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RSF Social Finance Invests More than $1 Million in Women-Led Social Enterprises

RSF’s Women’s Capital Collaborative supports inspirational entrepreneurs who are having a positive impact on women in Africa, Haiti and the U.S.

San Francisco, CA – RSF Social Finance has just invested over $900,000 in four women-led enterprises that are creating opportunities for women and girls around the world: Akola Project, Eu’Genia Shea, Kreyòl Essence and Spotlight: Girls. The investments, in the form of loans and grants, bring the total amount disbursed from RSF’s recently formed Women’s Capital Collaborative to more than $1 million.

The Collaborative is a gift-money fund designed to provide diverse forms of catalytic capital to women social entrepreneurs at critical moments. The new funding includes $906,000 in loans—the first four issued from the Collaborative—and two grants totaling $40,000. RSF previously granted $150,000 from the Collaborative to women entrepreneurs participating in a Shared Gifting Circle.

Three of the four organizations receiving loans advance women by providing economic empowerment, education and other benefits in the U.S. and internationally. All four were founded by women and are pursuing significant growth opportunities.

“It’s very exciting to see our Women’s Capital Collaborative support innovative enterprises like these, and provide the funding they need to prosper, grow and expand their impact,” said Deb Nelson, vice president, client and community engagement, at RSF.

“RSF has taken an intentional step to address the market failure in funding female enterprises by investing in these incredible mission-driven businesses,” added Lynne Hoey, who as RSF’s senior director, credit and loan administration, is working directly with the entrepreneurs.

Akola founder Brittany Underwood in Uganda. Credit: Ashley Turner Photography.

Akola Project—growing jewelry business lifts up disadvantaged women workers in U.S., Uganda

Founded by Brittany Merrill Underwood in Uganda in 2007 and now based in Dallas, the nonprofit Akola Project has a rapidly growing jewelry business that employs women facing high barriers to employment. Akola needed cash to fulfill orders pouring in from major retailers, including Neiman Marcus and the Home Shopping Network, but traditional financing options were either unavailable to a nonprofit or too expensive. The Collaborative stepped in with a $250,000 revolving line of credit at an affordable rate.

Akola’s mission is to have its entire supply chain—fabrication, assembly, shipping and office work—benefit women in need. In Dallas, it has provided $15-per-hour jobs for over 100 women who were living in poverty, including single mothers, formerly incarcerated women and survivors of domestic violence and trafficking. In Uganda, it has provided job training, professional development and living wages to about 550 women, benefiting entire communities.

Workers at Eu’Genia Shea’s facility in Damongo, Ghana. Credit: Eu’Genia Shea.

Eu’Genia Shea—natural skin care products empower women across the value chain

New York–based Naasakle International has supplied hundreds of tons of natural shea butter to cosmetics producers and distributors since 2000, following organic and fair trade principles and employing and empowering women throughout its supply chain. In 2015 the company, founded by Eugenia Akuete, created its own premium consumer brand, Eu’Genia Shea, which has experienced tremendous growth. The company will use its $300,000 line of credit from the Collaborative to expand production capacity. Without this funding, the company would have faced making painful tradeoffs against its mission.

Eu’Genia Shea is an ethically made, high-quality product in a fragmented market. The company provides its pickers and processors in Ghana with benefits such as financial literacy training, savings programs and education funds. Eu’Genia Shea eventually hopes to move all its production to Africa to enhance the economic benefit to producers.

Founder Yve-Car Momperousse pictured in front of Kreyòl Essence products. Credit: Kreyòl Essence. 

Kreyòl Essence—luxury beauty oils create economic opportunity for Haitian women

Kreyòl Essence, based in the Miami area and led by founder Yve-Car Momperousse, is bringing the first 100 percent natural Haitian black castor oil and Haitian Moringa oil to the world market, and needs to expand its production to keep up with demand—particularly from its newest retail partner, Whole Foods Market. The Collaborative is providing Kreyòl a $200,000 revolving line of credit that will provide working capital and enable the social enterprise to set up an additional production facility in Haiti. The Collaborative is also issuing a $20,000 technical assistance grant to help Kreyòl Essence support business growth through marketing.

Haitian black castor oil has a unique composition and is prized for promoting hair growth. Haitian Moringa oil is known for its skin moisturizing and brightening abilities and is a rising beauty trend. Kreyòl Essence hires women farmers and producers to grow and make its products, providing valuable jobs in Haiti. The company has created work for 350 women to date and promotes environmental restoration: it has planted 100,000 castor trees, which help to regenerate degraded land, allowing farmers to intercrop food plants.

Spotlight: Girls co-founders Lynn Johnson (left) and Allison Kenny (right). Credit: Jennifer Graham Photography.

Spotlight: Girls—building leadership through dramatic arts

Operating one of the only programs for girls focused on empowerment through the arts, Spotlight: Girls uses year-round camps and a multimedia platform to educate, inspire and activate girls and women to take center stage. The Collaborative has approved a $156,000 loan as well as a $20,000 technical assistance grant that will help the Oakland, California–based social enterprise develop a franchising strategy and scale across the country.

Spotlight: Girls’ signature is its Go Girls! Culture Code, a five-point social and emotional learning framework centered on the skills needed for girls to love themselves and each other so they can transform their own lives, confidently take on leadership roles and show up as advocates for women and girls in their communities. The company, co-founded by Lynn Johnson and her wife, Allison Kenny, has trained more than 1,600 girls to date. Spotlight: Girls is a California benefit corporation and a Certified B Corp.

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About RSF Social Finance

RSF Social Finance offers innovative opportunities to invest, give, and get funding that generate positive social, economic, and ecological impact. Since 1984, RSF has made over $450 million in loans, grants, and investments supporting social enterprises in the areas of food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship. Find out more about how RSF connects social entrepreneurs with diverse forms of capital. Follow @RSFSocFinance.

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