Partner Focus: Impact Makers
Last year, VCC provided lending capital to a for-profit consulting firm with an unusual practice: they donate their proceeds. Say, again? They give their cash away?
Yes, and don’t automatically associate these altruistic tendencies with a low-earning, slow-paced kind of venture. With their portfolio of government agencies and Fortune 500 companies and their service offerings of project management, IT consulting, and healthcare operational programs, Impact Makers looks much like your high-caliber corporate sharks. That’s before mentioning their three-year sales growth of 1,013%, an accomplishment placing them among Inc. magazine’s “500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies.” (Number 360 to be precise.) Yet their unique business model makes this crew more like angel fish.
According to their Website, “Impact Makers competes head-to-head for contracts in the highly competitive professional services consulting world, and wins its fair share based on superior competence and performance. There is one critical difference: Impact Makers’ ‘profits,’ by corporate charter, go directly to its non-profit community partners.” They have no shareholders, opting instead to maximize profits for charitable organization stakeholders. In 2011, Impact Makers donated over $100,000 to their two designated charity partners: Rx Partnerships and Family Lifeline.
Founder and CEO Michael Pirron did his time in the traditional consulting trade, but kept an eye angled toward merging socially responsible organizations, like Ben & Jerry’s. While completing his MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, he wrote a paper on the idea of turning a highly competitive consulting firm into a socially conscious enterprise. An opportunity to turn theory into practice emerged when he landed a contract and decided to forge ahead with his novel concept, starting with one single client and one employee-himself. Impact Makers was born.
“Impact Makers is a way for me to live my values and continue work as a consultant,” explains Pirron. “We are a group of middle class professionals doing the same work we have always done, just structuring it differently. We hope to soon be making the same impact in the community as some of the large foundations in town. This is a real game-changer in the philanthropic world!”
In order to compete, Impact Makers must recruit and retain top talent, and others appear to seek the same balance Pirron describes. Numerous recruiting prospects have told him they are currently happy where they are, but would immediately consider joining Impact Makers should a position open.
Someone may get their wish soon as Impact Makers is on a clear trajectory for expansion. After several years of respectable growth, Pirron recognized the need for capital to hire “good people” who could expand both the firm’s capacity to sell and deliver. VCC and six investors provided the funds to do just that and Impact Makers hired 17 people last year bringing their total employee count to 37. The increase has already doubled sales projections for 2013 and Pirron anticipates hiring another eight people in the next quarter.
“We would not have been able to do that without the funding we received,” Pirron adds.
The VCC loan was assembled in part through funding from the Opportunity Finance Network (ORN) and the Starbucks Foundation. In November 2011, VCC was named a first-round grant recipient in the Create Jobs for USA program, a national job creation effort co-sponsored by OFN and Starbucks. VCC was one of just 28 community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in the nation to win a grant in the inaugural funding round.
“The OFN/Starbucks investment was aimed at bringing jobs to the American landscape and Impact Makers has done this,” observes Jane Henderson, VCC President and CEO. “They represent a fascinating blend of steely competitors with enormous hearts. We are proud to be participating in their captivating story.