Find investors aligned with your values
JAM The Coconut Food Company is an integrated coconut processing company that serves the agricultural, cosmetic and pharmaceutical markets in Nigeria. It sources from small-scale coconut farmers, who receive technical support and market access. The company further uses micro-entrepreneurs to distribute its products. Ninety percent of its executive team and eighty percent of its workforce are women.
Can you tell us about your fundraising journey? What kind of investments did you receive, and what challenges did you overcome?
As entrepreneurs we are constantly raising funds. I often say that a business is like a hungry baby, when it wants to eat, it wants to eat NOW. I remember several times when I needed funds for equipment or raw material to scale and I simply couldn’t source the funds. I started my business with personal funds, then took loans from family and friends, as well as banks, and also got grants. One of the times we were desperate for funds someone offered me the equivalent of $2,000 for 40 percent equity. It was a really low moment in my fundraising journey. The offer was not an option for me, but it broke me a little to see how funders are so quick to take advantage of a bootstrapping entrepreneur. More recently, through the Impact Amplifier Accelerator and IIF Deal Summit, we are now in conversation with an impact funder that we are truly excited about.
In a previous edition of CLUED-iN, we covered the gender finance gap. How did being a woman make a difference when you approached investors?
I honestly haven’t given much thought to my own gender when approaching investors. However because we are a social impact company with a focus on women, some investors have considered us less attractive to invest in. I recall being rejected for an Accelerator one year for this very reason. However when the organizers tracked the progress we had made in just one year, they approached me to reapply for the programme and I got in. Also I do believe the world is becoming a lot more parity conscious and there are many funding opportunities that are either strictly for women, or committed to investing equally in both men and women.
How important is your social value for investors? Did your gender responsiveness make a difference?
I have always been committed to building women as I build my business. I referenced above that some investors have seen our women focus as a disadvantage, but I knew we would one day find the investment partner that would align with our values. Thankfully this is where we are now through the Impact Amplifier Programme.
How do you measure your impact and demonstrate it to investors?
Our first measure of impact is the number of women we are able to train and employ. Secondly, the percentage of value addition we are able to add to every part of the coconuts we process. As we expand, we are committed to establishing our coconut plantation and engaging smallholder farmers as our partners. This is also critical to the impact we are keen to make and demonstrate to investors.
How did investment readiness training support you in attracting investment, and what are your main take-aways from the Impact Amplifier programme?
The quality of the training and support was truly exceptional. Also, the assignments forced us to prepare detailed financial projections for the next four years. The documents we prepared during the training helped me to be constantly pitch ready.
Do you feel that investor interest in Inclusive Business has changed over the past few years? If so, how?
Investors are savvy – they follow consumer trends, and consumers all over the world are more inclined to support inclusive sustainable businesses. It is therefore really in the best interest of the investor to support businesses that consumers support.
What advice would you have for entrepreneurs who are having trouble explaining their value to investors because they have unique inclusive business models?
Impact investors want to see impact. Many times entrepreneurs (and I am guilty of this also) bury their heads in the ground doing the hard work without working on their brand story. I would say to entrepreneurs, lift your head up every now and again. Tell your story through the eyes of the consumer and the stakeholders that are impacted through your work. There is a sweet spot in the universe for every entrepreneur. That sweet spot is your unique intersection of investors that align with your vision, yourself, and your customers. Keep doing the work and telling your story until these elements converge at that sweet spot.