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Helping impact-driven businesses get ready to grow

Impact-driven businesses can now apply for up to $30,000 each, from a total funding pool of $250,000 generously provided by programme partners Foundation North, Kiwibank, The Tindall Foundation and WEL Energy Trust.

Successful applicants can spend programme funding on financial, legal or other business support services that help that business get ready for impact investment.

Ākina CEO Louise Aitken says that the economic downturn makes initiatives like the Impact Investment Readiness Programme crucial to New Zealand’s recovery.

“This programme has unlocked investment in some truly remarkable New Zealand businesses. Given the harsh consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s so important that we see more businesses operating in ways that create better outcomes for people’s lives and our planet,” says Aitken.

Past recipients include online study platform LearnCoach, health and wellbeing programme BBM, and compostable plastic bottle company For the Better Good. Each of these social enterprises went on to raise significant investment.

The three previous rounds gave out $300,000 in funding and returned over $5 million in investment, a number that’s expected to increase as past recipients make progress on their journey to investment.

Through The Impact Initiative, a partnership with the Government, Ākina is exploring how increased Government funding and support for impact investment readiness would help create jobs and positive outcomes in priority areas, by accelerating the pipeline of investable impact enterprises.

“There’s huge potential for a proven programme like the Impact Investment Readiness Programme to be delivered at scale, and there’s a role for the Government to play there,” says Aitken. “We want to see more impact-driven enterprises gain investment. If they can scale it not only means they can create more jobs, it means they can scale their impact too – they’ll be able to do more to tackle our social and environmental challenges and grow New Zealand’s Impact Economy.”

Past recipients of impact investment readiness funding report that finding the support needed to seek investment can be challenging.

“When you're bootstrapped, there's always a tendency to DIY everything!” says Rebecca Percasky, co-founder of The Better Packaging Co. which sells a range of sustainable and compostable packaging that makes postage and consumer products less wasteful.

Rebecca Percasky and Kate Bezar, co-founders of The Better Packaging Co.

“Getting investment to take your business to the next level while maintaining, or even enhancing the degree of impact it can make is not something to cut corners on. [This programme] means you can get the best advice and do it properly,” she says.

Director of Ākina Invest, Jackson Rowland, has worked on the programme since it was first launched back in 2016 under the name Investment Readiness Grants. This year he’s overseen a change to how the programme runs, with applications now assessed on a rolling basis until either the available funding runs out, or the application window ends in early November.

”We made this important change to better reflect the reality of seeking investment,” says Rowland.  “Sometimes you’ve got to move quickly to make the most of an opportunity and we didn’t want to have to make applicants wait too long to find out if they were successful or not  – especially at a time when businesses are needing to be agile to respond to unfolding economic challenges,” he says.

Impact investing is the term used to describe investing with the intention of generating a measurable and beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.

The Impact Investment movement is growing worldwide, with estimates that the total investment available for impactful businesses globally is now at over $1 trillion. The full list of businesses that received impact investment readiness funding through Ākina in 2019 can be seen here.

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