The James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business has announced early-stage program-related investments totaling $2 million from the Sorenson Impact Foundation.
The five targeted impact investments will help entrepreneurs expand their social enterprises in industries ranging from solar energy and SME (small and medium-size enterprise) financing to affordable housing and fair-trade clothing manufacturing. Companies that received investments in the first half of 2013 are Copia, a Kenya-based consumer catalog and rural distribution company; Kinara Capital, a financing company for micro and small enterprises in India; Liberty & Justice, a fair-trade apparel-manufacturing company with offices in Liberia and Ghana; Simpa Networks, an India-based pay-as-you-go solar financing company; and World Haus, an affordable-housing construction company, also based in India.
Launched in January 2013, the SGII Center aims to facilitate greater participation in impact investing by training students to work directly with clients, including social enterprises, corporations, family offices, impact funds, and private family foundations. The investments selected by SIF were sourced, screened, vetted, and structured by teams of students who examined the companies' potential to produce sustainable and scalable social impact. Students also help prepare businesses for an infusion of capital by providing early-stage services, as well as continued post-investment support and assistance with social impact measurement and monitoring.
"With these investments, we have shown the ability to provide the infrastructure support for investors and enterprises to help lower hurdles and allow for engagement from foundations and impact investors across a range of sectors," said SGII Center director Lewis Hower. "Our key focus as a center is to increase the engagement of foundations and early stage impact investors to facilitate scalable and sustainable impact investments in promising social enterprises, while providing students a unique and rewarding experiential education and career path."
"We are pleased with the progress the foundation has made in making program-related investments," said SIF founder and board chair Jim Sorenson. "For a variety of reasons, there are limited amounts of risk capital going to support companies [working] to bridge the gap between purely philanthropic and commercially oriented capital. The SGII Center has played a catalytic role in helping to address such issues and facilitate these program-related investments."