We select companies where we can be involved in making an important difference and delivering strong social and financial results. By contributing a combination of capital, expertise and networking, we strengthen our portfolio companies’ opportunities for success. We work in active partnerships with them, with clear milestones and social ambitions.
Each company in our portfolio is assigned a specific business developer who follows it over time. Our team has specialist expertise in a number of areas, such as financial management, impact management and corporate governance. Our business developers spend countless hours each year acting as sounding boards, running workshops and holding meetings with the companies. They also help to connect the companies with other people in our network in areas such as sales, communication, ICT, law and HR/recruitment.
We have a phased approach in relation to helping companies by making grants, starting with our ‘First steps’ phase. This first phase lasts for a year and during this period we and the company get to know one another and start work on strengthening it as an organisation.
Those companies that qualify for further collaboration move from the ‘First steps’ phase into our portfolio. It is the Ferd Social Entrepreneurs board that takes the final decision on whether a company should be offered a place in our portfolio. Companies that are admitted to the portfolio usually receive support for between three and six years, and work to help them to grow and scale is undertaken in line with planned milestones. After a company’s time in the portfolio comes to an end, it becomes an ‘alumni’ company. This means that we continue to be available for advice and discussion purposes, but the company is expected to stand on its own two feet.
Grants can be appropriate if a company is in a financially vulnerable start-up or development phase. In such an instance, we provide expertise and monitor the company in addition to giving it a grant.
For more established companies, it is likely to be appropriate for Ferd Social Entrepreneurs to acquire an ownership interest in order to give the company a solid capital base on which to build. We become minority shareholders and support such companies by providing new board members to actively contribute to the board’s work. We also provide any support with development questions that is needed between board meetings.
We work actively with our portfolio companies using a method called ‘Impact Management’. This means that companies both measure the social results they generate and organise their activities with the aim of optimising their social impact. This method is the key to enabling social purpose companies to develop sustainable business models.
Read more about Impact Management here.