The International Journey of an Impact Investor

August 6, 2021

From Middle America to Nigeria to Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia, Ellen Fish makes her mark

By Robert Hurst, Athena Global Advisors

Recently I sat down for a talk with Brooklyn-based impact investor Ellen Fish. Ellen is the founder of R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund, a venture working to create sustainable livelihoods for rural communities with few economic alternatives.

Ellen may be based in Brooklyn currently, but her professional focus and her formative experiences are decidedly international. From a very young age she received a much more eye-opening education than her American peers. Her father was a professor who took part in a Ford Foundation project in Nigeria in the 1960s, so the family lived in Katsina, Nigeria when she was 10 years old. She was deeply affected by the extreme poverty, the acute malnutrition of the Nigerian kids. “It was very shocking for a kid from a small town in Wisconsin.”

As she grew up she found herself drawn again to distant parts of the world, living in Mexico, Thailand and India.

“The innovation that we find has broad applicability is coming out of emerging markets.”

Back in the States, Ellen worked in communications and marketing, and became involved in new product development — “creating business lines out of nothing.” Her interest in marketing new businesses melded with her passion for immersing herself in other cultures, and led her to begin working with artisan enterprises, “getting the products to market, but there’s also a need for capital in order to grow that enterprise.” And that’s where R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund comes in.

Ellen Fish

“I think we’re in a global environment now.  We have global supply chains and we’re linked globally,” she says. “I think there’s a sense that it’s riskier, but I don’t in reality think it is… I think there are good opportunities all over the globe that let us change the trajectory that we’re on.”

“The innovation that we find has broad applicability is coming out of emerging markets.”

Considering her vast international experience, we’re very proud Ellen chose to invest in Indonesian artisans through BIDUK, the prototype debt fund administered by Athena Global.

Her decision to invest was driven first and foremost by her trust in Kaylene Alvarez, Athena’s founder and CEO and Managing Director of BIDUK, but the team also gave her confidence. “I was impressed by the quality of people she was recruiting,” Ellen said. “And the loan process.” She also mentioned the backing from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the fact that it was in an emerging market and focused on women-led companies as important factors. “I mean, It checked all the boxes.”

Watch BIDUK Indonesia for a new video featuring Ellen’s thoughts on impact investing and why she thinks emerging markets are the best bet for impact investors, to be posted in the coming days.

To learn more about R.I.S.E. Artisan Fund, visit https://www.riseartisan.fund/.

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