Andres Idarraga, co-founder of Creci, focuses on social impact investing.

Kellogg Award Winner Drives Impact Investing to Small Businesses

By Andres Idarraga (EMBA 2020, Youn Impact Scholar)

I decided to leave my job in the summer of 2018 and enroll in Kellogg’s Executive MBA program to pursue my passion for sustainable economic development.  In 2019, I co-founded Creci (pronounced kre-si, and in Spanish a play on the word “to grow”), a fintech company that mobilizes funds from social impact investors to lend to small businesses that are pursuing at least 1 of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

We were thrilled to have been awarded the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award, which comes with $70,000 in seed funding to support the venture!

How Creci supports social impact

Impact investors are looking for alternative investment options

Although 85% of individual investors and 95% of millennials are interested in impact investing, only a fraction of them have adopted the practice, according to Morgan Stanley.  Various outlets, including Bloomberg, report that the disconnect is largely driven by the lack of widely available alternative sustainable investment opportunities. In other words, impact investors are looking for opportunities beyond S&P 500 companies that strategically rebranded themselves as sustainable opportunities, companies that had already amassed record inflows of capital. If you look into some of your sustainable investing portfolios, do not be surprised to find Big Oil and Big Tobacco, among other unexpected holdings.

Small businesses as a sustainable investment option

Creci’s goal is to provide an easy way for impact investors to support a portfolio of small businesses that are having a positive impact in their communities.  A PwC report strongly suggests that over 80% of small businesses are furthering at lease one SDG. However, these small businesses lack the time and resources to hire expensive social impact consultants to highlight that impact. Creci has developed an easy-to-use online tool that allows small businesses to determine if they are pursuing a social impact goal (i.e., one of the SDGs).  If so, they can use the tool to periodically provide data on a few indicators. Our goal is to track impact statistics across a portfolio of small businesses that we also underwrite and lend to.  We incentivize the use the tool by offering interest rate rebates on loans made.

With these statistics in hand, we can then promote our portfolio of companies to impact investors. We are currently working to establish a mechanism by which an investor can come to our website, set up and fund an account (the proceeds of which will be used to lend across the entire portfolio), and earn a fixed-interest rate on their funds.

The United Nations has referred to small businesses as the “safety net” of communities. During the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen how vital these businesses are for the economic health of the world. Creci currently lends in Colombia and we plan to expand throughout Latin America and into the U.S. During the last year, we have funding almost 40 companies. Collectively, the companies are furthering 12 SDGs. Our companies have thus far, among other things, used our loans to expand water treatment and recycling plants where over 20,000 of liquid gallons of water are being treated on a daily basis; manufacture more than 10,000 facemasks as a result of the COVID-19 crisis; employ over 60 people and fund personal growth and empowerment classes for over 300 women in low-income communities; help over 40 farmers with their production; and develop healthier animal feed.

Kellogg support and the Kellogg network

Kellogg’s support of social impact entrepreneurship through Social Impact at Kellogg, including the Youn Impact Scholars and the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award, has been vital to the early successes of Creci. And I could not say enough about my cohort and network from the Executive MBA program. Some of them have been early funders, others have provided their expertise and connections, and all have been incredibly supportive.

We are energized by the work to be done.  Small businesses are integral for poverty alleviation, impact, and sustainability.  To anyone who would like to support our portfolio companies, please leave us your contact information at https://www.creci.co/invest.