Each year, Erb Institute students join various clubs at the University of Michigan, the Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability. One club that many Erb students join sits at the intersection of business and sustainability: the Social Venture Fund (SVF). SVF is the nation’s first student-led impact investing fund, investing in and supporting innovative companies that focus on social impact. We sat down with Erb student Ricky Wozniak to learn more about SVF and the field of impact investing.
How did you get involved in SVF? What is your role?
I became involved in the Social Venture Fund after speaking with fund members about how their experience on the fund gave them opportunities to expand their understanding of business. In particular, these fund members were building a skill set to assess potential investments for their capacity to deliver strong financial outcomes along with social and environmental outcomes (double and triple bottom line). In my work experience before Erb, I was focused on the financial bottom line but not as much on social and environmental outcomes. I jumped at the chance to expand my capacity as a leader. During the past year on the fund, I’ve worked hard to develop my ability to analyze companies from financial and impact lenses by learning from my amazing peers on the fund and the inspiring entrepreneurs we’ve encountered along the way.
I am the incoming director of fund operations, facilitating leadership team and fund meetings, recruiting new members to the fund, and managing strategic relationships.
What is the SVF investment philosophy?
SVF seeks to invest in and support innovative start-ups that place positive social and environmental impact at the heart of their for-profit business model. We focus on businesses working in the areas of education, food systems and environment, health, and urban revitalization. We are the first student-run impact investing fund in the nation, and work to be thought leaders through research and case studies within the social finance and entrepreneurship space. We also complete capacity-building projects with companies in our portfolio—a process that facilitates continued action and support from SVF fund associates.
Why is it important for students to learn more about impact investing? How has being involved in SVF furthered your education?
Business is, arguably, the most important institution in our society, and its capacity to deliver outcomes that improve our health, education, environment and other factors is an exciting opportunity as well as a necessary challenge for business leaders to take on. In my career before Erb, I worked on fast-growing businesses. This experience built my interest in building a scaling business that delivers further positive environmental and social outcomes as its size grows, doing so in a way that is directly tied to the activities of the business.
SVF has furthered my education by surrounding me with peers who have a similar interest and passion, who bring unique backgrounds and viewpoints to our discussions—from assessing individual business models to critiquing the broader philosophy of our fund.
Do you hope to work in the impact investing field after graduation?
My long-term goal is to improve the sustainability of the food and beverage industry. I’ve considered doing so from an impact investment standpoint, but I don’t currently plan to enter the impact investing field directly after graduation. The great thing about being a member of SVF is that you have a chance to craft your own learning, diving into industries of interest to learn more about start-ups and entrepreneurs solving problems that excite you. My time at SVF has built my capacity to think more critically, manage ambiguity, and ask the right questions. I’ve built my ability to find ways to deliver double- and triple-bottom-line results after graduation.
Are there any success stories you can share from SVF?
When assessing companies in the final decision-making stage, we undergo a due diligence process—diving deep into the expected financial, social and environmental outcomes, and performing legal diligence to effectively assess deals before they come to a fund-wide vote. Using what we learned from the due diligence process, as well as our education sessions, we had a team of Social Venture Fund members enter into last year’s MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network & Training) competition and win the award for Best Diligence. It’s great to see fund members’ hard work to build skills and educate one another recognized so highly.
Interested in learning more about impact investing and SVF? Head to their website to read more.