Kristin Hull, Founder, CEO & CIO of Nia Impact Capital, is putting feminism into our finances.
Motivated by a deep sense of social justice, Kristin Hull is helping changemakers connect the dots between investment practices and the world we want to see, from gender equity to sustainable food to climate consciousness. And as a member of the Host Committee for this year’s Grazing at the Kitchen Table, we are honored to highlight her work through this year’s theme of celebrating the women changing our food system.
Growing up in Oakland, Kristin Hull discovered an innate sense of justice: who got to sit where on the bus; who had first pick of the picture books or reading activities. So it was a natural transition when she began her career as a classroom teacher, viewing education as a starting point to create change in her community. In 2007, after years spent observing the gap in financial literacy within the American education system, and society as a whole, she realized there was an untapped opportunity for impact in another way: through teaching individuals how to connect the dots between their investment practices and the world they want to see.
Within her world of fellow activists, Kristin saw many of her peers spending their careers fighting against the societal status quo, and yet when it came to their finances they either lacked the awareness, knowledge or confidence to veer from the norm. Very few existing companies were offering alternative solutions, let alone providing education to their clients. Enter Nia Community Investments, which Kristin launched in 2010 and is today Nia Impact Capital. The company takes a completely innovative approach to what they call “conscious investing,” looking to disrupt the industry on all levels. Kristin describes this approach as “being aware of where our money is… We jump into a life engaged in finance but are not aware of its implications. If your money isn’t at home in dollars bills, where is it? Does it sit in a bank, or does it get loaned out to terrible pipeline projects that we spend our days fighting.” In short, you can choose the companies that you invest in, and they can be aligned with your vision of the world.
Nia Impact Capital focuses their investment portfolio on six key themes that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and are necessary for both people and planet, including “natural and organic foods” and “sustainable planet.” Kristin shared that it felt important-- both personally and to the company-- to include both because we are at a critical point in time. As populations (& climate crises) rise, people will still need to eat and be healthy, so how do we do so in a way that also regenerates the earth and soil.
Woven throughout this work is an emphasis on gender equity that she refers to as “putting feminism into finances.” Within the company, it’s embedded from top to bottom (Nia is women owned and led) and through programs such as the Impactful Women Series, a networking and education event for women who want to be in the impact investment space and the Changing the Face of Finance internship for high school girls and college-aged young women. Recently, Nia was the first ever recipient of the GEN Certification, a new data-driven standard for assessing how U.S. businesses show up for gender equity. The process was similar to that which Nia undergoes with their portfolio companies, assessing how their practices and processes support gender equality. And given Kristin’s passion for the movement, the results were not at all surprising. “Turns out we were doing almost everything right, but we also learned the research about why it’s important.”
Kristin applies the same lense to Nia’s portfolio. “Instead of starting at the top, we start with whether the core products and services are beneficial to women and girls, and then take a look at their practices and how many women are on the board or within leadership.” Take online marketplace powerhouse Etsy, which offers its sellers (89% of whom are women) entrepreneurship training around how to merchandise and market their products, and just so happens to steal part of the market share from less socially-conscious companies like Amazon.
When it comes to their clients, Nia Impact Capital continues to encourage an awareness of how their portfolios align with their own values around feminism. For example, if you’re following the #MeToo movement, attending the Women’s March, you should extend that consciousness to where your money lies. Are you investing in companies that don’t have women in leadership, or are harmful towards women’s rights in other ways?
Another of Kristin’s goals around gender equity is to train the next generation of women to feel empowered around their finances and career choices. On her blog, The Money Doula, Kristin offers tips around talking to advisors about their options, the merits of choosing female advisors and how to bring Nia’s investment philosophy into one’s personal finances. When asked what professional advice she would give young women similarly interested in social change, she shared: “the world is changing. Before there would be a specific sector to go into, and yet maybe because the planet is heating up, or the rise of the #MeToo movement, or increased awareness in racial justice, we each need to bring our passion into wherever we work. Choose a place where you can bring your full self. Be strong about saying no to the status quo.” And because change is what our planet needs right now, Kristin assures that your career will reward you for it.
What is Kristin most excited in regards to the upcoming Grazing at the Kitchen Table? “I am excited about this event, getting the word out about why Kitchen Table Advisors’ work is so important right now. To meet women chefs and farmers doing awesome work, and being able to celebrate them, feels exciting.”
To learn more about Nia Impact Capital’s innovative approaching to investing, or read Kristin’s tips on how to bring feminism into your finances, visit www.niaimpactcapital.com
Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6:30pm to 9pm on Thursday, October 4, 2018 at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Follow #GrazeAndGive2018 for updates.
Photos courtesy of Nia Impact Capital.