“[Impact investing] is a newer phenomenon and speaks to the times we're in—the emissions, the Paris Accord—there's a shift in the culture to care about these things.” - Sarah Stevens
Sarah Stevens is a consultant and founder of Innov8 Green, a real estate holding and investment company. As an investor, Sarah joined Spring’s 2022 Health Impact Investor Challenge, in partnership with the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good.
The 11-week program is for investors and impact-curious individuals who want to grow, navigate, and learn about the investing process in a community-minded experience that culminates in a final investment decision.
In her consulting business, Sarah aims to improve and address gaps in the healthcare system. She shares her story with us about her experience in Spring’s investor program and how it allowed her to think about making an impact in a different way.
Read more about Sarah's journey below.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your journey to becoming an investor.
My background is in healthcare and I started out in nursing. I always wanted to make an impact and a difference in the role I had, or the opportunity I sought out. As I learned and grew in my career, I went from a clinical practice to management, consulting, working with governments, and lots of different projects in the healthcare system.
I saw a need there and the problems we were facing, so I saw investing in companies as something that would allow me to make a difference in a different way. Before I joined the spring program, I met a friend’s cousin who was a young adult and starting up a company. He was so young, enthusiastic, and although the company wasn’t in healthcare, he’s actually doing well.
So I thought, I want to invest in him—his ideas and passions—for making a difference even though it wasn’t in my lane of what I thought I’d be interested in. This was my first experience, my first investment in a company. So that’s how I started getting interested in it.
Then after I jumped in and invested I thought okay, I’m going to join an angel group. I wanted to invest in Canadian companies so I joined an angel group here in Toronto where I live, and that’s where the process started.
Before joining the program, what was the evolution from your first investment to the moment you met Spring?
After I joined the angel group, I dove right in and started attending Spring’s weekly meetings. And as I was learning, I realized I had a bit of a learning curve. Someone in the angel group shared the Spring program with me, so I thought I would join that and expand my networks, learn more, give advice where I could, and see if I could make a difference as a newer investor.
What comes to mind when you hear “impact investing”?
How everyone doesn’t know about impact investing. It’s a newer phenomenon and speaks to the times we’re in—the emissions, the Paris Accord—there’s a shift in the culture to care about these things.
And there’s a demand from consumers and investors to say no, you can’t just make a profit, that’s not the only thing we care about—we care about how you are impacting the environment—what social good are you doing?
What made you choose to participate? What attracted you to join when you learned about Spring’s program?
One reason is how investing was new to me and I wanted to learn in a formal learning structure. Another reason is how Spring has been doing this for awhile—they’ve got 100 companies prior.
I looked at the program and I saw that it was a commitment that you had to do and stick to for three months, so to me that wasn’t too long of a program. I like that they had a mix of tools and resources—the tools seemed easy to use, it was online, they had people with experience charting certain topics. They provided a networking opportunity which was really important to me as well.
There’s another venue to meet entrepreneurs and then to meet with investors. Some of them were specific healthcare angel groups, which I was really interested in meeting and learning from. And the fact that you got to work with a smaller team as well.
You have the bigger groups but then you go into smaller groups where you get to do longer-term due diligence, or create an investment memo for the company so that was all appealing.
What are the takeaways that you got from the challenge?
Another takeaway from that is just to understand it even more and applying what I learned to my own angel group and being acutely aware of how everyone’s coming at it from different investment angles.
The other thing was the team.
I learned a lot of what people really valued and the similarities or commonalities was around the value of the team—do you believe in them and do you trust them.
Then from the entrepreneur side, talking to them and hearing their stories and the hard work that they do was more reinforcement to me and how it’s such a valuable thing to invest in people and their ideas.
Why is it important to invest in impact and why is this the right moment to do it?
I would probably ask, why are you doing it? Half of your investments fail so if you’re going to take the time and effort into doing this, maybe take it from that angle and ask, what else is motivating you? What else can you be doing other than just having the lens of a financial return.
Maybe even digging into what are some of the things you like about investing. Some angel investors don’t get that involved with the company so it depends on who you are.
I would definitely recommend it to somebody like me who’s at the earlier journey of an investment portfolio. And for those interested in networking, education, partaking in pitches, and due diligence rooms.
I’d recommend it to entrepreneurs since it really prepares them. I mean the experience alone of feeling that you’ve helped an entrepreneur is just satisfying and rewarding on its own.
Anybody could really be part of the experience—angel investors or those who want to make a difference by helping and mentoring.
Spring Activator shares the voices in our community of purpose-driven changemakers. This interview is condensed and originally from a podcast episode in Spring’s People of Impact. Watch or listen to the full episode here.
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