Deborah Frieze might not be a name commonly heard over the dinner table, but it’s one you should know: she’s making strides to change the way we invest in, and therefore transform, our neighborhoods, communities, and places across the country. As the founder of Boston Impact Initiative, she is working to align investments with her values and create prosperity for all. And she's also the keynote speaker for this year's Arizona Food and Farm Forum hosted in Gilbert, AZ, May 8-9. Read on to get to know Deborah:
Q: What inspired you to create the Boston Impact Initiative?
A: Seven years ago, I decided I wanted to become an impact investor. Before then, no one ever told me it was possible to make investment decisions based on my values rather than just financial returns. Once I learned there was this rising tide of “impact investing,” I was all in.
Q: So, what’s the connection between food & finance?
A: I believe in the power of place-based investing. And if you care about place, then you care about food. The problems that we are concerned about (be it homelessness, a poor diet, educational disparities) are all interconnected. For instance, we know that poor diet leads to poor performance in school. Place-based approaches allow us to deal with the reality of these interconnected systems.
Q: How has this type of investment impacted farmers or food entrepreneurs in your community?
A: We always look for those that are embracing the whole systems approach – looking at the food system as a closed loop where we grow, process, distribute, consume, and repurpose the waste. We focus on investing in all parts of that system.
Fresh Food Generation is an example from Boston Impact Initiative’s portfolio that walks the talk – it’s a food truck, cafe, and catering service. The founders learned gardening as youth through another non-profit in our portfolio, incubated in a local food incubator, distribute food through their food truck, and also distribute for other companies that they have met through our portfolio. Then, they hire CERO, a composting cooperative in our portfolio. Totally connected.
Q: Are there any trends in your work that you think could be applied to farmers and food entrepreneurs in Arizona?
There is another way of doing business. Entrepreneurs and investors both need to catch up: we can begin looking to integrated capital which involves layering multiple forms of capital. This means including sources such as philanthropy, credit enhancements, and loan guarantees.
Want more from Deborah?
Join us for her Keynote Address.
Tuesday, May 8 | 8:45am-9:45am
The Farm at Agritopia in Gilbert
Tickets for Keynote ONLY are available for $20. Register here.
To view the full agenda for the Arizona Food & Farm Forum and purchase Forum tickets, click here.