Boston Impact Initiative Launches $20M Integrated Capital Fund for Entrepreneurs of Color and Community-Owned or Controlled Real Estate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nov. 16, 2022

CONTACT: 

Betty Francisco, Chief Executive Officer, BII

betty@bostonimpact.com 

617-702-9132

 

Boston Impact Initiative Launches $20M Integrated Capital Fund for Entrepreneurs of Color and Community-Owned or Controlled Real Estate

Fund II doubles down on racial justice mission of building a sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy for communities of color

Boston, Mass — Boston Impact Initiative (BII) today announced that the organization has launched its second integrated capital fund, known as BII Fund II, a $20 million fund that will invest in enterprises owned by entrepreneurs of color and in community-owned or controlled commercial and residential real estate to prevent displacement in Massachusetts and the Northeast.  Recognizing the need for fair and flexible capital for small and medium sized businesses, BII Fund II will invest primarily patient equity into early stage enterprises and real estate to build wealth through ownership and control of assets in communities of color, and help close the widening racial wealth gap.

“Integrated capital — the blending of grants, debt and equity to meet the financing needs of businesses where they are — builds intergenerational wealth and creates real power for communities of color,” said BII CEO Betty Francisco. “With the launch of Fund II, we can help level the playing field for entrepreneurs of color, have an outsized impact on our communities, and set a new standard for what impact equity investment looks like.”  

BII has already made six investments in Fund II totaling $1,435,000, including five enterprises —  CareAcademy, ChopValue Boston, MathTalk, TrillFit, Valley Home Insulation — and the East Boston Neighborhood Trust real estate acquisition which sets out a new community-governed, affordable housing model for Massachusetts. Those investments are on the heels of BII’s deployments over the last nine years in its pilot fund and Fund I, which totaled $10 million in debt and equity investments in 65+ enterprises owned and led by people of color and women, and $860,000 in grants. 

“Over the years, BII has demonstrated its commitment to being a trailblazer in impact investing for racial justice,” said BII Founder and President, Deborah Frieze. “Fund II is another groundbreaking effort to show how impact investors can bring non-extractive equity capital to the markets that need it most.”

Black and Latino entrepreneurs in Massachusetts have an unmet capital demand of $574 million annually. Venture capital accounts for 93 percent of early-stage equity investment, yet only 2.4 percent of venture capital is invested in Black and Latino founders in the U.S. and a mere 0.4 percent went to Black-owned startups in Massachusetts in 2021. The mismatch in capital supply and demand has created a large unmet need for equity financing for enterprises owned by entrepreneurs of color, which Fund II aims to address with patient, non-extractive equity capital for high impact social ventures. 

​”I’ve seen first hand how BII’s diverse team is responsive to the founders it supports by providing capital, connections and strategic advice, effectively serving as a champion in their corner,” said Malia Lazu, Founder and President of the Lazu Group and BII Investment Committee Member. “This is what trust-based investing looks like.” 

BII Fund II is open to investments in all sectors and will prioritize social enterprises owned by entrepreneurs of color that address an unmet need affecting communities of color, build climate resilience and grow community power and voice. Investments in community-owned or controlled real estate will focus on increasing diverse ownership and adding tranches of community ownership and governance. BII Fund II also provides technical assistance, business coaching, connections, and educational programming to support its portfolio investments and strengthen the impact of these enterprises in their communities. Fund II is open to both accredited and non-accredited community investors. To learn more, visit https://bostonimpact.org

Carl Valenstein of Morgan Lewis represented BII Fund II on its fund formation and note offering on a pro bono basis. BII’s technical assistance and field-building work is supported by a number of philanthropic partners including the Barr Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, Cedar Tree Foundation, Frieze Family Foundation, Hyams Foundation, Kataly Foundation, Mass Growth Capital Corporation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Surdna Foundation.

About BII

BII is a nonprofit impact investment fund working to build a future where entrepreneurs of color and their communities have the financial, social and political power to create a sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy for generations to come. To accomplish this mission, BII invests integrated capital in social enterprises and community-controlled real estate to increase wealth and asset-building opportunities for communities of color. BII is also transforming the impact investing field through field-building and education so that economic and racial justice becomes integral to any place-based investment strategy. 

MathTalk raises $1.9 million in seed funding to increase access to math in communities nationwide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, October 27, 2022

For more information, contact Vishakha Mathur at vishakha@617mediagroup.com or 617-485-7709

 

MathTalk raises $1.9 million in seed funding to increase access to math in communities nationwide

Financing will expand MathTalk’s innovative digital experiences and community-based installations helping young children and their families learn math, and mitigate the negative educational impact of COVID-19

    

BOSTON MathTalk, an organization dedicated to increasing math literacy and preparing children to succeed in mathematics, announced today that it has raised $1.9 million in first-round seed funding from leading social impact investors committed to supporting entrepreneurs and businesses that are creating sustainable change in communities. 

Imaginable Futures led the initial round along with the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, Community Impact Ventures, and Boston Impact Initiative. The Local Enterprise Assistance Fund served as financial advisor to MathTalk and provided instrumental support in closing the round. The funding will enhance MathTalk’s ability to grow its MathTrail footprint throughout Massachusetts and nationally, accelerate digital growth, and grow installation and product development teams.

“We led the round for MathTalk because we’ve seen how their community-driven work sparks new ways of interacting with and understanding the world around us through math,” said Ashley Beckner, Venture Partner at Imaginable Futures. “Playful, informal learning experiences that deepen our connections to each other and the world around us are needed now more than ever.”

National tests show the coronavirus pandemic had a devastating impact on the learning and academic performance of young children, especially children in communities that face greater barriers to equitable education. According to new data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, math test scores for 4th-and-8th grade students nationwide are at their lowest in over a decade, and reveals even starker gaps among Black and Latino students, low-income students, and English learners.

This milestone investment will provide greater access to math for young children and their families through MathTalk’s inventive work, particularly those living in economically distressed communities. 

“We do this to inspire children and families, everywhere, to find the fun in math and have more math conversations, together,” said MathTalk CEO Omo Moses. “We do this work because we want to build a world in which all children believe that math is for everyone. We do this because research shows that early math learning is part of a critical foundation for success in school and in life.”

“MathTalk embodies the mission of providing young children with equitable opportunities to learn and thrive, all while preserving the fun and enjoyment that comes with learning. We have been fortunate to be part of the MathTalk journey,” said Amine Benali, Managing Director at the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund.

Research shows that when parents and young children take time to explore, enjoy, and talk about math together, it sets the stage for positive early math experiences and helps young children view themselves as capable math learners. But in reality, talking about math isn’t something that comes easily to everyone: 93 percent of adults in the U.S. report having at least some level of anxiety about math. With MathTalk’s community-based installations, parents can ensure that their child’s earliest math learning experiences are positive.

The investment marks the company’s second significant milestone in recent weeks, after the successful launch of MathTalk’s Bob Moses MathTrail in Cambridge. The one-mile trail, which is full of activities and games that teach mathematical concepts interactively, is located in The Port neighborhood of Cambridge and runs through several Cambridge parks. It honors Bob Moses, the noted civil rights activist, educational pioneer, and founder of the Algebra Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping students from historically marginalized communities develop mathematical skills.

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About MathTalk

MathTalk is a team of parents, teachers, researchers, organizers, children’s media producers, designers, artists, game developers, entrepreneurs, and kids, that turn stories, public art, and augmented reality experiences into products and activities that make adults and the children in their lives smile while learning math. Visit www.math-talk.com.

 

Boston Impact Initiative, Lawyers for Civil Rights Launch Small Business Coaching for Entrepreneurs of Color

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT:

Aliana Pineiro

Impact Director, BII

aliana@bostonimpact.com

617-702-9132

Boston Impact Initiative, Lawyers for Civil Rights Launch Small Business Coaching for Entrepreneurs of Color

Boston — Boston Impact Initiative (BII) and Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) today announced a new small business coaching program and technical assistance for entrepreneurs and small business owners of color and immigrants who want to build sustainable and socially impactful businesses. The program, through a partnership between BII and LCR – funded by an SBTA grant from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) – will support for-profit, nonprofit, cooperative, and public benefit corporation enterprises owned by people of color and immigrants.

“The BII mission is to build financial, social, and political power for people and communities of color,” said BII CEO Betty Francisco. “Investing in entrepreneurs and small businesses in those communities is foundational to the success of that mission. We’re proud to partner with LCR to offer this collaborative coaching program and help these forward-thinking business owners accelerate their impact.”

Through the program, participants will receive a range of supports, including:

  • Business plan coaching to understand what drives their businesses
  • Education on types of capital and how to obtain the best fit for their businesses
  • Understanding optimal legal structures and how to protect their businesses
  • Impact assessment to help set goals for building a more sustainable and impactful business
  • One-on-one business and legal coaching from BII and LCR experts

“We are proud to join forces with BII and MGCC to help close the wealth gap and to foster the sustainability of diverse businesses, the economic engines of our Commonwealth,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

Interested entrepreneurs and small business owners of color can learn more about the program and apply by clicking here.

About BII

BII is a nonprofit impact investment fund working to build a future where entrepreneurs of color and their communities have the financial, social and political power to create a sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy for generations to come. To accomplish this mission, BII invests integrated capital in social enterprises and community-controlled real estate to increase wealth and asset-building opportunities for communities of color. BII is also transforming the impact investing field through field-building and education so that economic and racial justice becomes integral to any community-based investment strategy. Learn more at https://bostonimpact.org.

About Lawyers for Civil Rights

Lawyers for Civil Rights works with communities of color and immigrants to fight discrimination and foster equity through creative and courageous legal advocacy, education, and economic empowerment. In partnership with law firms and community allies, we provide free, life-changing legal support to individuals, families, and small businesses.

City of Boston and East Boston Neighborhood Trust Announce Acquisition and Expansion of Affordable Housing in East Boston

NEWS RELEASE

October 13, 2022

CITY OF BOSTON AND EAST BOSTON NEIGHBORHOOD TRUST ANNOUNCE ACQUISITION AND EXPANSION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN EAST BOSTON

The deal will create the state’s first mixed-income Neighborhood Trust, establishing affordability of 114 units in perpetuity.

Building on the City of Boston’s commitment to expanding affordable housing in Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the acquisition of 36 multi-family buildings comprising a 114-unit housing portfolio by the newly created East Boston Neighborhood Trust. The deal will establish the state’s first Mixed Income Neighborhood Trust (MINT) and ensure the affordability of these family-sized units in perpetuity. The $47 million acquisition was made possible by a $12 million investment by the City, including $9 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), $2 million from the Cares Act, and $1M in Inclusionary Development funds.

“As Boston continues to grow, we are moving urgently to ensure that all of our residents and families have access to safe, affordable housing,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “This acquisition of over 100 units in East Boston is a great example of what is possible when we use every tool as a City and partner across sectors to make Boston a city for everyone. I’m grateful to the Mayor’s Office of Housing for their leadership and look forward to accelerating our efforts for affordability across our neighborhoods.”

The East Boston Community Development Corporation (East Boston CDC) worked in partnership with local investors to convert the portfolio to the state’s first ever Mixed Income Neighborhood Trust (MINT). The MINT model places governance and control of the portfolio in the hands of a local purpose trust, while financial investors hold the economic interest in the portfolio. In addition to a City deed restriction which will ensure that the units are income restricted in perpetuity, this new model empowers the local community to address displacement by placing governance, ownership, and management in the hands of a community trust. The newly created trust was supported by the Boston Impact Initiative, the Hyams Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Eastern Bank Foundation, City Life/Vida Urbana, and private individuals who combined to provide over $8 million of financial support. Additionally, the Barr Foundation provided the East Boston CDC with a grant to support the acquisition. The units are spread throughout East Boston, a neighborhood that has historically been an affordable place for immigrants and families to call home, but which has seen some of the highest percentage rent increases in the City over the last decade.

“East Boston CDC has been focused on acquiring multi-families because these houses are the source of affordable family housing and the backbone of our neighborhood,” said Al Caldarelli, Executive Director of the East Boston CDC. “But a new model was needed in order to combat displacement in a fast paced market with speculative investors.  This new model brings in socially minded investors and philanthropic institutions, and wouldn’t have been possible without the Mayor’s Office of Housing’s unwavering support.”

“For many years, families in East Boston have been fighting to stay in their homes and live their lives in peace, without constant fear of displacement or deportation,” said Mike Leyba, Co-Executive Director of City Life / Vida Urbana. “All families deserve housing that is affordable, safe, and transit-accessible. This major acquisition and preservation of affordable housing to the neighborhood is only possible because of the power and tenacity of local residents who continuously fight for community-wide stabilization, and the new East Boston Neighborhood Trust will be a core piece of that stabilization effort in East Boston for years to come.”

“We are thrilled to have helped bring a MINT to East Boston and enormously grateful for our partnership with EBCDC and EBNT’s other funders,” said Jason Dehaemers, Co-Founder of Trust Neighborhoods. “Trust Neighborhoods looks forward to EBNT’s success and hope it serves as a model for future MINTs in neighborhoods across the country.”

Nearly three quarters of the 114 units of housing have at least three bedrooms, addressing the need for family housing in a neighborhood that has traditionally boasted the City’s largest average household size. This affordable family housing will help ebb the displacement of families from this rapidly developing neighborhood. Of the 114 units, 28 units are restricted as low income units for households at 50% Area Median Income (AMI), 40 units will be restricted at 60% AMI, 26 units restricted at 80% AMI, and 20 units will be restricted at 100% AMI.

The acquisition was supported by $9 million of federal ARPA funds as part of Mayor Wu’s unprecedented investment in housing affordability throughout Boston’s communities. ARPA provides emergency funding to states and municipalities for the purpose of building a strong public health foundation and assisting the economy in bouncing back from COVID-19. In addition to the ARPA funds, the City invested funds from the Acquisition Opportunity Program (AOP). The goal of the AOP is to allow affordable housing developers and nonprofits to fight displacement by acquiring units in the private market and securing affordable rents for current and future residents for the long term. These investments were made in partnership with the City Council.

“I am proud that in Boston we are using our American Rescue Plan funds not only to protect family housing from displacement, but also to pilot new forms of community self-governance,” said Councilor Kenzie Bok, Chair of the Committee on Boston’s COVID-19 Recovery. “Housing justice means homes are for people, not for profit, and this MINT is an example of how Boston can creatively use public capital to anchor our resident communities for the long term.”

“36 buildings, 114 units of deeply affordable housing designed to preserve the long-term life, health and vibrancy of our neighborhoods— This is exactly the kind of project that the city of Boston should be investing in,” said Councilor Kendra Lara, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Community Development. “While we unfortunately cannot turn back the clock of time and displacement, this project offers a rare glimpse of what is possible when our city responds to a community’s vision for its own future. I’m honored to have been a part of bringing this vision to life and thrilled to know the community will benefit from this vision for generations to come.”

“This large-scale acquisition of 114 privately-owned units in East Boston is necessary to preserve naturally-occurring affordable housing and ultimately fight back against displacement,” said Councilor Gabriela Coletta. “I am grateful to Mayor Wu for helping to close the financing gap, the East Boston Community Development Corporation, City Life / Vida Urbana, and all those who worked hard to get this deal done. The trust will serve as a model for incorporating community ownership and governance into housing in gentrifying neighborhoods.”

The seller, a joint venture between The Grossman Companies and Hodara Real Estate Group, was represented in the sale by JLL Capital Markets.

“We are excited to have sold this portfolio to the East Boston CDC and the other members of the East Boston Neighborhood Trust and are ecstatic that they will preserve affordable family-sized housing in the East Boston community for the long term,” said David Grossman, principal at The Grossman Companies.

The announcement builds on Mayor Wu’s initiatives to address Boston’s housing affordability, including investing $380 million in housing affordability through the City’s Operating budget, the Capital budget, and federal recovery funds, filing a Home Rule Petition relative to real estate transfer fees and senior property tax relief, signing an Executive Order relative to affirmatively furthering fair housing, convening a Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee to inform future legislative proposals, hiring the City’s first Chief of Planning, announcing the results of the Citywide land audit, and signing an Executive Order to streamline the approval process for affordable housing.

Celebrating BII’s Latino-owned Businesses

During Hispanic Heritage Month, BII is celebrating the richness and diversity of our Latino community! Join us in supporting our Latino-owned businesses.

¡Este Mes de la Herencia Hispana, celebramos la riqueza y diversidad de la comunidad latina! Únase a nosotros para apoyar a nuestros negocios latinos.

 

CEO Betty Francisco Named One of Boston’s Power 50

The Boston Business Journal named Betty Francisco one of this year’s Power 50. This year’s list focuses on “The Movement Makers” – the individuals in the Greater Boston business community who are taking a stand, creating change, and taking actionable steps to work together to make Boston continue to grow as a place for equity, inclusion and diverse points of view.

Honorees are made of leaders that represent a positive and equitable future for Boston, and whose work over the past year has led the way toward that goal.

See article here.

BII and AIM Join Together to Accelerate Growth for Businesses of Color

NEWS RELEASE

August 26, 2022

Boston Impact Initiative and Associated Industries of Massachusetts
Join Together to Accelerate Growth for Businesses of Color 

Boston, Mass. – The Boston Impact Initiative (BII) and Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) announced today that they are joining forces to support BII-funded businesses and help accelerate growth. Through the collaboration, BII is providing its portfolio companies with a complimentary AIM membership that includes expert human resources assistance, business development, networking opportunities, and timely information on important public-policy issues.

“The collaboration with AIM will provide our portfolio companies –predominantly owned by entrepreneurs of color– with important business-management resources they need to grow and expand. It’s also a tremendous opportunity to meet new customers, suppliers and business contacts,” said Betty Francisco, Chief Executive Officer of BII.

“AIM is delighted to partner with BII, which invests in enterprises in a manner that addresses the racial wealth gap and creates the opportunity for people to own and control their futures. That goal is consistent with our view at AIM that the role of business is to increase value for society and to ensure that the businesses and economy of Massachusetts will thrive today and tomorrow,” said John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

BII companies will also be eligible to participate in AIM Business Connect, an initiative that matches companies owned or managed by entrepreneurs of color and other minority and women-owned firms with AIM members looking to diversify their supply spends.

“We are excited about BII providing an AIM membership to our company,” said Golam Mustafa of Pristine Engineers. “As a small business, the AIM HR Solutions will help us build our capacity in hiring, supporting employees, and developing company policies. AIM’s Business Connect program will expand our relationships with larger corporations to help us grow.”

About BII: BII is a nonprofit impact investment fund working to build a future where entrepreneurs of color and their communities have the financial, social and political power to create a sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy for generations to come. To do this, BII invests integrated capital in social enterprises and community-controlled real estate to increase wealth and asset-building opportunities for communities of color. BII is also transforming the impact investing field through field-building and education so that economic and racial justice becomes integral to any community-centered investment strategy. Learn more: https://bostonimpact.org/

About AIM: AIM is the state’s largest business association serving the needs of more than 3,400 businesses across 150 different industries, representing more than 650,000 employees. AIM is dedicated to helping business of all sizes and types navigate an increasingly complex business world. The organization services range from public policy advocacy to insurance, training, and HR services. AIM was founded in 1915 by a group of visionary Massachusetts business owners to promote economic opportunity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Learn more: https://aimnet.org/

About Pristine Engineers, Inc.: Pristine Engineers is an award-winning MBE and DBE certified MEP & FP Engineering company located in Raynham. The company provides HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, fire alarm and geothermal systems engineering services for public & private building clients including commercial, educational, industrial, residential, laboratory, transportation, health care facility and municipal building projects.

 

 

An Interview with BII Board Member, Lisa Owens, Executive Director of Hyams Foundation

In conversation with Sabrina Nunez-Diaz, BII Impact Investing Associate

What were the pivotal moments that led you to where you are today?

The pivotal moment was being part of an incredible youth-led community organization. When I was 11, family members in Roxbury created an organization called “Free My People”. They trained us to fight for international and Black liberation as a life mission, way before it was a job. They taught us how to organize. Our first organized campaign was against the Boston Police Department and their stop and frisk policy around the time of the Charles Stuart case. As young people, we were trained to be socialist community organizers with the skills to run a community-based organization. 

You were previously the Executive Director at City Life / Vida Urbana, what was your biggest lesson from that work about community development and control in RE?

As ED of City Life / Vida Urbana, I learned more deeply the importance of the long, slow, steady, consistent work of building a base. Organizing isn’t just about mobilization, it’s being in contact with people day in and out, knowing their stories, and being committed to their ongoing leadership development and political education. When an organization commits to that fully, that’s where the power is! I continue to carry those lessons with me.

How do your interests and personal mission intersect with your role on the BII Board?

I love that BII is working to build our community’s political power and is committed to transformative change through innovation & experimentation. I’m most interested in community wealth building and am excited about BII’s new fund and its willingness to explore ways to finance these types of projects. 

What is your vision for the future?

My vision is to help strengthen broad movement infrastructure so that social movement groups can do more than just survive. The goal is for our groups locally to play an active role in, and ultimately win, broad transformative systems change in the state and nationally. 

Nuevo Día Brings Cultural Competency to Eldercare in JP

Nuevo Día ADHC is a Latino- and majority woman-owned facility which seeks to help low-income seniors and disabled people in Boston remain as independent and as healthy as possible in a culturally competent environment.  The vision of this organization is to be the leading Adult Day Health program serving the Latino community in Greater Boston. The center in Jamaica Plain can accommodate up to 100 participants and creates jobs that pay the Living Wage for dozens of local people.  In 2022, BII made a subordinated debt investment for startup costs and working capital.

ChopValue Receives Equity Financing for Mircofactory in Charlestown

ChopValue Boston manufactures and sells a variety of commercial and residential wood products made out of previously discarded chopsticks. ChopValue’s business model exemplifies the concept of the circular economy: chopstick waste is recycled, converted to a useful good at a microfactory, then purchased by local customers. CEO, Elaine Chow, focuses on hiring young adults facing barriers to employment, including returning citizens. In 2022, BII made an equity investment to start the microfactory that will have a structured exit. Learn more