Grassroots Business Fund

NOVICA artisan, Mayra, carries on the weaving tradition of her grandmother


What We Do

We use Business Rigor

Our mission is to grow viable, sustainable and inclusive businesses that generate earnings or cost savings for people in Africa, Asia and Latin America

Please check out our recently released 2016 Annual Report for a summary of our past year here.

Our History

2004: GBF began as an initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which piloted grassroots business investments and field-tested capacity-building approaches.

2008: GBF split from IFC and became an independent non-profit which continued investing in – and providing advisory services to – high-impact businesses in Latin America, Asia and Africa. GBF also wins the G20 SME Challenge.

2011: GBF further evolved its model by establishing a $49M for-profit private investment fund, GBI-I, for patient capital investment, and raising additional funds for the non-profit arm, GBP, to be used for business advisory services to the fund’s portfolio companies. Together the fund and non-profit make up GBF and provide powerful financial tools and business acumen to help strengthen and grow viable businesses that create lasting impact for low income people around the world. For  contributing to the creation of solid, sustainable and responsible financial systems, GBF wins the IDB Beyond Banking award for best action in socially responsible and/or impact investment.


Read our 2015 Annual Report for more

Hybrid Model

A for-profit private investment fund: The capital structure of GBI-I, GBF’s for-profit private investment fund, allows it to make equity, mezzanine equity, mezzanine debt and straight debt investments. These customized investments help align GBF’s overall portfolio performance with each investee’s performance. This allows GBF  to achieve most of its exits through company cash flows, while still receiving upside returns linked to the company’s success, and addressing investees’ liquidity concerns.

A donor-funded non-profit organization: The Grassroots Business Partners, GBF’s non-profit arm, provides fund management services for GBI-I, provides business advisory services to the fund’s investees, and works to build the field of impact investing by providing insights on lesson learned, impact measurement methodologies, and its model.



The fund  and non-profit combine to deliver a blend of capital and support suitable for long-term investment in businesses that provide opportunities to low income people.


Small businesses play a key role in improving the lives of the poor, but there remains a shortage of enterprises in developing countries that are both ready for long-term investments and can generate high social impact.

GBF invests in High-Impact Businesses, which we define as those generating sustainable economic benefits for large numbers of the poor. They tend to have complicated business models and supply chains, but are generally underdeveloped in management, operations and planning.

Our model of providing patient capital and Business Advisory Services (BAS) as a hybrid investment helps address the issues facing these businesses by providing long term flexible capital for investment and supporting skill building to improve business growth and increase lasting social impact. 

GBF focuses on for-profit companies that have the potential to achieve significant social impact

 Business Criteria: Growth stage companies with a strong track record & competitive advantage with high quality products/services.
Finance Criteria: Investments range from $500,000 to $2.5M with expected exit within 5 to 7 years of initial investment.  


Mission Criteria: Companies with strong commitment to bringing sustainable social and economic impact to low income communities. 
 Impact Criteria: Companies that directly impact 500+ individuals, with potential to increase 5 to 10 times over the period of investment.

See complete Investment Criteria

As a group, our investees are profitable, improving business management, and growing fast. Challenges remain, and it is difficult to say which improvements are due to specific GBF activities. GBF’s ultimate success will only become clear when the outcomes of our investments come to fruition and we can judge the resulting social impact.

Already, there are signs that our model of risk sharing capital, BAS and high-touch engagement help our clients improve their operations, build stronger businesses and create sustained social impact, As of March 31, 2016:

  • $38.3M capital committed
  • $12M principal & interest received
  • 7.4% current yield

 Learn more in our  2015 Annual Report 

Business Advisory Services (BAS)

Businesses in emerging markets face big challenges, and oftentimes, investment alone is not enough to help scale a business. Our Business Advisory Services (BAS) are core to GBF’s model and have proven valuable to investees.

All of our investees receive customized BAS support, mostly concentrating on strengthening financial management, operations, and strategy. GBF provides BAS for a limited time during the early stages of our engagement with investees. We try to support catalytic BAS projects that help our clients grow to scale, become commercially sustainable, and create social impact.  GBF designs, executes, and monitors BAS in conjunction with our investment work. Our regional offices lead the efforts to manage and deliver BAS both directly and through third-party consultants.

We have a strong, growing network of senior experts and advisers in each of our regions working closely with our investees to build internal capacity and drive high-level change programs. These advisers include agribusiness supply chain experts, financial managers, entrepreneurs, investors, and other business experts. In addition to our advisers, each region has at least one full time portfolio-level consultant working closely with investees on narrower issues such as cash flow management, environmental certification and  risk mitigation.

Learn more about BAS projects in our BAS factsheet 

BAS has helped ensure achievement of client growth potential by focusing on business fundamentals, anticipating and mitigating key risks, and taking advantage of key opportunities. In addition to showing healthy financial performance, investees have also, on average, improved along key business capability dimensions that aid investment success. As of March 2016:

  • 83% of investees now have a skilled manager producing and monitoring operating indicators (a 43%  increase for investees in GBF’s portfolio over two years)
  • 64%  of investees have increased revenues 
  • 61% of investees have increased profitability 
  • 89% of investees have implemented E&S management plans

GBF is funded by an active and dedicated group of investors and donors, who have helped shape GBF’s approach. The list below includes major donors and investors since 2008.

Donors to the Non-Profit:

Investors in the Fund:

Anonymous Investors 
Cordes Foundation 
Seth Meisel 

Barend van der Vorm 
Tamara Dunietz & David Dunn 
Sari Miller (Trust) 

DEG (German Development Bank) 
Lisa & Charly Kleissner 
Jane Eddy 
Mwaghazi Mwachofi 

Calvert Foundation 
Sangeeta & Sudhir Maheshwari  
Hornthal Investment Partners 
Luisa & Laurence Newman 

Deutsche Bank Foundation 
Liz Wedlan & Peter Braffman
Melinda Wolfe & Ken Inadomi 
Prashant Jhawar 

Adelson Family Foundation
Judson Berkey 
Marty Kahn 
Dalip Pathak 

Stephen Brenninkmeijer 
Suzanne Biegel
Serge Kremer
Harold Rosen & Susan Wedlan 

Montpelier Foundation 
Maurizio Caio 
Leah & Jeff Kronthal 
Sir David Scholey

T&J Meyer Family Foundation 
Kantian Foundation- Robert J. Caruso
Joshua Mailman
Wolfensohn & Company LLC


Our Investees

We work towards a world where economic opportunity reaches everyone.



Click for details on all Asia Investees



Click for details on all Africa Investees



Click for details on all LatAm Investees

Hover over regions for more information

Meet our investees

Click on images for details


Africa Investees

 Africa: $11.6M Committed | Six Investees in the Fund and Six Exits



BrazAfric Enterprises | Kenya | Products & Services

BrazAfric Enterprises imports and distributes agricultural and energy conservation equipment from Brazil to East Africa. Click to see our work with BrazAfric



Ikanga Tea Company | Tanzania | Agribusiness

Established in 2012, Ikanga sources, processes, and markets tea from smallholder farmers in the Ikanga-Lupembe area for export to Europe, North Africa, and Asia.  Click to see our work with Ikanga.



KZ Noir | Rwanda | Agribusiness

KZ Noir purchases raw cherries and semi-processed parchment from smallholder coffee farmers and cooperatives to process coffee and export to international buyers. Click to see our work with KZ Noir.


Lafaza | Madagascar | Agribusiness

Lafaza manufactures, markets and sells a variety of organic Madagascar vanilla products, including vanilla beans, vanilla extracts, and pure ground vanilla powder, to retail, foodservice, and manufacturing customers. Click to see our work with Lafaza.


SOKO | Kenya | Handcrafted Manufacturing

SOKO delivers affordable, fashionable styles of handcrafted jewelry created by artisans based in peri-urban areas of Nairobi. Click to see our work with SOKO.



Wamu | Kenya | Agribusiness

Wamu is a family-owned business that exports french beans, sugar snaps and snow peas to the European market. Click to see our work with Wamu




Our Impact

We believe in the power of business to lift people out of poverty







Our Approach to measurement   Learn About Our Impact 




Publications and Reports


2016 Annual Report

Having begun in November 2011, this winter marks the 5 year anniversary of GBI-I, GBF’s first investment fund. In celebrating this milestone, we look back upon the past half-decade and observe our successes, our failures, and how we have evolved along the way. Five years ago GBF was a predominantly United States-based operation that prided itself on effective market-based solutions to poverty across the globe. We approached these problems a bit differently than others in the field. Now, having evolved in key areas, we are a seasoned company of impact investment professionals with local offices and staff on the ground in our target markets, still approaching issues with youthful energy and creativity.

GBF has invested in more than 50 companies, the vast majority of which have succeeded or are succeeding. After working with us these companies have received follow-on investments from more traditional forms of financing, including banks and Development Finance Institutions. Our Business Advisory Services (BAS), sometimes provided even before investment has been recognized by portfolio companies’ leaders as invaluable toward their businesses’ growth. We have advanced significantly in this decentralization—including the budget, processes, people and resources. Our local offices in the field are now leading on key parts of our business. We have narrowed our geographic focus, tightening from working in Latin America, Africa, India and Indonesia to only Africa and Latin America’s Andean region. We have focused on mostly agribusiness companies, finding that they are consistently some of our most successful companies in both financial and social returns. We have incorporated the minds of seasoned local consultants and business people in our investment and supervision process. Lastly, we have been on the forefront of innovations in utilizing blended capital to invest in traditionally under-financed businesses.

We are immensely proud of the steps we have taken and the progress achieved. We are excited to continue to grow in our mission to generate sustainable earnings and savings for people in emerging markets.

Annual Report 2015

2015 Annual Report

The past year was one of maturation and continued improvement for GBF. We advanced significantly in decentralizing the organization—including the budget, and people and resources—from HQ to our field offices. Our local offices now lead on key parts of our business, and are even taking on key global management functions.

Results so far are encouraging, with each dollar invested in our portfolio companies estimated to provide $4 of economic value to our targeted low income communities. These companies are growing 20% annually on average, and have supported over 540,000 sustainable jobs for farmers, workers and artisans over the past fiscal year.

We have undergone several evaluations, and the outputs from these have provided inputs for further improvements to our model, such as streamlining processes and increasing efficiencies.

Challenges remain, but we are energized by the journey, advancing toward our goal of a bigger and better GBF – one that creates lasting social impact on large numbers of the poor.

2014 Annual Report

2014 Annual Report

Three years into our $49 million private investment fund, we have expanded GBF’s portfolio with investments in Paraguay, Indonesia and Tanzania. Our Business Advisory Services (BAS) are taking shape, and we think there is a clear link between our capacity building efforts and positive company performance. We have also been improving our operations in order to increase our results and our impact.

Some of GBF’s key results this fiscal year include:

• $7.6M disbursed to High Impact Businesses and an additional $11M committed.

• 7.3% current yield on outstanding portfolio over the past 12 months.  All payments due have been collected (principal, interest, dividends and vendor payments).

• $48.2M of economic value delivered in the past 12 months by GBF’s investees, benefiting 9.2M direct and indirect beneficiaries.


2014 Impact Report

2014 Impact Report

2014 Impact Report

We are pleased to present our first Impact Report–a first attempt to demonstrate GBF’s progress, what we are learning, and what we can say about our impact so far.

Our main goal at this stage is to estimate the impact we and our investees are having, rather than provide a definitive assessment of our results:

Some of GBF’s key impact results this fiscal year include:

• $35.5M generated in social benefits by our investees.

• 1.3M people with low incomes are directly supported by our investees.

• $113.6M generated in total client revenues.

Annual Report 2013

2013 Annual Report

2013 Annual Report

Two years into our $49 million private investment fund, GBF has made substantial progress in building and maintaining a well performing portfolio.  Our investments are already generating substantial social impact, and while they are still in their early stages, the investments appear to be yielding reasonable prospects for financial returns for our investors.

Some of GBF’s key results this fiscal year include:

• GBF’s investees delivered around $37.6M of economic value to 1.4M direct beneficiaries.

• $26M in direct benefits reached over 60,000 artisans, farmers, entrepreneurs and employees through direct income or payments.

• An additional $11.2M reached 1.3M people living in low income communities through products and services.

2012 Annual Report

2012 Annual Report

2012 Annual Report

With the help from an outstanding staff and a first-class group of stakeholders and advisors, we are closing a $47,000,000 private investment fund and have raised an additional $12,000,000 in grants from donors to benefit the non-profit arm of GBF. In recent months, GBF has made substantial progress in building and maintaining a well performing fund that is generating social impact and a financial return for our investors.

Some of GBF’s key results to date are as follows:

• $14M committed to 16 portfolio companies.

• 1.4M people have access more affordable and better quality goods, services, and jobs, and our investments and BAS are directly impacting 46,000 artisans, farmers, employees, and entrepreneurs.

En español

2011 Annual Report

As our Annual Report describes in more detail, GBF has now invested more than $8.5M in 32 High Impact Businesses across 12 countries.

These investments have helped to build and scale High Impact Businesses that have directly impacted over 1.6M people, as well as an additional 7.1M family members.

With our headquarters in Washington, DC and teams on the ground in Ghana, India, Kenya and Peru, we are looking forward to building new partnerships with leading corporations, investors, donors, and colleagues.

Read our 2011 Semi-Annual Update

2010 Annual Report

2010 Annual Report

2010 Annual Report

As the report describes in more detail, GBF’s clients have moved markedly toward commercial sustainability and delivered over $15 million in value to more than 4.5 million people at the base of the pyramid – reflecting the success and further potential of GBF’s blended approach.

Some of GBF’s key results to date are as follows:

 • US $7M invested in 26 businesses across 10 countries.

 • Over 4.5M people reached at the base of the pyramid.

 • Almost 850,000 people directly impacted.

Read our 2010 Semi-Annual Update

2009 Annual Report

2009 Annual Report

2009 Annual Report

We are pleased to announce The Grassroots Business Fund’s first Annual Report, which summarizes the achievements we’ve made in just one year.

The report sets out our progress in building an organization that can help deliver well-defined, high-impact approaches to social and economic development in the world’s poorest communities. 

We hope that you find this document thought-provoking and useful.