HMFC Helps Fund Loan to Local NGO Working With Returnees

HMFC, the student run Haverford MicroFinance Consulting, has been working for the past two years with Kiva Zip, an online crowdfunding platform for zero interest loans to small businesses. Last year, in its role as a Kiva Zip trustee, HMFC endorsed Aisha of Miss Mahogany, an accessory and home decorations boutique in the 60th Street Corridor in West Philly. HMFC helped her to post her Kiva Zip profile and fund her loan. (Thanks again to those HC students, alums and friends who participated in that loan!).

In April, with the semester coming to a close and no potential borrowers to endorse as a trustee, HMFC decided to focus its attention on raising awareness of Kiva Zip and access to finance issues by having a bake sale – and using the funds to loan to a local business on Kiva Zip’s website. They headed to the kitchen and thanks to their combined talents of Rebekah Fussell ’19, Steve Lehman ’19, Ian McGroarty ’17, Andrew Nguyen ’19, and Kerry Rodriguez ’18 produced an appealing stack of brownies, Rice Krispie treats and homemade Chinese Fortune cookies filled with catchy financial literacy lessons such as “Pay your IRA before your IPA!” Admittedly, our homemade fortune cookies may not have looked professional, but they tasted good and served their  purpose.

Steve Lehman '19, Rebeckah Fussell '19 and Kerry Rodriguez '18 doing prep!

Steve Lehman ’19, Rebeckah Fussell ’19 and Kerry Rodriguez ’18 doing prep!

Andrew Nguyen shaping fortune cookies

Andrew Nguyen shaping fortune cookies

Rice Krispie Treats in the making with Rebeckah Fussell '19 and Ian McGroarty '17 (maybe better not to look!)

Rice Krispie Treats in the making with Rebeckah Fussell ’19 and Ian McGroarty ’17 (maybe better not to look!)

The students set up shop at the DC at dinner time and those who bought the baked goods were able to vote for one of three businesses seeking a loan.

By the time Steph Lukaz ’19 arrived for the second shift the cookies were almost all gone. “We sold out way before we predicted,” Steph said. She added, that this

“speaks well to the character of Haverford students and the growing interest in impact investing to generate significant social impact. Impact investing has the potential to alter the way people choose to deploy money. Perhaps we should not be surprised at the interest of Haverford students in contributing to the cause even, if it’s as little as investing in a cookie.”

Since the organic farm that garnered the most votes was already fully funded by the next day and there were no other comparable loan seekers, the group had to make a decision: honor the sector that received the most votes (sustainable foods) or honor the focus on a local borrower.

The students decided on the latter and then voted to fund a Philadelphia NGO that is working with returnees, men who had been released from prison and were integrating back into society (TIIAI.Org ). They were very impressed with TIIAI’s mission as well as its proposed use of the loan. TIIAI has created a pair of books to sell for fundraising. By using the loan to print higher volumes, TIIAI can reduce the average cost and increase the funds raised on each book to support their programming.

Congratulations to TIIAI. We wish them success with their book sales and with their programming in the community.

And, kudos to HMFC for helping to engage the Haverford community in what will be a gift that keeps on giving. In two years, TIIAI is expected to have paid off its loan and these funds can be redeployed to help another NGO or social entrepreneur.

 

 

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Devin Salmon ’18 on Short-term Investment Pressures and Long Term Strategies

Governance is an issue I touch upon in many courses, from Advanced Corporate Finance to Impact investing to Microfinance. Devin Salmon ’18 expressed interest in understanding the pressures that businesses are facing from their investors and how they are affecting business strategy and performance. He came across a NYT DEALBOOK conference devoted to this topic in the Fall. Haverford MI3 sponsored him to attend and below are some of his notes and thoughts on what he heard. – Professor Mudd
(Devin is 3rd from the left above, with Nimesh Ghimire (Swat ’15), Layne Cole (BMC ’16) and Ananya Kumar (HC ’18) at the Investment Advisory Council Due Diligence Presentations in December 2015.)

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DealB%k Ticket!

DealB%k Ticket!

Devin Salmon on the NYT Dealbook Conference

The New York Times Dealbook Conference in New York City was hosted by Andrew Ross Sorkin, NYT Journalist, CNBC host and author of  Too Big Too Fail. It had a plethora of guests and speakers ranging from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to investors, entrepreneurs, and politicians. The wide array of views spoke on the need for long term thinking in a world that is ever changing and demands an immediate result. An example of the short term thinking is shown in Peter Lynch’s fund, the Magellen Fund. The fund returned on average 20% per year but the investors on average made 0%. The reason for this is because whenever the returns were rocky they would pull out their money, and after a good year they would put it back in. Unfortunately for them, the average investor missed out on the fund’s strongest years because they were usually immediately after the decline. Al Gore, the former Vice President, said that the average stock 40 yrs ago was held from 6-7 years, and now the average is only 17 weeks if you don’t include algorithm funds and ETFS, and if you include them it is 27 days.

Investors such as Carl Icahn and Stanley Druckenmiller spoke on the increasing trend for companies to initiate buybacks on their own stocks, even when the company’s stock is trading at all time highs. The companies are not as profitable due to higher regulation and increasing competition, so they initiate buybacks to make their earnings per share (EPS) look higher. The institutions are doing this to appease the analysts and traders in the short term, but it is an issue for the long term. Because the companies are buying back their own stock instead of investing in research and development (R&D) and their own business, the companies are not becoming more efficient. Larry Fink of Blackrock and Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs want a change in tax structure to incentivize firms to think more long term; Fink would like for the government to impose a structure that rewards those who invest for over 5 or 10 years. He believes that in turn, the companies will be able to focus on the long term and not be forced to make decisions that will hinder the growth of the company.

IMG_0690 cropNetflix CEO Reed Hastings tries to focus on the long term because “if you focus on the short term you will chase your own tail and fail”. He believes in the long term business plan, and that a CEO should not care for the stock price in the short term. Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca Cola, and Gary Cohn want long term values because it will better allow them to balance, cut costs, and reinvest into the business.

After listening to speakers from such accomplished backgrounds, I felt that they all were speaking of similar issues and desires. They all understand that for a company to be successful it must invest in itself and in the future. But, they are all pressured by the short term investors and analysts that force them to meet high expectations in the short run for quick profit. Many companies are losing their competitive edges because they are pushing up the stock price and not helping the company grow or become more efficient. Carl Icahn highlighted the fact that many of the companies are not being run well, and that their future will be hurt because of their actions today.

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When I asked Devin whether he was more hopeful or more concerned leaving the conference, he replied “concerned.” Apparently, the conference was long on description and short on prescription. And the prescription… perhaps I should not be surprised… lower taxes.

OK, I should not be so cynical. It was more nuanced than that. The proposal was for government to lower taxes on capital gains for assets that are held longer.  (I wonder, did they consider suggesting a rise in capital gains taxes for assets held for only a short period?)

Anyway, thanks to Devin for sharing his takeaways with us!

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MI3 featured in article by Generocity

Check out Generocity, a news and events platform focused on Social Impact targeting the Philadelphia market.  They recently featured an article written by Tony Abraham on Haverford MI3 and the Impact Investing class.

“This local economics professor wandered into impact investing and brought his class with him”

You can get it here!

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Haverford MI3’s latest investment, MPowerd, featured by Clinton Global Initiative

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) just featured a project with MPowerd in its highlights of 2015. MPowerd is Haverford MI3’s most recent Impact Investment in our partnership with ORFL. It is a maker of an inflatable solar LED lamp called the Luci, a terrific product that is attractive to consumers in the developed world (Professor Mudd has two!) and provides essential light to the energy poor in developing countries who don’t have consistent, if any, access to electricity. MPowerd sells to both markets to be able to reach economies of scale in the production of Luci and thus reduce its costs when selling in emerging markets or to disaster relief/AID agencies.
MPowerd was an “out of season” investment assessed by a team of three students who were alums of EC298 Impact Investing. Three students, Conor Brennan-Burke (HC ’17), Nimesh Ghimire (Swat ’16) and Layne Cole (BMC ’17) worked with Professor Mudd in an independent study
.2015-12-11 22.00.02-2 crop

They screened 6 firms which had originally pitched to Investors’ Circle and were close to closing and selected two for a full due diligence. After a tough decision making process, they reached consensus to invest in MPowerd based on its track record of sales, potential to scale, strong management, continuing innovation and, most importantly, its ability to impact the lives of families among the world’s energy poor. To get a sense of the impact that an LED lantern can have on such families, see the summary of a study of health and education impacts on Kenyan children from the use of LED lamps replacing kerosene lamps published by the William Davidson Institute here.

You can purchase the Luci at MPowerd’s website MPowerd.com, in a host of retail stores and on Amazon.com. At MPowerd’s website, you can also gift a Luci to a household in need through one of MPowerd’s partner NGO’s here.
You can find the CGI article featuring the MPowerd project with the Maasai of Kenya here.  
There is also a terrific Huffington Post/National Geographic story on  the impacts of solar power LED lighting here.

 

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Impact Update from Wash Cycle Laundry

In Spring of 2014, Haverford MI3, in partnership with Overseas Resources Foundation, LTD, invested in Wash Cycle Laundry (WCL) is a start up delivery laundry service. It was an “out of season” investment that was analyzed by a group of students who had previously taken EC298 Impact Investing. The students were impressed both with the business plan and with its multi-pronged environmental and social impacts: 1) contracting with local laundromats to upgrade to latest clean and efficient equipment, then using that equipment with environmentally friendly detergent 2) delivery by bicycle,  reducing energy use and emissions 3) hiring from among vulnerable populations. With our investment and other Investors’ Circle members, WCL has expanded to Washington, DC and Austin, Texas. Below, CEO Gabriel Mandujano, who spoke on campus about his experiences as a social entrepreneur last semester, provides an update on WCL’s Impact. Keep up the great work Wash, Cycle, Laundry!

Hi  Haverford MI3 and Happy Holidays!

2015 marked 5 years that we’ve been in the business of delivering laundry on bicycles. In many ways, this has been a banner year for us –one we could not have accomplished without you. Together, along with tons and tons of dirty laundry, here’s what we’ve accomplished:

Thank YOU for being part of the Wash Cycle family and making this all possible. We look forward what 2016 has to bring — including some big announcements — and all the dirty laundry we’ll haul.

All best,
Gabriel Mandujano
Founder & CEO

 

Gabriel_Mandujano_Founder___CEO_forwebWash Cycle Laundry logo

 

 

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Shan Shan on the 2015 Lend for America Conference

This year six students from the Haverford Microfinance Consulting attended the annual Lend for America Conference (LFA) an event to bring together campus microfinance institutions across the US. This year’s event was hosted by Georgetown University and more than ** difference campus MFI organizations participated.

Shan Shan (’17), current co-director of HMFC had this to say about her experiences:

LFA 2015 Shan crop

Shan Shan, ’17

The conference kicked off with opening remarks by Katherine Lynch, the New York City Program Lead of Kiva Zip. While HMFC is already participating in Kiva Zip, I had not realized the variety of programs Kiva Zip and the Tier System offered to its trustees. Ms. Lynch also talked about the challenges Kiva Zip faces as it continues to expand. She was excited to announce the launch of a new Kiva City in December, New York City (Yes, Philly was first!).

One of the most interesting sessions I attended focused on international microfinance with panelists Kilee Bomgardner (Francis Fund, Saint Francis University) and Adam Davis (Yale’s Elmseed Enterprise Fund). While I had learned about international microfinance in Professor Mudd’s course, I was not aware that campus MFI’s were engaged in this type of microfinance.  The panel was both helpful and inspiring. Kilee talked about how to select clients, do financial analysis, and deliver loans in a foreign country and Adam spoke about the differences and similarities between domestic microfinance and international microfinance. Although it is unlikely for HMFC to pivot toward working with clients in foreign countries in the next one or two years, expanding services outside the United States could be both challenging and rewarding.

Not only was I able to learn from sessions led by others, but my HFMC co-director Ian McGroarty and I presented our own work with the Mapping Microfinance Project last summer (see Phillymap). The Lend for American conference provided a great opportunity to encourage other campus microfinance institutions to initiate projects to map small business services in their own areas as we did. The presentation went will with Ian introducing the project while I answered questions raised by the audiences. We received a lot of valuable feedback and several other campus microfinance institutions expressed interests in starting their own mapping projects.

Overall, the LFA conference was a fun and valuable experience and I appreciate both Mi3 for sponsoring my trip and student activities for funding it. I am looking forward to more opportunities to connect with other campus microfinance institutions in the future.

 

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An Alums Personal Experience with Microfinance

I just reconnected with Kyle Waney, ’15 who took my Microfinance course in Spring 2014. Kyle has long had a great interest in international business. After graduation he followed up on connections he had made to start work at a family owned carpet manufacturing business headquartered in UAE, the largest carpet manufacturer in the Middle East. He is now in Dubai working directly under the managing director and enjoying the opportunities to travel.

He relayed the following anecdote on the impact of a microfinance program the carpet company operates:

“The company … provides microloans to its laborers and some of the stories are remarkable. About 5 years back, one fork lift driver combined his own savings with a company loan and bought a used truck. He now owns 4 trucks and handles most of our local deliveries. “

Of course, as Kyle knows from his economics major and our microfinance class, anecdotal evidence does not prove a general positive impact of microcredit loans. Sill, such stories of small amounts of capital leading to powerful results show the potential of microfinance. We use them to inspire us to continue to  consider how to improve micro-loan structures and the firms and industry that provide them to better serve clients and ensure positive outcomes.

Thanks for the story, Kyle!

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A Shift in the Goals of Engineering to Include Improving Social Outcomes May Be Helping Bring More Women Into The Field

Caroline Cheney’s interesting article “A new kind of development professional: The development engineer” describes changing curriculum at some of the top Engineering schools where they are bringing together business, design, behavioral economics and different engineers to rethink approaches to some of the big social problems facing our world.  A new name is emerging “Development Engineering.”

As an example, Cheney points to an interesting solution to a potential health poverty trap that we discuss in the Microfinance class, access to clean water. Key to understanding the solution is thinking more clearly about what access means.

The project,  mentioned both in the article and in Banerjee and Duflo’s excellent book Poverty Economics, was very successful in finding ways to provide  access to clean water, but also in getting people to actually change behavior and use it. While selling chlorine tablets or gallons jugs of chlorinated water in markets did mean the targeted population had access, take up, i.e., actual use of this chlorinated water was low. Instead, the project tried providing access through locating chlorine tablet dispensers at the well site. This greatly increased take up. But, while behavioral economists may have figured this part out,  it was only when engineers got  involved to help with design that it all came together.

Recognizing the importance of interdisciplinary approaches, some universities are introducing new curricula to bring different modes of thought together. And apparently, this emphasis on social problems is not only providing innovative new responses by engaging engineers of various types, but is helping with another problem discussed at the national scale, the lack of women in the STEM fields.

As Lina Nilsson, innovation director for the Blum Center, was quoted in the New York Times: “The key to increasing the number of female engineers … may be about reframing the goals of engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs.”

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If Angel Investing and Microfinance Had a Baby

Last week I attended a great event called the SOURCE Forum, a joint venture by the Hitachi Foundation, Village Capital and Investors Circle.  SOURCE stands for Solutions from OUR Countries Entrepreneurs. The concept of SOURCE is to provide more opportunities for investors to meet with early stage social entrepreneurs without the complications of discussing funding (not a Shark Tank!).  Ten social entrepreneurs, all with innovative ideas in the health field, were invited to participate and meet with local investors including MI3 and our colleagues at Investors Circle Philadelphia, Gathering at the offices of Ben Franklin Technology Partners in the Navy Yard  we shared and collaborated in various configurations and learned about the challenges of the sector (who is the client? who is the payer?) and some very interesting firms, one of which Lia Diagnostics, a start up making a women-designed, eco-friendly, flushable pregnancy test was selected to present to Investors Circle Philadelphia.

What does this have to do with the title? No, its not from the pregnancy test! Ross Baird, CEO of Village Capital has just written a very interesting blog about how easily early stage firms can be derailed by things beyond their control (an oil spill!) and how a community can come together to help early stage firms succeed. It describes Village Capital‘s collaborative model for the incubating and funding of early stage firms – and that is the source of the quote. You can find it here.

Prof Mudd

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Haverford’s First MF Client! (a Kiva Zip Borrower)

This past year, Haverford Microfinance Consulting (HMFC) successfully applied to become a Kiva-Zip Trustee as a way to help provide access to finance to area small businesses who find it difficult to raise needed funds for the success of their businesses. The students  of HMFC searched throughout the Fall and Spring semesters to identify good candidates to assess using their loan underwriting training, and, assuming all went well, to endorse giving them access to Kiva Zip’s zero-interest loan crowdfunding loan platform.

Early this Spring semester, a Kiva Zip representative introduced HMFC to Aisha Al-Muid. After a series calls, meetings and visits to her store, the students were impressed both by her business acumen and by her boutique, Miss Mahogany. Co-president Ian McGroarty says, “Aisha’s goals are inspiring, her mission is meaningful, and her passion is undeniable. But more importantly her plan is good.”

Located in the heart of the 60th Street Corridor, Aisha’s boutique, Miss Mahogany Jewelry, is in an important, upcoming location. Once a bustling boulevard and retail center of West Philadelphia, the community is striving to restore itself after SEPTA’s decade-long closing and reconstruction of the 60th street station.  Providing reasonably priced fashion and home accessories, Miss Mahogany Jewelry is one of many retail stores that are quickly becoming a major attraction to the area. While SEPTA’s reconstruction process is now complete, stores are still working to establish their presence as the corridor redefines itself. Providing access to needed finance can help with this community’s ultimate success. By endorsing Aisha as a Kiva Zip borrower, the students of Haverford HMFC are playing an active role in the community and supporting Aisha in achieving her goals.

Aisha plans to use the loan for marketing to enhance the buzz factor for Miss Mahogany and continue to drive foot traffic to the 60th street corridor. Aisha also plans to hire in-store-workers to free up her time to get the word out about her boutique and continue to find the products that make her shop a great place to shop.

After successfully showing her own network supports her during a two-week private fundraising period, Aisha’s profile is now public on the Kiva Zip platform and she is looking for individuals willing to help her achieve her funding goal. The students are asking for help in their effort to support Aisha to grow her business and in turn build the community. Please consider registering on the Kiva Zip platform and making a zero interest loan to Aisha and Miss Mahogany here.

Kiva-Zip is an organization dedicated to helping small businesses whose limited access to finance can be a big barrier to their success. Kiva-Zip’s peer-to-peer crowd funding strategy uses concepts of microfinance, in particular, harnessing a borrower’s social network to align incentives to repay, and has been successful in helping small businesses in communities across the US. With the recent involvement of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s office and declaration of Philadelphia as a Kiva Zip City, Kiva Zip is bringing funds to an increasing number of entrepreneurial firms in the region.

And, because of some generous local supporters, any funds lent to entrepreneurs in Philadelphia are currently being matched! So help the HMFC help Aisha and double your support by lending through Kiva Zip.

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