This summer, Professor Mudd and 5 Mi3 students on campus for the summer ventured out on another Mi3 journey to keep up with our local impact investing landscape, this time both to Kensington and to South Philadelphia! We visited three organizations: Shift Capital, Juggarnaut Studios and GlassHaus, and ConnectDER. Participating Fords were Ken Ruto ’20, Jeremy Evans ’18, Nathan Sokolic ’19, recent alum Ian Andolsek ’17, and myself, Wanyi Yang ’20.
Kensington was our first stop where we met up with our friends Stuart Hean HC’ 13, a leasing & media agent at Shift Capital and Qwajarik Sims ’19 who has an internship with Shift this summer. Stuart, who spoke at Mi3’s urban redevelopment panel last spring, gave a comprehensive overview of his firm’s impact investing-based business model and the initiatives it has taken to revitalize Kensington, often portrayed in media as the center for the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia. Shift Capital sees value in Kensington’s great location and its access to public transportation – a 15 minute SEPTA ride from Center City – and purchased a large number of light industrial, commercial and residential properties within walking distance of bus stops, trolley stops, and train stops. Stuart describes Shift Capital strategy to help neighborhood families stay in the neighborhood by bringing in jobs and providing rental properties that are affordable for low-income Kensington residents. In additional to its real estate development business, Shift Capital also creates local initiatives, such as the “Kensington Storefront Challenge”, to attract innovative businesses to Kensington’s commercial corridor. Working with multiple asset classes, SC really takes a holistic approach to transform Kensington.
One of the winners from Shift Capital’s “Kensington Storefront Challenge,” Genevieve Geer, founder of Juggarnaut Studios & GlassHaus, also joined the group for lunch. The student group HMFC had already been a supporter of Genevieve’s business using bake sale funds to participate in a zero interest loan to her through KivaUS. Now as a winner from the competition, Genevieve will receive one year of free lease in Shift Capital’s MaKen Studios North for her startup. Coming from an artistic background, Genevieve started a stained glass company Le Puppet Regime in 2013 (https://www.genevievegeer.com/), and her new start-up Juggarnaut Studios & GlassHaus is taking the business to another level with multiple revenue channels. The storefront will include an incubator, an affordable studio space for artists, a retail space and an art destination. A passionate community organizer, Genevieve also wishes to use her studio as a place to bring members of the community together and revive Kensington. We can’t wait for Juggarnaut’s launch in fall 2018!
Our last stop was to one of the Mi3 portfolio firms, ConnectDER, located in South Philadelphia. COO Jonathan Knauer introduced the basics of their product to the group (a “collar” that fits between an electric meter and the meter socket to make the process of installing distributed energy devices a lot simpler) and talked about the prospects for growth as the utility sector evolves. Two of our delegation, Ken Ruto ’20 and Ian Andolsek ’17 are entrepreneurs themselves and involved in a start up called Flux which has designed a smart water meter for use in Kenya. They had specific questions about contract manufacturing which Jonathan was very helpful in answering. Jonathan also talked about how his liberal arts education and passion for the environment equipped him to continually educate himself, be forward looking and have the flexibility to pivot from task to task, all necessary for working in the start up world.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and stay posted for more Mi3 field trips coming up during the school year!
Wanyi Yang ’20