Eva Yazhari is a seasoned investor, author, and entrepreneur that brings key business skills, in addition to meaning, purpose, and consciousness to her career. She build an impact investment fund impacting the lives of over 20 million low-income individuals through market-based solutions.
You make an impact in so many different ways- a weekly magazine ‘The Conscious Investor Magazine’, a recently launched book ‘The Good Your Money Can Do’, your own impact fund, and by being an avid impact investor yourself - what was your journey like?
My family lived in Africa in the 1960s and I grew up in New York City with my parents, who were both working artists. We did not speak of investments at the dinner table, so for a long time investing seemed very inaccessible to me. Later, after I had learned the language of finance on Wall Street, I went back to my roots and reassessed the definition of investing. From there I just dove further in. There were a couple of impact investing networks that helped me branch out and shape my personal thinking, especially by advising me on how to use resources well, like time and talent. But I also learned a lot from other groups and industries. We have so many more options with our money than we think. There are endless possibilities.
If you could define 3 values that guide your investments what would they be?
My core attributes are justice, leadership, and innovation. I try to live equitably and in line with these values every day. It makes the hard things easier and life more meaningful and fun.
Impact investing has grown substantially in recent years, from a niche industry to a far more established one. Do you have any thoughts on this change?
Whilst it is great that we are all becoming more value-aligned, there is a danger of inauthenticity and ‘window dressing’ when we grow too fast. We need to think differently about value in society and become deeply aware of all stakeholders. We need political and corporate leaders that show us that there is no trade-off in operating this way. Preparing business for climate change in advance, for instance, means all of us are better equipped to weather future storms.
Why are you specifically interested in early-stage investing?
It is fun! I really like working with founders and getting actively involved. Also, there is much more impact to be made at the beginning of a company's lifecycle. I think what we miss in later stages, is a focus on passion. Investments often become defined by a specific existing need, or their ability to scale, which means we only fund things that are big or have the potential to be big. I was always told nobody would do due diligence on $300K cheques, but to me, change starts small. So yes, it takes work to work with ‘smaller’ cheques ($250K-750K) but it is worth it, cause you are making a material difference in getting a company off the ground.
How would you convince a ‘traditional’ investor to try impact investing?
I am not so interested in convincing anyone. Instead, I would ask someone what they care about. Are there areas you already give to philanthropically? Could you maximize the effect, by engaging in a more sustainable manner? Do you know what you own and does it resonate with your values? We can all feel good about where our money is invested - give it purpose and gain purpose - but we need to ask the right questions. This is true for everyone by the way, whether you have capital or not. Conscious consumerism is as powerful as having a portfolio of investments.
What do you think stops women from getting into impact investing? And what do you think could help?
Women do seem to be working in the industry but aren’t well represented as investors. Often they are intentionally subjugated. What I hear most, is that they think they don’t know about finance and money and therefore can’t be an investor, but investing is about so much more than numbers. The only thing an investor really needs to ask themselves is: do I want to be invested in this? To find this out, you need to ask about the things that interest you, so you can understand whether it is in line with your values. Have your own conversations about money. Everyone has the power to do that, and however someone makes their best decision is valid.
In your book, you quote: “We are lucky enough to live in a time where we can have a material impact on a social problem with little sacrifice in our own lives.” How do you think this ‘sacrifice’ has changed from before, and why do you think that matters for change? Isn’t some kind of sacrifice necessary?
To me, there are two kinds of people. There are the zero-sum, glass-half-empty people. Their pie is finite. This group needs to learn that there is no sacrifice in doing good and impact is value. The other type of people are the win-win mindset individuals. I am one of those. I look at ultimate impact. And in that equation, there is no trade-off. In fact, my investment is giving me more, right away.
Pym just started ‘Impact Circles’ to help connect investors with similar goals and interests. How important is community for impact investing?
I think for every movement, a tribe is required. Nothing can advance without a community but, there can be lots of different communities. It can be a business group but also or a mosque or a church. But, there is a lot of purpose in being an impact investor and a lot of joy in sharing that.
If you could say/advise one thing to a starting impact investor or starting social entrepreneur what would you say?
To a starting impact investor, I would say approach investing with a mindset of abundance. To a purpose-driven founder I would drive home the importance of being a truly conscious leader; consider all stakeholders in as many decisions as possible.