Santa Barbara is fortunate to have people who financially embrace organizations committed to positive social impact. Marlys and Ron Boehm are two such individuals who, for over 10 years, have supported businesses imparting social and environmental change.
The Boehms created Boma Investments, a for-profit social impact investing company, to finance and support entrepreneurs with sound business models who are looking to affect social change.
Early on with Boma, the husband and wife team made the deliberate decision to use their capital and time to primarily invest in, rather than donate to, for-profit social businesses. The Boehms strongly believe that businesses often create more sustainable solutions than non-profits.
Savvy business people themselves, the Boehms ran ABC-CLIO, an international publishing company in Santa Barbara, from 1982 to 2008 after Ron Boehm’s family moved the business here from Europe in 1960. Ron learned the business from an early age and went on to run it with great success.
Upon the creation of Boma Investments, the Boehms already had some familiarity with the social enterprise space thanks to their involvement with the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), which Ron joined in the early 1990’s. YPO is an international organization of business leaders who share the mission of “becoming better leaders through education and idea exchange.” Now an organization of nearly 24,000 CEOs in over 85 countries, YPO has many chapters and many different initiatives that they focus on.
In 2008, the Boehms became interested in a group of YPO networks operating under the umbrella name of the Social Engagement Networks (SEN). SEN members focus on working with people and organizations in the social impact space. Marlys explains that they have always been drawn to programs that focus on education, early intervention, and job creation. It was through YPO that they made many of their initial connections for Boma Investments.
“They have always been drawn To programs ThaT focus on education, early intervention, and job creation.”
Why the social impact space?
Marlys explains that their interest in social impact comes from the simple, but powerful, commitment to wanting to do good in the world. She says that the task of figuring out how best to do good, without doing harm, while keeping in mind all the stakeholders involved, is a challenging but fulfilling one.
Unlike other businesses with similar investment models, Boma Investments’ interests are not exclusive to a particular sector or country. They explain that what they care about most is simple and direct: helping entrepreneurs create sustainable positive change. Sustainable for them means business models that make sense, and can become financially self-sustaining.
Talk to any number of people who have been in the NGO or philanthropic world, especially those who work overseas, and a great majority of them will likely tell you that traditional aid models have proven to be ineffective, often creating more harm than good in the long-run. There are many reasons for this, but largely it is because aid money creates dependency and offers the recipients neither dignity nor means to stand independently after the aid monies, with all of their contingencies, have been distributed.
Indeed, as the Boehms began to travel more for Boma Investments, they witnessed the more adverse effects of international aid. With this realization, they decided to work with for-profit models, as their success could more accurately be measured. “The better model,” as Marlys asserts, “was to give people a hand up and get them started on businesses that could eventually become self-sustaining. It doesn’t require a lot of money, but more often, some mentorship and connections.”
The work of Boma Investments
For a number of reasons, Boma Investments focuses on making smaller working capital investments rather than large equity investments. Working capital loans, they explain, allow the investees an affordable way of repayment, rather than forcing entrepreneurs to plan for a kind of exit that traditional Venture Capitalists expect.
Most social impact entrepreneurs care deeply about their businesses and are not necessarily looking to sell their ventures, which is often the only way to provide the return the VCs are seeking. As Ron explains, “Expecting an unlikely and significantly delayed return, is not a good practice.”
In addition to providing capital, the Boehms often become involved in their investees’ business strategy and operations, using their business experience and connections to advance their investee’s chances to succeed.
Marlys explains that most people who start an organization or social impact business do so because they want to solve social problems, not because they want to start a business. “They have passion and an idea, but don’t necessarily approach it like a business. Whereas, people who go about starting a business in an effort to solve a social problem, look at it in a very different way.” This is why Boma provides other forms of support including helping investees develop their business systems and sales models, managerial accounting, marketing, and clarifying their messaging. To date, Boma Investments has worked with over 45 companies and made approximately 100 investments.
The Boehm’s dedication to their business and greater mission in life is a clear reflection of their genuine desire to make impactful change in the world. Boma Investments is an inspiring example of the way one family’s life’s work can create a multiplier effect of indelible social good.
For More Information Visit: bomainvests.com