The finance department of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas recently launched an initiative that’s expected to accelerate impact investing in Arkansas.
Cash Acrey, managing director of the Master of Science in finance program and finance professor, said a group of nearly 40 investors, bankers, philanthropists and UA staff have been meeting monthly since July on the impact investment initiative.
The initiative is expected to increase impact investing deals in the state by bringing the group together to share information about them, he explained. It also will introduce students to impact investing, Acrey said, adding that a course on it will be offered this fall as part of the Master of Science in finance program.
Impact investment includes investing into environmental issues, such as clean technology, or social issues, including ensuring access to capital across all demographics, he said. That might include providing funding for businesses owned by women and people of color or in rural areas. He noted that, unlike venture capital investors, those in impact investing may place higher importance on the company’s purpose rather than significant revenue growth.
“What we want to do is make sure that within the working group there is consistent deal flow, and that it doesn’t tap out,” Acrey said. “We’re in the community building phase of this.”
Acrey would like the group to consider at least one or two deals per month that could receive funding. Also, he wants the deal flow to remain Arkansas-focused and provide investment opportunities for alumni.
UA alumnus and entrepreneur Oliver Sims III is a member of the group and has been a startup investor and venture capital recipient who most recently founded Hurdle Health, which is a mental health platform targeting African American men and their families. Sims, the Americas technical sales leader at Broadcom Inc., noted that joining the group was more of a question of why not as he wants to see businesses established and grow.
“It’s a passion project for me,” he said. “Arkansas is near and dear to my heart … Make money while doing good — it’s hard to beat that combination.”
Real estate executive and investor Ramsay Ball of Bentonville said he’s been making impact investments for years and is founder of investment firm Cannon Capital.
“Impact investment for me is profit with a purpose,” Ball said. “That means you can go put money into something that’s doing good things, not just squeezing nickels out of people.”
Ball said impact investing has become more prevalent as people are more aware of it.
“To see the University of Arkansas take the lead in connecting people and educating people in this market and facilitating those kinds of investments, it’s just remarkable,” he added.