The Social Venture Marketplace at CO Impact Days was like a farmer’s market, only instead of shopping for their favorite produce and locally made jams, people were looking for the perfect social ventures to invest in.
One of those was the Latino Cultural Arts Center, which exhibited for the first time this year. CO Impact Days, founded by the Impact Finance Center, is a three-day impact investing conference that showcases Colorado’s impact investment opportunities for projects, non-profits, businesses and funds.
Stephanie Gripne, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Impact Finance Center, said LCAC was chosen because its mission is vital.
“What’s not to love about the Latino Cultural Arts Center?” Gripne posed in an email correspondence. “Their mission to strengthen the knowledge of and appreciation for the extensive artistic expressions of Latinos by preserving and highlighting the history and ongoing contributions is clear and important.”
About 150 social ventures applied to be exhibitors at CO Impact Days and only 100 were chosen. All applicants were judged based on an “impact rubric” that evaluated whether they would make a good impact investment.
While other non-profits exhibiting in the Social Venture Marketplace were looking for investors, the staff of LCAC was more looking to connect with people to collaborate and connect with.
“We were looking for an opportunity to tell our story and to showcase a very unique project and opportunity that’s happening in Denver,” Benita Duran, project director for LCAC said. “We wanted to meet people who have creative ideas and entrepreneurial thinking about building a Latino Cultural Arts Center.”
Being selected to exhibit in the Social Venture Marketplace defined what the organization and the future LCAC campus means to the community, Duran said.
“It is an issue of social justice and economic development just given where we are and where we are establishing a different set of roots,” Duran said. Both the future LCAC campus—set to break ground in 2020—and its retail store Hijos del Sol are located in the Sun Valley neighborhood.
That neighborhood, Duran said, “is one of the oldest Chicano Hispanic community neighborhoods in Denver.” Part of the reasoning behind establishing the campus there is to give the Latino community a presence in a changing landscape.
“We know change will happen all around us there, but we feel that we can be an important anchor in the community, the neighborhood and in Denver,” Duran said.
Exhibiting at CO Impact Days was a success, Duran said, because it gave the team (including Founder and Chair Adrianna Abarca and Operations Director Andrea Trujillo Guajardo) an opportunity to figure out exactly what they need from the community.
“It narrowed our focus to those specific areas where we really do want support and resource alignment,” Duran added. “We want a diverse group to collaborate with us.”
Duran said the organization is interested in exhibiting again next year and by that time significant progress will be made on the campus so they’ll be looking for more than connections.
Ventures that promote diversity are essential, said Gripne.
“They represent the fabric of the United States of America,” Gripne said.
She added that women and minorities are starting businesses at a faster rate than men but only have access to 7 and 1 percent, respectively, of venture capital.
“The very people that are creating the jobs in our society must gain access to aligned capital in order for them to achieve their goals," Gripne said. That "in turn creates jobs which in turn keeps our economy moving and creates a future that we want and a Colorado that we all want to live, work and play.”