A force that heals

Indigenous impact fund is transforming businesses and communities

Cheekbone Beauty’s founder, Jenn Harper, wants to own the first Indigenous billion-dollar beauty company—but her dream is about more than money.

“This is about our communities. It’s about our people,” Jenn says. “I want every Indigenous kid across the entire planet to see our product on a shelf and say, ‘Another Indigenous person did that.’”

Jenn’s company is one of six Indigenous enterprises to receive between $250K and $2M in equity from Raven, the world’s first Indigenous impact fund. The objective of the fund is to support innovative, scalable, purpose-driven Indigenous businesses to reduce poverty, create employment and improve the quality of life of Indigenous Peoples across Canada, while generating a target return of six to eight percent for investors.

“The fund is about economic reconciliation,” says Paul Lacerte, managing partner of Raven. “We’ll know we’ve achieved it when Indigenous people aren’t managing poverty, they’re managing wealth.”

With more than 60,000 Indigenous entrepreneurs across the country, there’s no shortage of desire and drive. But lack of access to financing limits growth. So do structural inequities such as regulatory barriers, systemic racism, intergenerational poverty and a lack of financial literacy. Raven’s approach, which is based on the Seven Sacred Teachings and aligned with the UN’s Social Development Goals, provides more than just venture capital.

“We’re in business together,” Paul says. “All of the CEOs have said the cultural support they get is more valuable than the money.”

Raven is part of Hamilton Community Foundation’s impact investing portfolio—investments that deliver financial returns coupled with positive social and/or environmental outcomes.

“Raven exemplifies the kind of impact we want to make with our investments and the kind of systems change we believe is possible,” says Annette Aquin, HCF’s Executive Vice-President, Finance & Operations. “It presents a remarkable opportunity to change the way we look at ‘returns.’”

For Paul, the big dream is an Indigenous economy in the image of Indigenous cultures. “We’re replacing a capitalist and colonial mindset with a collaborative and regenerative mindset,” he says. “We’re transforming money from a force that hurts into a force that heals.”

Excerpt from 2021 Annual Report