“Undoubtedly, there is an element of CRAZY in every social impact entrepreneur” expresses Barbara D’Amato, CEO of Trilogy Brands Group based in Los Angeles. When everyone else is getting out, Barbara D’Amato is going in. She goes to frontier, emerging and developing markets alike, from Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Bolivia to UAE, Saudi Arabia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and India to create global efficiencies and solve real problems in real time.
Barbara D’Amato is a lifetime Wall Street banker and an avid social impact entrepreneur. She recalls that element of “crazy” always present in each of those conversations before deciding to drive into action on a new social impact investment project in frontier markets.
Barbara’s ambition, vision and drive to succeed always led her to capitalize on the opportunities in the marketplace and create value through a combination of global business and impact investment.
A Catalyst for Inspiration Towards Social Impact
To provide some context on her work on social impact, when she was just 13 years old Barbara D’Amato became an advocate, leader, and a driving force for positive change globally.
A pivotal moment reshaped her notion of what is possible. A natural disaster of abnormal magnitude in the Amazon flooded the city and rural areas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Barbara recalls thinking: “Something needed to be done. My mother encouraged me to raise funds for this cause. So, I did what any other 13-year-old girl would do: I put together a shoe box, cut a whole on top, and wrote in black marker: Funds to Help the Victims of The Flood. To my surprise, everyone I knew wanted to help, and as the days progressed, we needed more and more shoe boxes to receive donations. Soon enough we had a large hall filled with staffers and volunteers. I remember nothing felt so good than to know I had saved people’s lives. This event had a profound impact in my life. It gave me tremendous encouragement at such a young age that the impossible is possible if only more people stand up to help” explains Barbara.
Since then, Barbara D’Amato has been personally invested, involved and advocating in favor of business, philanthropy and social impact investing. “Whether it is poverty, political or social unrest, terrorism, military coup d’états, violence among drug lords, or famine and disease caused by natural disasters with families and children stuck in remote areas with no access to food or water for months”, explains Barbara of her days in emerging markets, “there was no time to put on a handsewn black lace gala dress and attend a red-carpet event to raise funds for a cause. You make a decision and analyze your own capabilities to arrive at how effective of an impact your personal investment will be to drive results. And you charge forward knowing that you do not have all the answers. Not all sides of the equation are solved. It’s part science, part leap of faith. The odds are in your favor if you can affect at least one life, one family, a whole village, or the world because you were born and because on that day you decided to take action. In the end, you succeeded at creating a real impact”.
“I was very lucky to be raised in a family of social entrepreneurs. My mother was the first activist impact investor I have ever met in my life. She would waltz over to the Mayor’s office in times of revolutions or disasters to effect real assistance in reconstruction or subsidence to the poor and the needy during crisis. If the Mayor would not listen, she would go to the Head of Police. If the police would not listen, she would fly to the capital and walk in to the Presidential Palace. If the President’s Office was too bureaucratic, too corrupt or simply too busy, she would go to the largest newspaper and get this published to create a unified voice. She is a very courageous woman, moral, caring and compassionate” expressed Barbara.
“Nowadays we talk about the right rate of return on impact investing. Back then, there was no right rate of return, just the right thing to do within our reach, which in parallel had formidable returns: Advancing society, increasing profits and trade, improving living conditions, creating the emerging markets world that we know today… thriving with growth”.
Barbara is a hybrid between her upbringing in emerging markets and her upbringing on Wall Street. A new generation global citizen poised to change the world and make a difference her way. A new breed of global banker. Too caring for traditional Wall Street. And too Wall Street for traditional charity.
Imagine More: Discussing New Frontiers, Collaboration and Innovation
Barbara has been an inspiration to those who cross her path. Her role has always been to inform and inspire new leaders on social change through collaborative entrepreneurship.
We have succeeded at changing the prevalent perception in America that global markets equate to a risky, unworthy proposition. “I once was pitching an executive in Wall Street. After discussing the merits of the deal, he asked: Why are you doing this type of work when instead, you could be easily working for Goldman Sachs or others in Wall Street. You must love to put red lipstick on a pig!”. Interesting perception on emerging markets. Today, however, major financial institutions have entered the arena and are banking on the prospect of earning higher than market-rate returns.
According to the McKinsey report on Africa, every dollar invested in Africa has grown to returns of 800% over 10 years. And this is not measuring Social ROI, otherwise the results would be far greater.
According to Stanford’s Social Innovation Review, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, launched BlackRock Impact, a business unit dedicated to impact investing. Prudential committed to investing an additional $1 billion in socially responsible businesses by 2020. And Bain Capital created a business unit focused on delivering attractive financial returns by investing in projects with significant, measurable social impact.
According to Fast Company, in just a few years since the UN Sustainability Goals were laid out, the impact investing industry began to pick up the slack. Investors looking for financial returns that demonstrate social good improvement had committed $22.1 billion to 8,000 investments. All told, the emerging industry, less than a decade old, has today at least $114 billion in assets under management, according to a recent report by the Global Impact Investing Network, a nonprofit organization set to increase the scale and effectiveness of impact investing. Meaning, we did something right, albeit, much work still lies ahead.
Good news is everywhere. Much like Barbara D’Amato- these days many on Wall Street, global leaders, social entrepreneurs, and impact investors share the same view on emerging markets. It took a while for investors to catch on, but many have caught on to the high yield curves and sustainable rewards of operating in emerging markets.
Success for D’Amato is measured more by the growth that she inspires and strategically architects, ultimately measured by the success of the businesses and thriving communities. Making social entrepreneurs successful in their endeavors, helping them capitalize on sizeable and profitable opportunities, fueling growth and innovation, improving lives and communities globally, these are the drivers that inspire and enthuse this US-Latin American financial muse.
Today she stands strong as a “Next Generation Global Citizen” that reminds the world that we can effect change. All we need is to get personally invested in the complexities and challenges, creating the solutions for a global, sustainable ecosystem for future generations to enjoy and thrive.
“We need more impact investors like my mother: Yolanda Amelunge. More social entrepreneurs like my clients and collaborators: Paul Morrell, Phil Morrell, Paul Jeffries, Andy Ruhan, Tewodros Ashenafi, Levi Benkert, Scott Friesen, and many others who have made a significant positive global impact. More crazy billionaires, leaders, entrepreneurs and icons like: Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, the Clinton Foundation, The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and many others with the vision and the courage to challenge the status quo” she states.
Imagine if charity donors become philanthropists. And philanthropists become active impact investors. What will the world look like?
Money is a big part of the equation, but it does not solve the equation. Collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship and money collectively create the solutions, and ultimately, create the successful outcomes.
In closing, we ask Barbara D’Amato what her message of inspiration to the youth is: “Imagine more. Unplug more. The youth needs to know that global change, a better planet, and real impact do not happen virtually -over an iPad screen. We were doing this before #zerohunger #metoo and #weforum were a word and before hashtags existed. We gave it a word. We gave it meaning. We made social impact a buzzword. We make it look easy. Truth be told, we did all this against the trend, against all odds, with virtually no support, and no buzzwords. Because all you need to effect change in this world is to believe in yourself, stand up, show up, and make it happen. You will be surprised what you can do, and what interesting people you meet along the way!” she smiles.
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Barbara D’Amato is an influencer and strategy director focusing on global brand development and growth for the world’s top brands. Recognized as a leading expert in retail and entertainment, social impact in emerging markets, and cross-border partnership opportunities. A sought-after speaker globally on leadership, finance, and entrepreneurship. A visionary change agent for women and youth. A global catalyst. And a next generation global citizen. For more information: www.trilogybrandsgroup.com. LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bdamato1. Twitter: @Bdamato13