From ecologist to impact investment guru, Dr. Stephanie Gripne has had a singular career arc. Originally trained in wildlife management and conservation, she went on to work on issues surrounding the built environment, in conservation real estate, environmental markets, and in the wonky world of financing strategies and historic tax credits. At the same time she was working as a research fellow, studying impact investing and philanthropy, and she became involved in the Colorado impact investing scene.
In 2012, it all came together when she founded the Impact Finance Center (IFC), based in Denver, as a nonprofit academic center with a mission to identify, train and activate philanthropists and investors to become impact investors. In 2019, the IFC added on an Impact Investing Institute, to provide education to organizations, family offices, foundations and other funding groups. Today, Stephanie’s big, hairy audacious goal is to move a trillion dollars into impact investing.
Stephanie believes that impact investing is all about educating people – and the IFC is quickly becoming the go-to place for every level of investor, from the well-endowed non-profit world to individuals who have never invested before. We know you’ll be hearing more from Stephanie and the IFC, for sure.
Insights and Inspirations
- Stephanie wants the Impact Finance Center to be the place to go for agenda-free and trustworthy investor education.
- The Impact Finance Center is an accelerator for impact investors.
- Stephanie believes there is a gigantic audience of potential impact investors out there we can reach.
- The IFC provides impact education through portfolio evaluation, educational offerings (with 200 classes online), training and an ever-growing number of themed impact investor clubs.
- And you should check out the Impact Real Estate Investing Club.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:14] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. Real estate can help to solve climate change, can house people affordably, can create beautiful streetscapes, unify neighborhoods and enliven cities. So, I’m on a journey to find the most creative thinkers and doers out there. I’m not the only one who wants to rethink real estate. You can learn more about me at EvePicker.com, or you can find me at SmallChange.co, a real estate crowdfunding platform with impact real estate investment opportunities open for investment right now. And if you want to support this podcast, join me at Patreon.com/RethinkRealEstate, where there are special opportunities for my friends and followers.
Eve: [00:01:09] Today, I’m talking with Dr. Stephanie Gripne. In what seems to be an improbable amount of time, Stephanie has gone from ecologist to impact investment guru. Her big, hairy, audacious goal is to move a trillion dollars into impact investing. Ten years ago, about four years after getting her doctorate, she became director of the Initiative for Sustainable Development at the University of Colorado’s Real Estate Center. There she was immersed in issues surrounding the built environment and socially responsible investing. In 2012, she took the leap and founded the Impact Finance Center as a nonprofit academic center with a mission to identify, train and activate philanthropists and investors to become impact investors. I’ve already learned a lot from Stephanie, but I’m going to learn more and so might you. So, listen in. If you’d like to join me in my quest to rethink real estate there are two simple things you can do. Share this podcast. Or go to Patreon.com/RethinkRealEstate to learn about special opportunities for my friends and followers, and subscribe if you can.
Eve: [00:02:40] Stephanie, I’m so happy to talk to you today.
Stephanie Gripne: [00:02:44] Eve, I am so happy to talk with you today.
Eve: [00:02:47] So, you have a supremely cool resume and it’s pretty clear how driven you are. There’s a lot to talk about, but I wanted to start by talking about what you’re working on today. You lead the Impact Finance Center. What is that?
Stephanie: [00:03:01] That’s a great question, Eve. For those of you in the audience who have heard of an accelerator, you might have heard of TechStars or 500 startups or Y Combinator. Those accelerators are essentially boot camps for people who want to start a startup or a small business. So, they identify, educate and invest in entrepreneurs. When I was a professor in 2010-12 at the University of Colorado at the Leeds School of Business, I was actually the director of the Initiative for Sustainable Real Estate Development. I just kept wondering why isn’t there more money flowing into good things? And I finally kept unpeeling the onion and realizing there are not entities out there providing investor education that is non-conflicted or trustworthy, in that most of the investor education is actually trying to get your business. So, it comes from Wall Street and they’re trying to become your investment adviser or raise a fund. And so, my hypothesis was that if we started providing non-conflicted investor education from the inside of a nonprofit, where we weren’t going to try to raise a fund or become your investment advisor, we could actually educate and activate these investors. So, going back to the accelerator analogy, Impact Finance Center is essentially an accelerator for impact investors. Instead of identifying, educating and investing in entrepreneurs, we identify and educate individuals and organizations who want to become impact investors. And those typically are: private foundations, community foundations, high net worth individuals, companies and family offices.
Eve: [00:04:51] So, that’s really how you and I started talking way back on the plane ramp, where we met, right?
Stephanie: [00:04:58] That is true. We did mean on a plane ramp in California. And yes, we are. I had been following the crowdfunding movement for some time and figuring out what my role in it was going to be.
Eve: [00:05:10] How do you accomplish investor education and accelerate those impact investors? What is it you actually do?
Stephanie: [00:05:17] That’s a great question. We really offer five ways for people to get education. One, and this is the the holy grail of it all, is we can evaluate your investment advisor portfolio, and that is pretty brutal. We evaluated a 100 million dollar foundation in Seattle and found out their investment advisor had charged them in excess of fees of one million dollars over five years to underperform by five million dollars.
Eve: [00:05:49] Ohhh.
Stephanie: [00:05:49] We have a 15 million dollar foundation in Denver … where we evaluated their investment advisor and found out they had been charged in excess of fees of $240,000 over seven years to underperform by 1.4 million dollars. So, we have, that is number one. We can evaluate your portfolio and investment advisor for governance and fees and evidence-based decision evaluation and impact. And then, the next phase is just education. We’re putting our 200 classes online. We have 47 recorded webinars up there. So, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer … sign on our Impact Investing Institute and train yourself. We also offer one-on-one training, small group training and large group training.
Eve: [00:06:39] Wow. That’s a lot of work, Stephanie. When did you launch the center?
Stephanie: [00:06:43] I was a professor at University of Colorado in 2010-12. And I realized then, once I had essentially collected evidence and accidentally discovered that the financial return of a grant is negative 100 percent loss. I determined that this impact investing was legal; and determined that, also, that people were interested, but there wasn’t a place for them to go learn. And then, the other piece, I realized, is asking somebody to do a first investment, cutting a 25,000 dollar check, even if you have a lot of money, is scary. And so, the key was, that’s in my, I use a baseball analogy, that’s a major league investment. And so, how do you create a T-ball opportunity for people to learn by doing. And so, that’s either using simulations like business case competitions or kind of monopoly. We do some simulation type activities, where you get to pretend you’re an investor or you actually do a small dollar amount. And we often have people take money they would have donated and pool it together in a giving circle model, and then they learn how to invest together.
Eve: [00:07:55] Interesting. Interesting. Who are you trying to reach? Like, who do you think your audience is? How big is it?
Stephanie: [00:08:04] Our audience is gigantic. If you just Google the number of millionaires in states like Colorado or Georgia or Massachusetts, and you’ll see a range from 150,000 millionaires to over a million millionaires … that’s a great question, Eve. People often ask me, oh, would you rather not work with a foundation or, versus a high net worth individual? And there’s two criteria that we look to partner with people. One, they have to be motivated and willing to take action. If you’re going to be on the slow boat will still help you, but you don’t get to be first in line. So, you have to be willing to move and take action. And the second thing is, you have to be an independent thinker. If you’re somebody who likes to have the crowd go first and you join the crowd, you’re probably not the right individual organization to come find us. And so, those are difficult to go find. But it’s great. We’re really nice about it. When people get stuck, we’re like, hey, it’s OK, go back and do this homework, and when you’re ready to get back into it, move forward. But what that means, Eve, is that I have worked with foundations where 20 trustees, oftentimes family members, are in unison, and I’ve worked with a grumpy high-net worth individual that’s difficult to move. So, it doesn’t have to be an individual or a foundation or a family office or a corporation. It just has to be a willingness to take action.
Eve: [00:09:29] And beyond the gigantic audience of accredited investors, as you know, they are only about three percent of the population, there is now a growing audience of people who’ve never invested before and sit in the non-accredited group. So it’s huge, right?
Stephanie: [00:09:45] It’s endless. And it’s interesting, because I was trying to think the other day about how I got started. And I know my dad, when I was 12 or 13 years old, we invested in Micron Together Technology Company. I’m 47 years old. I don’t know how I found, it had to have been at the library, found a book on Motley Fool that taught direct investing. So, direct investing with public companies. And I still have some of those stocks I first invested in. But I actually did an investment in Enron, because it was a renewable energy company. So, I kind of like to think of myself as an early adopter in the modern-day crowdfunding.
Eve: [00:10:25] Since have you started seeing a shift towards impact investing?
Stephanie: [00:10:30] Oh, absolutely. In Colorado, for example, we started the Center in 2012, and I’ll go back and answer your your last question in a little bit. When we started the Center, I realized when I was at University of Colorado when I had that ‘aha’ moment that, wow, people do need education, and I thought every entrepreneurship center needs an innovative finance center. And then I took a step back, and I’m like, wait, every university that’s going to struggle financially needs innovative finance center to stay financially viable. And then I took a step back, and I thought, wait, every association of, I call them ‘clubs of money,’ a community foundation association, a YPO, family office association. They need this curriculum too. And there was, at the time, only 15 centers and really only two of us that actually do transactions. And so, that was my idea, to leave in 2012 and then start a nonprofit, multi-university academic center where we could essentially provide a curriculum in a box. And just to give you a sense of how long it takes to get going, at least in Colorado …
Eve: [00:11:46] Are you telling me how long it takes to get going?
Stephanie: [00:11:48] Well, just to just have a sense, in 2010-12, our first two transactions we supported were the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Alliance Center, and those both were real estate transactions, and one was a foundation and a couple of board members. So, they got 101 percent return. And we financed the Museum of Contemporary Art and saved them 550,000 a year. The other one was a project I led with the Alliance Center in partnership with the Denver Foundation, and we used a donor-advised fund to do a loan at zero and one percent that essentially saved that nonprofit six million dollars and gave the donor 101 percent return. I worked on those two transactions for three years and they all moved when the bills were due. They tried everything else for years and years and years. And then, when the adjustable rate mortgage was going to be due, or the building renovation COP bill was going to be due, that’s when they were finally willing to move. So, that there was a negative-like desperation as the birthplace of innovation. It took three years for two transactions. And I do believe Colorado’s probably done 100 impact investment transactions in the last three months.
Eve: [00:13:02] Wow. The story you’re telling is much like mine. I think if you build something new and I suppose on the cutting edge, it takes a really long time and you have to have stick-to-it-ness. Right. Just have to keep going.
Stephanie: [00:13:15] You do. You have to have the Stockdale paradox. You have to have this eternal knowledge you will prevail in the end. And I had great advice from a friend, Dan, whose dad said, you need to stick past three and a half years and go to five years. Most people give up at three and a half years. And there’s a great metaphor. It’s like paddling an iceberg with flippers on. It takes a long time to get that iceberg going.
Eve: [00:13:38] Yeah, it really does. It can be a little depressing but there it is.
Stephanie: [00:13:42] Um-Hmm.
Eve: [00:13:42] This is a pretty unusual place for a Ph.D. in forestry to end up. That’s what you have, right?
Stephanie: [00:13:49] Yes.
Eve: [00:13:49] So I have read about Fish and Wildlife and spotted owls on your resume. Tell me about the journey that took you from wildlife to impact investment.
Stephanie: [00:14:01] It was great. I was watching an interview this morning with Heather McGhee, and she’s approaching this conversation from a race issue. I grew up in an environmental issue, and she’s framing it using a zero sum game. And I grew up in central Idaho, in Sun Valley, Idaho. And there was a zero sum framing where it was, either we either could save the endangered species of the wolves and the salmon, or we could have jobs. And I just remember knowing deeply in my heart that there was enough resources for both of them, and my friends would literally threaten the lives of my other friends with guns. And there was a river guide I used to work for that, a bunch of the river guides, made a sticker that said ‘Happiness is the fisheries’ biologists’ face on a milk carton.’ And it was a very tumultuous, and in some ways, violent way to grow up. And I just I didn’t know. I thought it was about the wildlife at that point. And now I’m really clear it was a resource allocation issue. And I deeply believe there’s enough money for communities and the environment and jobs. And so, that just has motivated me since I was 16 and I’ll never forget. I do like woodworking. And I announced when I was 16 or 17 that I was going to become a carpenter and make furniture. And my dad, who was incredibly supportive, my late dad, of whatever I would choose, said Stephanie, what about architect? I said, I said no. I said, what about wildlife biologist? And my dad said, you have a mind for business, Stephanie. Why don’t you go make a lot of money and then you can have influence on the environment. And my dad, actually, he was a workout guy that would take companies through bankruptcy, but the last 10 years of his career, he took a company out of bankruptcy, a precast concrete company. So, for 10 years, my family made every precast concrete box in the state of Idaho, electrical box, etc., and air conditioner pad. And I said, Dad, I just don’t have the constitution to do it the way you did it. I’m not willing to go make money in whatever way I can and then do what I want to do. I’m going to do what I want to do along the way.
Eve: [00:16:22] Yeah, I think this must be part of being a parent, not really understanding what your kids are doing. Right. What would be good outcomes, do you think, if more people invest in important change making projects, what are the outcomes you hope for?
Stephanie: [00:16:41] I’ll actually, answer that question and continue my last answer a little bit. My dad would end up being quite wealthy, becoming homeless for two years, and then at 24 years of age, he would come back to live with me. And so, the roles were reversed, for those of you who cared for your parents, except my roles were reversed for me when I was 24. And I remember I was doing my Ph.D. in seven states with ranchers and, a socioeconomic analysis, a conservation project, and I got to study with my hero, the chief of the Forest Service, Dr. Jack Ward Thomas. I was also working for the Forest Service in multiple roles all around the country based out of Lander, Wyoming. And my mom came down with pancreatic cancer and my dad was living with us in a home in Lander, Wyoming. And I remember coming home one day and I said, I don’t care if you walk dogs or volunteer or you get a job, but you can’t just stay in this basement apartment. You have to do something. And he would get a real estate license and a mortgage broker license. And he didn’t cost a lot of money to support him at that time because he was living in a basement apartment of our house. And so, essentially what we did is we were used to being poor graduate students. And so, instead of taking all the excess money of having two salaries and a grad’s stipend, we would buy a house. You could buy a house in Lander, Wyoming, for six to eight thousand dollars from down payment, 120,000 dollars house from 2000-2005.
Eve: [00:18:17] Wow.
Stephanie: [00:18:18] And the reason I’m saying this is my mom passed in 2003 and I wasn’t emotionally ready to sell the house. My sister was. So, I bought the house from my sister. And I think most of us, our road to becoming an investor in a meaningful way, is that second house. The first house is, I made it. I’m an adult. I’m building wealth. But that’s a, it’s a very different experience to get your second house. And I don’t know that I would have offensively purchased my second house. It kind of came to me because my mom passed. But once that second one happened, I talked to several people who’ve had this experience, you’re like, wait a minute, I can do this. I can own an asset and make money. And so, we bought a third house and then, on the fourth or fifth house, my dad came home and he said, Stephers, he’s like, there’s these families coming into our mortgage business. A lot of them have bad credit, but there are some that have bad credit that actually used to have good credit. They just had a medical situation and they didn’t have the right medical insurance. And now they’re in this bankruptcy called a medical bankruptcy. So they’re not allowed to buy a house or car, even though they are people who paid their bills. And so we ended up doing a lease option with these families and we had a family meeting and agreed that we wanted a 10 percent return. And so we would set aside 10 percent of their rent as a partial equity. And if the house appreciated above 10 percent return during their medical bankruptcy, essentially get the upside of that. And the houses during that time period appreciated fifteen to twenty five percent. So we got the joy of philanthropy, a job for my dad, an amazing tenant, a solid 10 percent return, and they got dignity. Got to move into their home three to five years early and get partial equity upside. And so I think that all of us are on this quest of connection and meaning. And when you realize, like I did then at twenty four, twenty five years of age, that you can do well by doing good. I don’t think most of us can go back from that.
Eve: [00:20:27] I think you’re a rock star. You probably made some friends for life as well in that process, right.
Stephanie: [00:20:34] Absolutely. That was about three hundred transactions ago and I’m I have lots of friends along the way. Three to four hundred. I’ve lost count. I kind of stopped keeping count after two hundred. As as my colleague Todd James says, 60 percent of what we do has been visible and behind the scenes. So there’s a lot of lovely, incredible, awesome people out there that don’t even know that we were helping push and pull to make their dreams happen. And, you know, it’s it’s it’s an incredible role to play in people’s lives.
Eve: [00:21:03] You really did shift from fish and wildlife to real estate, and then you dragged me into it recently, which I’m really enjoying. But we’re working together on one of your many projects, which you didn’t mention before when you talked about the five ways to educate people. You’re also creating impact investing clubs, which are really fascinating, they’re themed clubs where potential impact investors gather and you’re educating them with a particular focus. And we’re on the journey of building a real estate impact investing club.
Stephanie: [00:21:38] We are, Eve. I didn’t mention this at the beginning. So Impact Finance Center does two things. We identify, educate and activate individuals and organizations to become impact investors and we also build what we call community infrastructure, which can be replicated, scaled and customized. And in that bucket of community infrastructure, you just mentioned investor clubs, which is one piece of it. We also stood up the first statewide marketplace for impact investing, which is the second time I met you when you came out to Impact Days.
Eve: [00:22:11] That’s right. Yeah.
Stephanie: [00:22:11] Our Impact Days, and that’s, you can think of it is, imagine everybody who needed money in the state, doing good, shows up and they create a farmer’s market booth and we activate new investors and organize existing investors and we bring the investors to go shopping in the farmer’s market. We call that Impactings. A Bodega is a subset of that marketplace. And that’s what we’re branding as our Investor Clubs. And then we also have two hundred classes, which we refer to as our Impact Investing Institute. And one of the most exciting pieces of infrastructure that we created was, are you familiar with The Who’s Who Under 40 that business journals do?
Eve: [00:22:49] Yes, yep.
Stephanie: [00:22:50] Yeah. We reached out to our business journal and we said we’re going to do Who’s Who in impact investing for the Rocky Mountain region. Do you want to be our media partner? And that was exciting because the first year we did it, we had 300 people apply.
Eve: [00:23:03] Oh, wow, that’s great.
Stephanie: [00:23:05] The second year that we had 1,300, and so that builds the book. And then the last piece, which is really the key, is our impact investing, giving circle or investor accelerator, and that’s in partnership with civil society organizations like Community Foundations. So, right now we have 34 women that could be middle-income or high-net worth, or connected to a company or family office or foundation, who are major league when it comes to intelligence, and major league when it comes to alignment, and major league when it comes to admission, and major league when it comes to access to money. But they’ve never actually written a check to support a sutainable real estate project, or a small business, or a startup. And so in this case, we make it low cost, easy and fun. We say, let’s participate in a giving circle, donate two thousand dollars in and we end up getting a kitty of seventy five thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand and we say, who needs money? And this year we had a 111 women apply, 112 women apply, for over 50 million dollars of need. And then we go through a selection process and they do due diligence, and they invest in a couple investments for their first investments. Because it’s a pooled donor-advised fund that the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, they don’t get the money back, it’s essentially a learned by doing fund experience where hopefully they walk in is that as a donor, they walk out as an investor and then they say, I want to join the investor club. So, yes, Eve, the investor clubs are…
Eve: [00:24:38] This is especially important, this educational piece, because because women don’t invest. And I can tell you that with certainty on Small Change, women, just a tiny minority of investors. It really kind of puzzles me.
Stephanie: [00:24:53] You know, it’s interesting because I am counting on my fingers right now and hopefully going to my toes. I have several women who will be investing in Lyneir’s project who have been spreading the good news on Lyneir and some of the other great offerings you have on Small Change right now. And I’ll be completely honest with you, we we started the Investor Club as a response to Colorado’s CDFIs, Community Financial Development Institutions and nonprofit lenders, who basically said Steph, that’s been great. The three year pilot, we had a goal to move one hundred million. We’re up to three hundred million. Success. But we need to still keep helping raise capital for the CDFI’s and non-profit lenders. And so the first Investor Club was a Main Street Lender Club. The second one was our Indigenous Investor Club. And then the third one was with the federal government’s Sustainable Forestry Mass Timber CLT Investor Club that connects with real estate. And now we’re starting clubs in California and Massachusetts and with the New York CDFIs. But I have to say Eve Picker, the most popular one, has been the Real Estate Investor Club.
Eve: [00:26:02] This was unexpected, wasn’t it? We have to keep up.
Stephanie: [00:26:06] Yeah, I was only mildly surprised. I saw there’s a quest to need. Nobody gets paid to do the work we’re doing. I think that’s the difficult part. If Wall Street had figured out how to get paid to educate investors we would have money flowing like hotcakes to Main Street investments.
Eve: [00:26:23] And, you know, it’s been pretty stunning because some on our club meeting announcements for mid-March, there’s something like 1,800 people signed up on LinkedIn and I have no idea where they’re coming from. It’s pretty big. It’s pretty astounding, so we better put on a really good show, right.
Stephanie: [00:26:43] Yeah, it’s well it’s easy to do. I mean, people who are either investing or working in community real estate, creating real estate, affordable housing, mass timber CLT, all of the all the good stuff. Is there some of the most inspiring people you’ve ever met.
Eve: [00:26:58] Yes, I agree.
Stephanie: [00:26:58] So so it’s pretty much you just have to set the stage and let them shine.
Eve: [00:27:04] Let me ask you, so what happens to the club meeting and how it happened? What’s your formula?
Stephanie: [00:27:10] Yeah. And and for those of you who are familiar and who’ve gone to like a pitch competition or an expo, that’s what I think about it. I think it is essentially a virtual farmer’s market. And our goal is investor education specifically and also some social venture education. But what we want to do is we do an investor panel and we want to showcase different types of investors so people can see themselves in the crowd and go, wait, they’re just like me. I could do that, too. And so really, that’s about getting diverse, interesting investors up there so we can make it seem more accessible to people sitting in the crowd that they can go from not identifying as an investor to becoming an investor. And then the same is true for the social ventures like community real estate projects. It’s a way to educate people about what’s possible. Most people I mean, Eve, you know better than anybody, but if you and I walked out of our front door right now and and just talk to the next hundred people that walked by and said, are you an investor? All of them are investors, but most of them would probably we’d probably get five to ten of them who would say that they identify as an investor?
Eve: [00:28:24] Yeah, maybe less, actually.
Stephanie: [00:28:27] Maybe less. And that is the challenge. Like I remember when Mitt Romney was running for president, the Mormon Church put up signs, they had a campaign and put up billboards and they put up everyday faces and they called I’m a Mormon campaign. And I feel like we need to put up do a similar campaign, that I’m an Investor campaign.
Eve: [00:28:46] Yeah, that’s right. I think that’s a great idea because an investor could be someone who invests ten bucks in their friend’s startup or an investor can be someone who invests a million dollars into something big.
Stephanie: [00:28:59] I would even argue a mom who goes to the grocery store and decides which milk she’s going to buy for her child as an investor. She’s invested in the supply chain of…
Eve: [00:29:08] Oh, yeah.
Stephanie: [00:29:09] Are you buying organic or not organic or how are the companies trading?
Eve: [00:29:13] Or if they decide to go purchase at a farmer’s market instead of the grocery store.
Stephanie: [00:29:18] Every time a dollar changes hands, you’re an investor.
Eve: [00:29:24] Yes. I think you have a broader description of investor than I think of. But you’re right. So the club meetings are like a mixture of panels with investors, large and small, talking about their experiences and what it means to them and social ventures. And then a little pitch round right. Of deals that are looking for money.
Stephanie: [00:29:43] Yeah. So we we essentially, because we’re in Covid, we can’t do this in person. And so I think that’s to the benefit of this, Eve.
Eve: [00:29:50] I agree.
Stephanie: [00:29:52] And because in Colorado, when you came out to Colorado, Impact Days, we physically have a farmer’s market, you know, where…
Eve: [00:29:59] I don’t want to travel that much. I kind of like this Zoom thing.
Stephanie: [00:30:02] Absolutely. So we’re essentially putting the farmer’s market online. And so we created an investor catalog. And it’s really the social venture panel is to give five to 12 minutes casually for people to learn about a couple of the investment opportunities. And then we do a speed round of two minutes. And it’s shocking to me sometimes that people actually shine better in the two minutes than they do when they’re given seven to ten minutes.
Eve: [00:30:29] Yeah, it’s pretty fun. And people get an opportunity to ask questions, too. I think it’s exciting for me. I mean, what’s your ultimate goal with these clubs? What would be a fantastic outcome in five years for you?
Stephanie: [00:30:41] I’ll put my geeky academic entrepreneur hat on for a second. We actually wrote a paper called Laying the Groundwork for the National Impact Investing Marketplace. So we published in the Foundation Review. And we’re pretty confident now that if you take our infrastructure and combine it with some other infrastructure, such as Lenny Lavis up in Seattle, he has realized impact investor flow, a Fleg regenerative accelerator. If you take some of our joint infrastructure together, we can actually completely fix the capital markets and move a trillion dollars into impact. I can do it two ways. I can go fundraise 20 million dollars and take what we did in Colorado and expand it to all 50 states. Or we can earn money from some of our social ventures, such as our Impact Investing Institute, and use it to self-fund our expansion to all 50 states. So what’s exciting about the Investor Clubs is most of our Investor Clubs are actually being purchased or supported by foundations who want to do economic development and Covid recovery. Federal government, USDA, Forest Service. And we’ve had interest in state governments, too. So I think if I was in state government or foundation interested or family office interest in Covid recovery or a corporation, I would be basically investing in as many Impact Investing Giving Circles and Investor Clubs as I could afford to support. I think that getting one percent of our wealth to invest in Main Street as an example in Colorado, that would be five billion dollars that could be leveraged through CDFI’s and banks for a 15 billion to 50 billion dollar year investment. It wouldn’t take much, just one percent of the wealth.
Eve: [00:32:27] Um-hmm. Fantastic. I’m going to change gears again. Just ask a few more questions to wrap up and they’re about you. And what do you love doing the most and why?
Stephanie: [00:32:39] I love most partner dancing. Ballroom dancing is my favorite joy in the whole world. Which I feel like it’s going to be the last activity that comes back to us after Covid. So I’m sort of isolated. I’m single in Denver, Colorado, and I Waltz and Cha-Cha and Two-step and learning the Latin dances and I Swing and I just can’t wait to get back to partner dancing.
Eve: [00:33:04] So I have to ask, have you watched my very favorite Australian movie called Strictly Ballroom?
Stephanie: [00:33:09] I have seen Strictly Ballroom. Yes.
Eve: [00:33:13] So, the Star of Strictly Ballroom used to live next to me in Sydney.
Stephanie: [00:33:17] Well, I can’t wait to be traveling with you to Sydney.
Eve: [00:33:20] I don’t think he lives there any more.
Stephanie: [00:33:24] We can go have lunch.
Eve: [00:33:24] And what are you excited about the most?
Stephanie: [00:33:27] I am excited, two things. Is, as I used to feel like that from 2012-20, I felt like I know there’s an answer and we just have to develop the answer. And now I feel like the answers there. All the puzzle pieces are on the table. Now, we just have to put the puzzle pieces together. And so I’m excited about all of the amazing impact investors and all the amazing social ventures out there. There is so much goodness and love and light and inspiring people who are showing up in the impossible ways to make the world a better place. And so I’m very fortunate in that I get to hear from people with resources and people needing resources, doing amazing things and have the the joy of being able to connect them together. And our phone has just been ringing off the hook. Especially a lot of middle aged white women, just between the combination of the global pandemic and our civil rights crisis have just called. And many of them have got a text once that says, what can I do to help my sisters of color immediately? And she made an investment quickly. I had another woman call. We do a fellowship of ten sessions. And on her first session, she’s like, I’m ready to make a first hundred thousand dollar investment today. I’m like, OK, there we go. And so, yeah. So it’s just great to see how many people are showing up and going, now’s the time. I can’t wait any longer.
Eve: [00:34:59] It’s been really wonderful talking to you and I really can’t wait to see what becomes of the Impact Finance Center and our club and what’s next for you.
Stephanie: [00:35:09] Oh, well, and likewise, Eve. I just want to give a gratitude and compliment to you, because I don’t know that we’ve discussed this, but when this movement was getting off the ground, I was very aware there’s a role to activate new investors, educate and organize existing investors and build the financial fintech solution. And I chose to be on the education of investor side, and I couldn’t be more happy to be collaborating with you. You’re just somebody who is a visionary and a joy and has incredible integrity. And I think,
Eve: [00:35:44] I’m blushing now.
Stephanie: [00:35:45] Oh, I think that what you do and what I do are two pieces…
Eve: [00:35:51] Perfect match.
Stephanie: [00:35:51] Of a puzzle that literally will democratize and provide that pathway to solve the problems that I had as a 15 year old, 16 year old watching.
Eve: [00:36:01] You know, you’re right. I mean, I think investor education is the most difficult part of what I do, and I can’t do that and investor education. So I’m extremely grateful to have you around.
Stephanie: [00:36:14] Well, let’s go find what should our goal be in the next five years.
Eve: [00:36:18] We should build humongous impact investor club and just showcase thousands of projects. And, you know, I’d have to quantify that goal clearly.
Stephanie: [00:36:30] Well, I’m going put a goal out for us. It’s February 18, 2021. How about a year from now, our goal will be able to have a list of twenty thousand investors that are actively investing in and community real estate.
Eve: [00:36:43] I think that’s a fantastic goal. I’m happy to add to it.
Stephanie: [00:36:48] Fantastic. It’s a true honor and joy to be in partnership with you.
Eve: [00:36:51] Thank you.
Stephanie: [00:36:52] Thank you.
Eve: [00:37:04] That was Dr. Stephanie Gripne. Stephanie believes that impact investing is all about educating people – trustworthy, non-conflicted investor education. The Impact Financial Center is quickly becoming the go-to place for just this type of education and for every level of investor, from foundations to individuals who have never invested before. You’ll be hearing more about the Impact Finance Center, I’m sure. Please share this podcast so that more people learn about Stephanie and the Impact Finance Center. You can find out more about this episode on the show notes page at EvePicker.com, or you can find other episodes you might have missed. Or you can show your support at Patreon.com /RethinkRealEstate, where you can learn about special opportunities for my friends and followers. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music. And thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker, signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Gripne/IFC and CO Impact Days