Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs establishes investment fund

Luc Bonte and Jules Beernaert. (Photo: Peter Mockers)
Social loans for sustainable enterprises

In addition to its NGO and B2B models, Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs has now launched an investment fund too. The organization is currently engaged in negotiations with the King Baudouin Foundation to host the fund. There are also parallel conversations with both local and international organizations to provide mutual support. “Even more than providing financial support, service provision, functioning as a think tank and creating partnerships for Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs will become increasingly important going forward”, according to chairperson Luc Bonte.
 

Companies like Siemens, Umicore, Lotus Bakeries, Wienerberger and ArcelorMittal were there when the Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs non-profit organization was established in 2000 in Heverlee. The organization’s point of departure was that fighting poverty in the southern hemisphere could only succeed if entrepreneurship is developed in a sustainable way. At first, that was achieved through cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs brought management know-how to the table, the NGOs contributed local knowledge.
 
The NGO partners of Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs include Codéart, Congodorpen, Louvain Coopération, Protos, SOS Faim, Trias, VIA Don Bosco and Vredeseilanden, each with a specific focus (agriculture, education and training, infrastructure, and so on).
 

Second pillar


Based on the realization that the organization is missing part of its target group, Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs created a B2B model in 2013. Entrepreneurs and those who have entrepreneurial spirit showed significant interest in working outside of the NGO set-up. “Large companies prefer to work with NGOs, while SMEs and individuals (read: ex CEOs or business leaders, ed.) prefer to interact directly”, according to volunteer consultant Jules Beernaert.
 
It would also appear that a certain chunk of the target group doesn’t come into consideration through the NGO model. “It is not only up to NGOs to engage with entrepreneurship or take entrepreneurial initiatives. There are many people with entrepreneurial skills in the South, but they don’t have access to the necessary finances to give wings to their business ideas. The entry point is the option of micro financing. Investment funding focuses on bigger projects instead. Business leaders who need financing in the EUR 5,000 to EUR 100,000 range have difficulty getting access to the money. And certainly not from banks. That is the target group Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs focuses on”.
 
 

Feeling threatened


Luc Bonte acknowledges that expansion of the B2B arm did not happen without hiccups. The NGOs initially felt that their operations were under threat. This proved to be unfounded, as the two arms have since proven to provide mutual support. In 2013 Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs set up one project to the value of EUR 10,000. Two years ago, five projects were in the bag, together worth EUR 300,000.
 
As part of the B2B arm, Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs goes looking for small businesses with potential. The organization analyzes their business plan or supports them in drafting one. After a thorough sustainability check, viable projects are presented to candidate sponsors.
 
 

New subdivision within B2B section


Sponsorship of NGO projects is more structured than the B2B investments in private enterprises. A new investment is always only considered after the beneficiary has repaid the capital. There is also sometimes a lack of scope for the projects. All these factors gave rise to the idea to establish an Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs investment fund. Again based on what we already know.
 
Luc Bonte: “There are of course already investment funds for sustainable projects. Because of overhead considerations, they mostly go for projects with a value of EUR 100,000 or more. This leaves the smaller entrepreneurs out in cold. By the middle of this year we hope to beef up the fund with EUR 300,000. Eventually we’d like to double that amount.”
 
In the aforementioned set-up, it is the Fund that invests in projects, in a co-financing arrangement with the individual entrepreneur. “The challenge is to get companies to sign up to the rolling fund. We want companies to trust us as an organization to handle things in a professional manner. The new fund will give loans up to a maximum of EUR 50,000 over an agreed repayment period”, explains the chairperson.
 
The Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs fund initially focuses on four countries, namely Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. It is no coincidence that these countries are known for their entrepreneurial spirit and are regularly visited by members of the network. This allows them to identify local opportunities or to monitor matters.
 
In keeping with tradition, the fund’s efforts will focus on the four themes Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs zones in on, namely Entrepreneurship & Education (“Without education there can’t be any entrepreneurship”), Water, Infrastructure & Sustainable Technologies, Agriculture & Food Security and Healthcare. The winners of the upcoming Sustainable Technology for Africa competition, that is organized in collaboration with VITO and The African Diaspora Projects Initiative, will be the first beneficiaries of the support offered by the Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs fund.
 
 

​Partnerships


Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs has in the interim implemented B2B projects in Benin (mobility), Togo (energy), Kenya (hospitality and industry), Rwanda (service), Uganda (hospitality), Tanzania (industry), Ethiopia (agriculture & livestock farming) and Haiti (sustainability). NGO projects were set up all over Africa, Cambodia, the Philippines, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Peru.
 
Luc Bonte and his team have worked hard at expanding partnerships with like-minded organizations both locally and abroad. A process is currently underway with organizations in the US and India to check to what extent the portfolios can be split, according to each one’s focus. There are also ongoing negotiations with VVOB (Brussels) and Exchange (Antwerp) around possible partnerships in education. Potential structured cooperation with Close The Gap is also under investigation.
 
 

60 volunteers, 100 members


In 2016 Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs collected EUR 1.4 million in operational and working capital. These resources were obtained from membership fees and contributions from companies and NGOs (11%), donations (3%), total project support (81%) and other ordinary operating revenues (5%). The organization does not receive any subsidies.
 
Operating costs of the Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs organization are provided by the core members who pay EUR 7,500 per year. They are Aquafin, ArcelorMittal, Belisol, BNP Paribas Fortis, DEME, Deceuninck, Lotus Bakeries, Roularta Media Group, SCK-CEN, Siemens, Sobinco, Trixxo, Umicore, Vanbreda, Veolia and Wienerberger. In addition to the in-kind donors and NGO partners, the organization also has 100 corporate members, who pay an annual membership fee of EUR 500. On-site work is mostly done by 60-odd unpaid volunteer consultants.
 
Source: de Vlaamse Ondernemer