Lesson #1 From an Impact Investing Newbie

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The following blog post was written by Sara Johnson, Village Capital Program Associate.

As a Village Capital team member for the summer, I’ll be posting what I learn in a blog series entitled, “Lessons from an Impact Investing Newbie.” My name is Sara Johnson, and I’m currently a Masters student from the University of San Diego, focusing on economic development via private enterprise, with a special emphasis on impact investing. I have no business background and am entirely new to the field, but upon expressing my interest in social enterprises and impact investing, numerous paths pointed to joining the Village Capital team in Atlanta for some hands-on experience. I will be here until the end of August, and will be working, as one of my many tasks, to shed light on some of the basic lessons about the impact investing field that I learn throughout the summer.

In the span of 48 hours, I returned to my home in San Diego from a weekend trip, drove 500 miles to Northern California, flew another 2,500 miles to Atlanta, moved into a new apartment, and started an internship in a city that I had never visited and where I knew no one. So not only was I slightly anxiety-ridden and jet-lagged, but I was fully expecting to start a relatively static desk job as the stereotypical intern at this impact investing fund called Village Capital. My greatest fear was being delegated the standard intern duties of filing papers and grabbing coffee, and working from behind a desk from nine-to-five every day.

But upon arriving at Village Capital on Wednesday morning, I found that my work was going to be far more engaging and dynamic than crunching numbers and organizing files. For starters, Village Capital operates out of HUB Atlanta – a modern, shared workspace located in the residential Grant Park neighborhood, full of interested and interesting people. But on top of all the preexisting commotion, I was tossed into authentic southern food and hospitality and a crash course on the field of impact investing.

I began the day at Village Capital by listening in on a call with two of the Frontier Market Scouts who are placed in Brazil. They were also feeling a sense of anxiety and confusion, as they had expected to be filling in as consultants to their respective enterprises, instead of working solely on basic day-to-day tasks of creating a start-up. Ross, the Executive Director here at Village Capital, was able to assign a country-specific strategic consulting project for the two Scouts, allowing them some flexibility within their position. This required understanding and a willingness to adapt on both sides – from the perspective of the Scouts and from Ross’s position. Thus, my big takeaway from day one was as follows:

Lesson #1: Be flexible, because your expectations are usually not going to be accurate.

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