Based in Colorado, Kachuwa Impact Fund (pronounced KAW-choo-wuh) is an investment cooperative and public benefit corporation focused on owning and operating “impact real estate” and investing in privately held “impact companies.” As a cooperative, Kachuwa is democratically owned and controlled by its members. By design, at least 60% of Kachuwa’s assets are real estate and no more than 40% of its assets are investments. Kachuwa is similar to a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) combined with a mutual fund whose diversified holdings have a positive impact on society and the environment. Kachuwa’s goal is not to maximize financial return; instead, it is to create positive impact while earning reasonable returns for its members that may be considered “below-market.” Consequently, Kachuwa’s investors tend to be people who are seeking private impact investment opportunities that are better aligned with their progressive, broad-based values rather than the short-sighted, bottom line focus for which Wall Street is known.
Why? Our economy, society, and environment benefit when private impact companies have control over their respective missions and when investors include private impact investment in their diversified portfolios.
What is a Cooperative PBC?
Kachuwa is a cooperative corporation formed under Colorado law. A cooperative corporation is one that is formed for the benefit of its members, provides for one vote per member (regardless of the amount of their investment), and distributes profits on the basis of “patronage” – which generally means the amount of business done with the cooperative. Kachuwa has also elected to be a public benefit corporation (PBC), which is a type of corporation that explicitly authorizes its governing board to consider factors other than investor profit in its decisions. These factors can include environmental, societal, and community impact, as well as the interests of diverse stakeholders such as members, creditors, customers, tenants, employees, and vendors.
Kachuwa's mission is to:
Operate for the holistic benefit of its members and all of its stakeholders rather than for profit maximization
Provide privately held impact companies with mission-aligned, long-term, and non-controlling capital
Provide both accredited and non-accredited investors with diversified, impact investment opportunities outside of Wall Street
Own and operate impact real estate that supports impact companies, non-profit organizations, and small businesses
What is an impact company?
A conventional company exists solely to maximize financial returns for its stockholders. In contrast, Kachuwa defines an “impact company” as one that exists to generate financial returns while also having a positive impact on society and the environment via one or more of the following:
What it does (e.g. the products and/or services it offers)
How it operates (e.g. its business practices and corporate governance)
Who it benefits (e.g. its owners, employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders)
Where it operates (e.g. the locality it serves)
What is impact real estate?
Kachuwa defines “impact real estate” as real estate that has a positive impact on society and the environment. This will happen in one or more of the following ways.
How it’s used (e.g. organic farmland, a homeless shelter, office space for an impact company)
How it’s designed and built (e.g. energy efficient, LEED-certified, solar-powered)
Who it benefits (e.g. its owners, tenants, and other stakeholders)
Where it’s located (e.g. in a low-income or “blighted” neighborhood)
What's the origin of the name, "Kachuwa"?
When naming the cooperative, founder Blake Jones looked to the fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” and its contention that “slow and steady wins the race.” Not only was this message resonant, but like the long-lived tortoise, Kachuwa’s strategic vision included longer-than-average investment timelines of ten-or-more years. The analogy was compelling and so, having made his home in Nepal for many formative years, Blake opted to name the cooperative Kachuwa—the Nepali and Hindi word for tortoise.
Board of Directors
Blake Jones, Director and President
In addition to founding Kachuwa in 2005, Blake also co-founded four other cooperative enterprises: (1) Namaste Solar, an employee-owned cooperative; (2) Clean Energy Credit Union, a federally chartered credit union and a solely web-based financial services cooperative; (3) Amicus Solar Cooperative, a purchasing cooperative; and (4) Amicus O&M Cooperative, a resource-sharing cooperative. He is a 2010 Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award recipient and has a BE in Civil Engineering from Vanderbilt University.
Blake began his career in 1996 as a civil engineer at Halliburton/Brown & Root in the oil and gas industry, which included a two-year project assignment in Egypt. After a
life-changing epiphany, he decided to leave the oil and gas industry and pursue a career in renewable energy. Following a brief stint at Level 3 Communications in the telecom industry, he moved to Nepal in 2001 and spent three years implementing solar, wind, hydro, and electric vehicle technologies.
In 2004, Blake returned home to the U.S. and co-founded Namaste Solar, a solar electric company and certified B-Corp that is democratically owned and governed by its employees. Among its business practices are a 6:1 cap for highest-to-lowest pay, donating 10% of after-tax profits to the community, and being 100% transparent with all company information (including pay transparency). Due to its unique business model, Namaste Solar has earned widespread recognition including a “Best Place to Work” award from Outside Magazine (2013-2016), a “Best for the World” designation from B Lab (2012-2014), a “Most Democratic Workplace” award from Worldblu (2010-2014), and a #56 ranking on the “Inc. 500” (2009).
During his 11-year tenure as CEO of Namaste Solar, Blake led the cooperative’s growth to over $50M in annual revenue and raised $4M in preferred equity from 125 mission-aligned investors. As an impact entrepreneur, he experienced first-hand the challenges associated with financing a rapidly growing impact company while also trying to stay true to a unique culture, mission, and set of core values. Each year, Namaste Solar received numerous investment inquiries from traditional sources such as venture capital firms, private equity firms, and larger “strategic acquirers.” However, Blake believed that Namaste Solar couldn’t accept any such investment offers because it would have required that they share control, change the unique way in which they operated their business, grow as fast as possible, and then sell the company 5-7 years later. At first, Blake doubted the possibility that any investors might want to invest in Namaste Solar, but later, he was pleasantly surprised at how many investors wanted to support their unconventional, B-Corp certified, and employee-owned cooperative. In 2016, after 11 years and learning many valuable lessons about running an impact company, Blake stepped down as CEO of Namaste Solar in order to expand Kachuwa and to serve as volunteer Board Chair for Clean Energy Credit Union. Blake continues to work part-time at Namaste Solar, and Blake also enjoys providing technical assistance to companies that are exploring the possibility of converting to employee ownership.
Lastly, in addition to being an impact entrepreneur, Blake also considers himself to be an impact investor who has become disenchanted with the so-called “socially responsible investing” (SRI) opportunities that are available on Wall Street. As a result, over the past decade, Blake has been gradually transitioning his personal financial holdings into impact investments in privately held companies. In fact, Kachuwa’s initial impact investment holdings were all previously Blake’s personal holdings until he transferred them into Kachuwa in mid-2017. While Blake has neither professional investment experience nor a Master of Business Administration (MBA), he has learned a lot from his entrepreneurial and personal investing activities. Ultimately, he believes that his experiences give him a unique ability to empathize with both impact entrepreneurs and impact investors. He is excited to apply these experiences to help fulfill Kachuwa’s mission.
Marilyn Waite, Director and Vice President
Marilyn currently leads the climate and clean energy finance portfolio at the Hewlett Foundation. She has worked across four continents in renewable and nuclear energy, startups, and venture capital and investment. Author of Sustainability at Work: Careers that make a difference, Marilyn is editor-at-large at GreenBiz for green economy ventures. She previously led the energy practice at Village Capital, modeled and forecasted energy solutions to climate change as a senior research fellow at Project Drawdown, and managed innovation projects at AREVA (now Orano). Marilyn holds a Master’s Degree with distinction in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, magna cum laude, from Princeton University.
Lizette Peña, Director and Treasurer
Lizette Peña currently serves as the Director of Accounting at Namasté Solar, an employee-owned cooperative and certified B Corp based in Colorado. She has over 25 years of auditing, accounting, and consulting experience in a variety of industries and not for profit organizations. Lizette is an authentic leader guided by strong ethics and accountability, and she is passionate about sustainable business practices and renewable energy.
Lizette is GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) G4-certified for sustainability reporting. She is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in both Colorado and Florida. Lizette is a Member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Colorado Society of CPAs.
Lizette is the Past Board Chair for Intercambio Uniting Communities, a non-profit organization that improves immigrant lives through English education and serves as the Treasurer for the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group in Boulder, Colorado.
Gwénaël Hagan, Director and Secretary
For more than 20 years, Gwénaël Hagan has developed global partnerships and alliances, launched international operations, secured financing for new initiatives, and driven positive results in challenging environments. Gwénaël has diverse background in management, marketing, business development, and finance. After working in cable television, technology, and finance, and after spending a great deal of time in Europe, he wanted to own and manage a small business where he could “walk the talk” on service excellence and “quality of customer experience.” Since 2006, Gwénaël has been the owner and CEO of Colorado-based Signature Windows. Signature has been selling windows and doors to homeowners, custom builders, commercial and residential contractors and retrofit installers since 1981.
Gwénaël is passionate about the intersection of hunger (or food insecurity), minority youth, and the impact on learning in the early years. He is a certified public accountant in Colorado, and he serves on the boards of Namasté Solar and Hunger Free Colorado, a non-profit organization that works to end hunger in Colorado.
Alicia Robb, Director
Alicia is the Founder and CEO of Next Wave Impact and a Managing Partner of two early-stage venture funds. She was previously a Senior Fellow with the Kauffman Foundation for more than a decade. Alicia received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She previously worked as an economist with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Office of Economic Research in the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Alicia is a prolific author on the topics of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial finance. In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, she is the co-author of A Rising Tide: Financing Strategies for Women-Owned Businesses and The Next Wave: Financing and Investing Strategies for Growth-Oriented Women
Entrepreneurs published by Stanford University Press, as well as Race and Entrepreneurial Success published by MIT Press.
Alicia teaches workshops on angel investing and investor readiness around the globe. She is an active angel investor, a limited partner in three early-stage venture funds, a mentor to various young firms, and an advisor and board member for several groups, including the Deming Center Venture Fund, the Good Food Institute, Vegan Investors, and Women Funders in Animal Rights.
Stephen Irvin, Advisor
Since its founding in 2011, Stephen has led Amicus Solar Cooperative, a certified B-Corp and Colorado public benefit cooperative. Amicus is the first purchasing cooperative in the North American solar energy industry, jointly owned and democratically managed by its membership of solar energy development, EPC, and installation companies. Amicus currently supports over 50 member-companies across 39 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Stephen led the creation of Amicus while serving as CFO for Namasté Solar, a Colorado-based solar company and employee-owned cooperative, which specializes in the development, design, construction, and long-term monitoring and maintenance of solar PV systems. Stephen was one of the original employee-owners of Namasté Solar, and treasured playing a small part in the evolution of its unique business model. Before Namasté Solar, Stephen worked in
academia on the non-market valuation of public goods, renewable energy incentive programs, and irrigation and water supply projects in developing countries, such as Nepal, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan.
Brady Quirk-Garvan, Advisor
Brady Quirk-Garvan is in charge of operations and business development at Money With A Mission / Natural Investments, a progressive investment and financial planning company. He works alongside a great team helping people to connect their values and their financial lives. Through a combination of screened investments, shareholder activism, and impact investments, they help individuals use their money to impact the world in a positive way.
Brady attended the College of Charleston, where he had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Havana, Cuba, participating in a unique program focused on politics and social movements in Latin America. In College he ran several local electoral campaigns, as well an initiative that made Charleston one of the first smoke-free cities in South Carolina. Upon returning to Charleston, Brady continued his
involvement in the local community. For two years, he served as a Program Director at Palmetto Project, a statewide non-profit. Since 2012, he has worked with the Money With A Mission team at Natural Investments.
Brady currently serves on the board of directors for The Palmetto Project and College of Charleston Alumni Association. In 2013, he was named one of Charleston's "50 most progressive" by Charlie Magazine, and in 2017, he was named as one of the Forty under 40 by the Charleston Regional Business Journal.