Eva Yazhari: “Do the work, or hire someone to do the work for you!”

Surround yourself with people whose values, missions, and passions align with your own. At Beyond Capital, each collaboration we take on needs to meet our number one goal of helping to improve the quality of life for individuals living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Our Chief Investment Officer is a 9-year long volunteer […]

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Surround yourself with people whose values, missions, and passions align with your own. At Beyond Capital, each collaboration we take on needs to meet our number one goal of helping to improve the quality of life for individuals living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Our Chief Investment Officer is a 9-year long volunteer and often says he is “having his second career at the same time as his first.”

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Yazhari, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Capital, an impact investment fund that invests in seed-stage for-profit social enterprises serving impoverished communities throughout India and East Africa. Eva is also the founder of The Conscious Investor, a weekly magazine that sheds light on the world of impact investing.

Eva has 15 years of experience and a passion for investment, entrepreneurship, and leadership that goes beyond traditional conventions. She is also a real estate investor, angel investor, art collector, and certified yoga instructor based in Dallas.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After attending Barnard College, I began my career working in private equity and investment banking on Wall Street. I was previously a Vice President of an asset management firm, where I specialized in due diligence and the Activist Hedge Fund Manager Portfolio. After cutting my teeth in the finance world, I fell in love with entrepreneurship and the investment process.

The next step in my career was to marry my financial background with my family legacy of public service. In the 1950s, my grandfather moved his family from the U.S. to rural Tanzania to establish a health clinic. I have been endlessly inspired by his example of how giving back can fuel a life filled with purpose. I knew I wanted to create an organization that would marry money with meaning.

In 2009, my husband and I co-founded Beyond Capital, a nonprofit impact investing fund that helps those living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. But even beyond our work, I am deeply inspired by the power of impact investing. It’s a mindset, a tool that nurtures social entrepreneurs and allows you to invest well and do good at the same time.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I have recently returned from a trip to India where I visited Beyond Capital portfolio company Frontier Markets and met with other inspiring entrepreneurs working to change the world. In the field, I met women who are driving sales behind Frontier Markets, an innovative platform for access to basic goods and services to people living in remote villages. Frontier Markets has worked with 3,000 women and produced 3 million dollars in income to contribute to their livelihoods. These women are saving for education, their children’s marriage, and washing machines. This experience embodies what all humans are striving for, known in India as saral jeeva, translating to easy life, which is the tagline of Frontier Markets.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was visiting a healthcare company in Rajasthan, India, in a very remote rural village. We stopped to visit one of the health clinics that this enterprise was operating. Upon opening the car door, I missed a blind spot in looking behind me and hit a motorbike. No one was hurt, but it was extremely embarrassing as I damaged the company CEO’s car! (And, he never let me repay him.)

At that moment, however, I realized the extreme cultural sensitivities associated with investing in a different country and culture. Being a foreigner, I attracted a lot of attention to the accident and caused the company unnecessary headaches. I learned that as an investor we cannot simply waltz in and think we know everything. Instead, partnering with the right entrepreneurs who are ingrained in their local context is key for investment success. It has taken me 10 years to get to know the landscape of rural India, and there is much more to learn about how people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid live and spend their money. In many ways, their needs are the same as ours, but their cultural norms may be extremely different.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Beyond Capital believes that the true power of impact investing lies in staying true to one’s values in every aspect of life, including financial matters. Especially now as the impact investing movement gathers momentum and the era of the B Corporation is ushered in, more choices abound for the person looking to invest with their values front and center.

Upon our founding, we set a clear mission: to demonstrably and sustainably improve the quality of life and standard of living for consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid. We centered our efforts on India and East Africa, where the lack of basic goods and services is one of the world’s most pressing issues. We then honed our focus even further to select social enterprises working in healthcare, food security, financial inclusion, clean energy, and sanitation, addressing several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, where we felt we could make the most impact.

To date, we’ve built a successful 10-year track record with a 27% IRR, and our 10 portfolio companies have been able to raise 54x the capital we initially invested. Our investments have reached more than 4.1 million people living in the world’s most impoverished communities, with every 1 dollar we invest impacting the lives of 12 individuals.

I also recently launched The Conscious Investor, a weekly magazine that sheds light on the world of impact investing. Our goal is to break assumptions, seek the advice of seasoned experts, and offer a compass for anyone who wants to get involved.

Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?

I’ll share two real-world examples of extraordinary people we have met while visiting our portfolio companies working on the ground in their communities.

Rosalie is a young mother from Kigali, Rwanda. In her home country, female health continues to be a taboo topic, so women often face shaming and stigma for merely buying sanitation or contraceptive products. Rosalie began selling health and hygiene items to women in her community on behalf of our portfolio company Kasha, a tech-enabled e-commerce startup focused on democratizing women’s health in a discreet, culturally sensitive way. Access to feminine hygiene products and family planning empowers women in these communities and helps keep girls in school. In this way, Rosalie earns a sustainable income while helping women in her community.

Another example is Guna, who lives in rural Rajasthan, India, and lost his left eye as a child. When his father, a tailor, passed away, Guna took over the family business — with just one healthy eye. But at 35, Guna’s right eye became infected, and his vision deteriorated until he couldn’t see — and therefore couldn’t work. After visiting an ERC Eye Care clinic, another of Beyond Capital’s social enterprises, Guna was quickly diagnosed and received treatment. Now, Guna is back running his family business with the aid of his new pair of reading glasses.

These stories matter greatly because they remind us how basic goods and services have the power to dramatically change a person’s life — all while generating a financial return. Kasha and ERC Eye Care are two of our investments that represent the heart and soul of Beyond Capital by continuing to change lives and grow their businesses sustainably. In the case of ERC Eye Care, we exited our investment into the social enterprise in December 2017. Their affordable, inclusive eye clinics improved the lives of 155,000 people over four years — and we achieved a 27% IRR, essentially doubling our money.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

It would be difficult to narrow solutions down to three concrete things, as opinions on what needs to happen in order for sustainable change to take place range widely from a total financial system overhaul to working within the existing capitalist framework. In my opinion, taking the view that investing is not a zero-sum game and that no investment is neutral is the first step in solidifying a place for impact investing in the long term. Since the term “impact investing” was formally coined in 2007, the industry has grown exponentially, with some 1,300 active impact investing organizations around the world managing 502 billion dollars in investments intended to bring about positive change. [“Sizing the Impact Investing Market,” The Global Impact Investing Network].

These numbers will continue to surge as investors of all levels see the viability of impact investing and feel good about where their money is invested, spreading the word in their communities and beyond. In today’s world, change can accelerate fast, and with increased awareness and better, more transparent reporting, even more, investors will choose investments that have a social impact over more traditional options.

I look forward to the near future when I believe impact investing will refer to all investing — that is to say that all investment options meet more demanding socially responsible criteria.

You might be asking what you can do today to become an impact investor. Here are five simple steps:

  1. Define your values — narrowing them down can be the most challenging part.
  2. Recognize the importance of living all aspects of your life according to those values.
  3. Practice being wealth conscious, that is, the mindset that connects money and meaning.
  4. Review your investment options often.
  5. Do the work, or hire someone to do the work for you!

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I view leadership as an opportunity to invest in people. You go beyond being a leader and become a mentor. I learned this while working with some visionaries on Wall Street and through dozens of interviews with purpose-driven leaders on The Beyond Capital Podcast. These professionals have found meaningful ways to marry profits with purpose in world-changing ways. It is a guiding principle that helps in my work with our team and our entrepreneurs.

I am also honored to serve on the Leadership Council for the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College at my alma mater. This team of strong female leaders from across the globe is dedicated to helping develop and advance the next generation, a practice of giving back that I find most rewarding.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I find that the simple statements below serve as guiding principles in all aspects of life:

  1. Surround yourself with people whose values, missions, and passions align with your own. At Beyond Capital, each collaboration we take on needs to meet our number one goal of helping to improve the quality of life for individuals living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Our Chief Investment Officer is a 9-year long volunteer and often says he is “having his second career at the same time as his first.”
  2. Act from inspiration. Some of the most successful projects at Beyond Capital have been sparked by inspiration from places I would not have conventionally considered. By being open to ideas from different sources even outside of the industry, I have found that motivation knows no limits.
  3. Look for simple solutions to complex problems. Making an impact on some of the world’s most pressing social issues can be overwhelming; making small changes that have larger implications can help alleviate anxiety about achieving our goals by producing tangible results. Take, for example, our partnership with Frontier Markets, a company that started out providing access to clean solar energy options in rural Rajasthan, India, where deaths from dangerous kerosene products rank in the millions — largely children — per year.
  4. Conduct comprehensive due diligence. Establishing a partnership’s goals at the outset of the collaboration keeps everyone on track and allows for regular assessments. We aren’t doing any favors by not knowing the ins and outs of what our capital is invested in.
  5. Infuse your outside interests into your work. My parents were working artists, so I was raised to appreciate art and design. These interests influence and shape all aspects of my life, and therefore, how I approach my work, with an appreciation for creativity, beauty, design, and a sense of greater purpose.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I aspire to share the benefits of “wealth consciousness,” that is the mindset that connects money and meaning. I have found that there is a direct correlation between giving back and success. Wealth consciousness is rooted in the viewpoint or mentality through which someone views wealth. A Sufi proverb states: “Abundance can be had by consciously receiving what you already have.” Put simply, abundance and lack are typically two sides of the wealth consciousness spectrum. We can choose to appreciate what we have our lives, to be intentional and purposeful with how we spend our time, how we earn a living, and how we impact the world — often bringing greater meaning beyond ourselves. On the other end of the spectrum, we experience lack if our only goal is to make money without regard for purpose. In that case, no amount will ever be enough.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

My modern version is: “The best thing money can do is good!”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I look to Gwyneth Paltrow, for influencing my personal mindset and health, elevating important and unique conversations, and pioneering wellness in all aspects of life as a normal topic of conversation. By identifying what matters most to you and committing your energy and, yes, your money, towards furthering and fostering your core values, you are creating wealth consciousness.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @consciousinvestor and @beyondcap

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eva-yazhari/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeyondCapitalFund/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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