Social Media gets a lot of bad press. But, one of the reasons I am so grateful that we have the internet and social media is because I have had the chance to meet people who live all over the country and create true connections with them. You never know what might come from one comment on a post…
Bill Huston is one of those people. I shared an article on LinkedIn and he commented. We connected. We had a 2 hour phone call. He taught me so many things I didn’t know - about this whole new world of crowdvesting! He also taught me about opportunity zones and Buy the Block - and he reminded me that I am not the only entrepreneur who is always joining new businesses, starting new businesses, creating conferences, and so much more.
This man is super busy and super dedicated to being part of the solution to gentrification in his city. He is truly living Gandhi’s call to Be the Change. I am honored to have met him, to learn from him, and to have him in my corner as I continue pushing forward on bringing change to my own world.
I hope that you will enjoy learning more about what Bill is doing and what he is passionate about. And, if you’d like to know more about Buy the Block (which I think is AMAZING), please send me a note.
Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it?
The West Louisville Opportunity Fund was started based on the work I had been doing in the crowdfunding/crowd investing space over the last couple of years in the areas of business development, marketing, and PR. I met my current partner, a real estate developer and Opportunity Zone manager, and we decided to create a fund that was based in the West Louisville Opportunity Zones and managed by a resident. We had a connection to a general contractor that also trained low-income and returning citizens in construction trades. We launched the fund with a grassroots Reg CF component to allow community members to build wealth while building their community.
Why did you start your business?
After many years of working in the nonprofit industry and watching the many inefficacies of philanthropy and how the funding of these community-based nonprofit organizations was handled, I decided that if we change the people that are doing the funding the people that receive funding would change. Title III of the JOBS Act was a game changer and then the Opportunity Zone legislation came along to provide a tax-deferred vehicle that has the ability to bring immense capital into neighborhoods that have been disinvested and redlined for decades.
The people from these communities now have the legal ability to invest, build wealth, and create businesses and jobs.
What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you?
Social good business is a business that allows you to patronize a business that is in line with your values. It is also about investing in business or real estate that has an environmental or social impact as well as a financial return.
Where and how I spend my money is a reflection of the world I want to see. If I want to see strong small local business development and job creation then I will patronize local businesses.
Social Good Business is a reflection of my values through my consumer and investment choices.
What is your favorite part about running a social good business or your favorite experience since you started?
I enjoy seeing people when the light bulb comes on and they realize that they have the power to vote with their dollars. They don't have to just be consumers, but they have the ability to be owners and loaners.
I was talking to a homeowners association, and they want to stop their community from becoming a renter community, and I suggested that they could use the Buy The Block platform to aggregate their capital and purchase the rental properties and sell them to first-time homeowners at a profit as flip and fixers and take control of their neighborhood.
What is your biggest struggle in running a social good business?
The biggest struggle for me is making the decision to base my business decisions on my values and not only on the bottom line - standing on principles and not being driven by profit only. Using public transportation whenever possible helps the environment. Paying a little more for goods and services to support community-based businesses can be a challenge. Even sharing on social media the importance of making value-based choices over profit is important.
What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
I would like to create crowd investing ecosystems in inner-cities across the United States in neighborhoods that have been disinvested for decades. By creating these crowd investing ecosystems we are empowering people through community capital. People that live in these disinvested communities begin to create businesses, real estate development, create jobs and build wealth.
Who are your business icons, heroines or mentors?
Robert L Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, is one of my favorite business icons. His story is so powerful and inspiring.
Kristin Hull, Founder and CEO of Nia Impact Advisors, is a pure demonstration of someone with a focus on her values in the way she conducts business.
What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business?
Always follow your values no matter how much money is on the line!
What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?
I am looking forward to ComCap19 and being an NC3 board member. Being a part of this event and working with this great team has me truly excited. It’s been great being able to see this conference come to fruition being a part of the creation of the event.
What is the last book you read?