and wholehearted living.

To be honest, it’s a pretty amazing speech and very much worth a read:

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 

‘The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; 

‘Who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

Wrapping up

Incidentally, Brené is one of my personal heroes. In our culture, investing time into understanding our emotions can be seen as indulgent or unimportant – it’s a topic often confined to very specific situations or places, or simply dismissed off-hand. 

Brené’s research offers validation that my fascinations, primarily people, relationships, and emotions, are worthy of attention and interest. 

Inspiration is a powerful force, and essential in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, it’s hard to get up and carry on. This is why it is imperative that we share the examples of those that bring us life and unlock reserves of energy we didn’t know we possessed. 

Circling back to meditation, try calling to mind the faces of those who benefit from your efforts. Not just the obvious beneficiaries, but also our friends and families who will gain from your sense of fulfillment and happiness. 

And remember, too, those people you will never meet but who you will in turn inspire with a life of purpose and emboldened action.

There are many ways we can help you grow your social venture, check out our services here.

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5 mental blocks that stop #ImpactWomen connecting with helpers - and how to power through.


By Naomi Pyburn for Ogunte

Building social capital, showing your face, talking to the ‘right’ people, making yourself known, moving in high circles.

Networking gets a bad rep.

Looking back, so many of the Impact Women we amplify and the ones we support, say they wish they had been better networkers. They often say they didn’t realise at first how important it is to put yourself and your idea out there, and to build up a strong, supportive professional network from the beginning. Many said they wished they could have been more assertive and asked for the help they needed.

There is no shortage of literature to suggest that some women assume networking is “more difficult for women than men”. Women have long been excluded from the informal gatherings, dinners and golf trips or pub crawls where men forge those all-important professional relationships. The established social science principle of ‘likes attract’ says that we are more likely to bond with people like us, and the male-dominated upper ranks make this a struggle for women. We know that we need to be active in engaging and expanding our networks. For the thousandth time, we are told to lean in.

But our interviews with women in social enterprises flagged up some more personal obstacles to rocking up to that professional event with show-stopping confidence. Looking a little closer to home, let’s dive into why we might be tempted to pass on an opportunity:

1) We are intimidated by the success of others. What could we possibly offer?

It’s easy to be dazzled by what everyone else is doing, and the impact they are having. When approaching someone with a few decades’ more experience than us, we can hesitate to ask a favour because we don’t know what to offer in return. But, bear in mind that they had help too, from older mentors and advisors, and the way to repay them is to become a mentor yourself in the future and continue the cycle of paying it forward.

Essma Ben Hamida, founder of enda inter-arabe – the first micro-finance institution in Tunisia: “Few people achieve their full potential on their own – I definitely had people who helped me to where I am today. So I see it as only fair that we should give back.”

2) We think we can do it alone.

Pride and emotional investment can get in the way of us asking for help when we need it. We get immersed in an idea and forget to look outwards at how others can offer advice, support, or resources.

One of the great things about social business is that we are all working towards the common goal of building a better world – the incentive to help each other out is already there. Look up.

Get more help!

Ruth Anslow, founder of hiSbe - a supermarket in Brighton that believes in prioritising fair pay and happiness for all over short-term profit: “Get more help! Amy and I are both highly independent, stubborn, and resourceful, and we just tried to do everything ourselves. It’s different now, but in the beginning we didn’t know how to ask for help.“

3) We are content with our existing support networks.

We might get to a place where we are satisfied with the number and quality of our friends and acquaintances. While this position sounds enviable, it could be a bad idea to stop reaching outwards.

Studies have shown that innovative ideas and breakthroughs are often triggered by an interaction with someone in your outer circle. This makes sense, as new acquaintances can offer unfamiliar perspectives and spark connections in your mind that you’d never considered before. In this way, networking can be seen as an opportunity to hear fresh input and be challenged by people outside of your go-to advisors.  

4) Fear.

As with all social interactions, there is an element of risk involved in networking. Yes, you might put your foot in it, or say something you wish you hadn’t. But the benefits far exceed the momentary discomfort of walking into a roomful of people you don’t know. You encounter new people with new ideas and perspectives that might well be crucial to helping you take the next step for your venture. You can form lasting relationships, and maybe even meet your next business partner. Crucially, all these good things will stay unknown until you face your fear and take a leap.

5) We don’t want to seem self-interested.

Networking can carry bad associations. Ever been in a room where everyone is trying to cosy up to the few in senior positions, and there is an air of desperation as they compete to leave a good impression? It’s not a pleasant environment.

It’s uncomfortable to think of using social interactions for one’s own benefit, to get ahead, which could be why many of us cringe at the prospect of an evening of networking.

We need to adjust our language to positively engage with the importance of being connected. And I mean truly connected and supported, not just being able to name-drop acquaintances in high places. 

Megan Miller, founder of Bitty Foods – which produce high protein cricket flour, says: “Networking is such a corporate and lame-sounding term, but really it’s just making human connections, making friends, and finding people who have done what you’re doing, or something close to it, who can share information. Super valuable. “

Networking is about seeking out professionals with values and vision that align with yours. It is about meaningfully connecting with others on a similar path to you, and sharing resources to progress towards a common goal. It is a brave choice to break out of isolation that can be crippling to a new venture.

Networking reframed

Take a note from experienced entrepreneurs who wish they could have been more assertive when opportunities to make valuable relationships arose. When it comes to putting your ideas out there, don’t let anything stop you from being heard.

Poonam Bir Kasturi, founder of Daily Dump - designing and building products and services for decentralized waste management in homes, communities, offices and public spaces: “Get better at networking - you have no idea how important that is in this world if you want to scale.”

“Make your business futureproof – build a strong network now that you can call on in the future. This way, you can prepare against hitting roadblocks in times of growth. “

Chinwe Ohajuruka, founder of Comprehensive Design Servicesfocusing on affordable green housing in emerging markets, says: “If I could travel back in time, I would tell myself to get out there and network more. Engage many more people with my vision and do not be too hesitant, proud or shy to ask for help when I need it. I would also encourage myself not to be too modest, and to toot my horn every step of the way to garner more interest in and appreciation of what it is I am trying to do!”

Put yourself out there. If you don’t believe in and shout about your idea, no one else will.

Megan Miller, Bitty Foods: “Find people who’ve walked ahead of you, who have contacts and smart advice. You would just be reinventing the wheel if you didn’t reach out and find smart people who have experience to mentor you.”

Be resourceful. It is not valuable to DIY for the sake of it. Work smart and don’t waste your time wrestling with a problem for which someone else has already found a great solution.

Urvashi Sahni, founder of SHEF – providing quality education to underprivileged girls in India: “I think about networks as clusters of people with a shared interest or goal. This is how movements work, as you gather together more and more drivers of change. “

So, go forth and multiply your networks!

There are many ways we can help you grow your social venture, check out our services here.

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