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 businesses that generate sustainable earnings or savings for people with low incomes in Africa, Asia and Latin America

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.

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. 


Read our 2014 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, 2015:

  • $31.7M capital committed
  • $9.3M principal & interest received
  • 7.2% current yield

 Learn more in our 2014 Impact Report and 2014 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 June, 2014:

  • 85% of investees now have audited financials (a 30%  increase for investees in GBF’s portfolio over two years)
  • 64%  of investees have increased revenues 
  • 50% of investees have increased profitability 
  • 65% 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


Our Impact

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







Our Approach to measurement   Learn About Our Impact