This story is part of our 1,000 stories campaign. What’s your story?
Name: Suzette Dumfries
Business: JP Dumfries Corporation , an economic development corporation
Industry: Social Enterprise
Location: New York, New York, U.S.
Reason for starting: One day, as I sat in front of my housekeeper in Myanmar and asked her what her real dream was, she told me she wanted to be a nurse. I decided to look into the cost of sending her to nursing school and found out that a Nursing Aid Course at one of the best institutions in Myanmar would only set me back USD 95. I was silenced. I could change someone’s life with a mere cost of a delectable steak dinner in NY. I did not have to think twice: I allowed her to go to school and obtain her certificate. And I could not have asked for a more dedicated and determined student. She got accepted into Level 2 of the course and graduated as the best student in her class. And I gained the greatest lesson I have ever learned: The future can be better than the present, and you have the power to actualize that. It was the final push I needed to leave behind the corporate world and follow my dream to run a for profit economic development corporation that makes investments that deliberately seek a financial return alongside a great social-economic and environmental impact. I decided to become an entrepreneur because I believe the future can be better than the present. And that I have the power to actualize that.
We have close to 80 year of data that suggests that the traditional model of Economic Development does not yield the impact it seeks. Structural issues of poverty, malnutrition, drought, exclusion and lack of access to basic amenities are still as much an issue today as they were when I was a 12 year old child, donating money to feed a child in a remote village in Africa.
Related: Hilary Clinton: Women Are Not Victims, We Are Agents of Change
The donor model of economic development has benefited some, the so called top of the pyramid, but not the entirety of the masses. I believe it is far too easy to throw around statistics that prove my statement is -for the greater part- correct. It is far more useful to think about what alternatives would work better. I started as an entrepreneur in order to offer the world a new perspective on economic development and in particular on poverty alleviation. I started as an entrepreneur to demonstrate that a marriage of the Investment Model (for profit investments that yield returns and social economic impact) and Economic Development can yield the results we seek. My company applies the principles of Impact Investment to bring about massive social economic and environmental change.
How do you define success? I define success in the number of people I have been able to empower and how many lives I have been able to affect with the outcome of my work and investments. For me that goes beyond numbers: It is a measure of how much I have been able to enable others to create their own next level of possibilities. That to me is the totality of success.
Biggest success: Setting up the Impossible Fund to finance the education of girls in Myanmar and the Caribbean. But my main focus is now on my next big success, which is to set up 3 sector based impact investment funds in order to invest in agribusiness, renewable energy and tourism in the Caribbean with a clear focus on generating substantial social economic and environmental impact. With these 3 funds (currently fundraising is ongoing) we aim to invest US2 billion in the Caribbean by 2020.
Related: 4 Tips for Growing Your Business
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? To transform into an actual investment company that operates as an economic development corporation, and thus go beyond advocating for a different approach for economic development. This is now being addressed by questioning our own intentions and defining what impact should look like for us. We have gone further in this and are now registered as a benefit corporation in NY. We want impact to be the DNA of the company and that translates into out legal form, structure, governance, partnerships and our objectives.
Who is your most important role model? Richard Branson.
[box_light]Facebook www.facebook.com/suzettedumfries [/box_light]
Tell us your story!
Read about another Social Enterprise entrepreneur here.
Edited by The Story Exchange