Social Entrepreneurs & Impact Investors Connect Over Food

In the vast startup world today, including food ventures, impact investment is a category all its own. As part of CulEpi, a platform with a social mission at its core, I’ve come to understand just how crucial, and often tricky, it is to find investors who appreciate that profit is just as important as purpose — the very definition of impact investment.

Enter Anne Ferrand, Co-Founder of So Impact, an event company in France that will be hosting its first Impact Makers Lunch in Paris on Friday, October 11. Alongside her associate, Audrey De Garidel, Anne told me that, “So Impact was born from our common desire to put our skills and experiences at the service of the common good by helping to support projects that will make tomorrow a fairer and more sustainable world.”

Anne Ferrand, Co-Founder of So Impact and Impact Makers (Image courtesy Anne Ferrand)

Throughout the past few years with So Impact, Anne and Audrey began to recognize an opportunity to connect their business contacts with some of their personal ones.  

“A few years ago, our professional lives consisted of organizing events by gathering 20,000 of the most profitable companies in the world like investment funds, real estate developers, brands, distributors, trading centers, etc.,” Anne said. “And separately, on our personal journeys, we were meeting extraordinarily enthusiastic young entrepreneurs with difficulties launching, perpetuating and financing their projects. All of a sudden, the idea of So Impact became crystal clear — what if we put these two worlds in contact?”

We decided to choose a theme we were collectively sensitive to – food and its whole value chain, we realized food is the cornerstone of most social, environmental and economic issues. ~Anne Ferrand

The Impact Makers series of events aims to do just that by connecting entrepreneurs seeking capital with impact investors looking to fund companies that are positively influencing the world around them. And the category they’ve chosen as they grow these events over the next couple of years is none other than food!

(Image courtesy Impact Makers)

“As a new company, we decided to choose a theme we were collectively sensitive to — food and its whole value chain,” said Anne. “We realized food is the cornerstone of most social, environmental and economic issues. All related fundamental questions go back to the first level of Maslow’s pyramid: how to feed the whole planet, how to feed ourselves, how to produce better, how to avoid waste, how to better support farmers without whom we would not survive, how to counter the industrial sector impoverishing soils or at least push them to switch to a sustainable model.”

Their overall strategy is much more than simply getting everyone into the same room, however. In fact, the format of the event, which they hope will become their trademark of sorts, was designed in collaboration with specialists from Positive Experiences Productions (EPP Paris) and Codesign-it!

The event will kick off with an opening speech by its guest of honor and then participants seated at round tables will be encouraged to network and converse throughout the rest of lunch. “Attendees are strategically seated according to their specialization, position in the value chain, and area of interest,” Anne explained. “Also, each table benefits from a moderator whose tailor-made facilitation technique will allow for convivial, yet effective and productive exchanges where everyone engages and contributes to change.”

With a guest list that includes more than 170 impact makers from all areas of the food industry, Anne hopes that young entrepreneurs and investors alike will leave the event with, “useful contacts, concrete ideas and the will to make things happen faster.”

Fostering these connections will also be a way for the food industry as a whole to shed light on some of its most critical issues and its many opportunities for innovation. Some topics of conversation expected include sustainability, food waste, hunger, nutrition, fair trade, responsible consumption, environmental effects and more, all of which we cover here on CulEpi.

By opening doors that often separate innovators from funders, entrepreneurs from the food industry and beyond can take a huge step forward in tackling these important issues with tangible solutions backed by some serious capital.

The face and logo of So Impact — a lion — is the perfect representation of how Anne views the potential of the players involved in the movement. “Why lions?” she said, “They’re carnivores, while we are on the theme of food, and because felines represent agility, strength and flexibility; because the father is protective but can be fierce too; because it is typically a species and an ecosystem that must be preserved; and because the little ones are players, and make you want to play with them! We hope that our great Lions will target our little cubs and want to support and protect them.”

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