Although the traditional definition of an angel investor is someone who invests financially in a cause, there are other ways to add value.
I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today, but I had many angels on my journey, beginning with my parents. I believe we are all sitting on our own individual diamond mines, which if we choose to share, can help us make a difference in the world. The biggest issue is that we hold ourselves back when we place limits on how we can make a difference because we lack confidence, believing that we don’t have the money or the connections. We make ourselves feel small and we quit trying.
Making a difference is not limited to one way of doing things. Here are seven areas of life in which we possess ‘value’ that can be shared.
An obvious area where we can make a difference is through our finances. We can donate or invest in causes that matter to us. I’m passionate about empowering women and progressing economic, leadership and justice equality for women in Africa particularly. Not only do I choose causes that contribute to this, but I’ve also made it my life’s work. This resulted in the founding of the Africa Trust Fund, a gender-lens angel investment fund aimed at investing in female entrepreneurs and their businesses, opening doors to finance and support for them, and giving them business tools as well as access to markets, in September 2018.
We can give of our time and energy to things that matter to us. My 16-year-old son Mwenda is president of his school’s interact club and gives of his time to help at old age homes and animal shelters. He also runs his own initiative that fundraises for hospital equipment for children.
Spirituality has less to do with religion or religious affiliation and more to do with having a purpose in life, sharing that purpose with others and encouraging them in their own pursuits. Sometimes a mere word of encouragement can revive hope in others and make a difference. I did a lot of research before starting the Africa Trust Fund and discovered that many women expressed the need for more personal and leadership development support and advice on how to navigate hostile and repressive social and cultural business environments. Providing this support is part of our holistic approach to investing in women.
We can also make a difference through our social connections and community leadership. This was something I discovered while studying at the UCT Graduate School of Business. I got so much more from the school than I initially expected, especially in terms of the connections and how my networks expanded. The opportunities that were created for me were beyond anything I could have imagined.
We can also make a difference by teaching others what we know. Mental value isn’t purely intellectual or academic, it can also be skills and talents. When we were doing our research for the Africa Trust Fund, we knew that finance was a boy’s club, but we also learnt other lessons about women’s access to growth capital, such as the difference in how men and women pitch their business ideas – with traditional pitching styles favouring more typically masculine approaches, which can be problematic in cultures where women are expected to be subservient.
We can make a difference through our careers too. Doctors and firefighters save lives, artists and performers inspire. It’s important to realise that no matter what job or business you’re in, you can make a difference.
There is much value to be found in family, starting with how your raise your children. Some people inherit money through their lineage and choose to invest it in causes and foundations to make a difference. But you don’t have to be a Mandela or an Obama to make your mark in this world, although it certainly helps open doors!
Even if you think you’ve achieved a lot, there’s always more to do. I want to make more of a contribution towards really advancing African women in leadership, equality and empowering women on the continent. It is a mammoth task but I am really positive and excited about the future of Africa. At the end of the day, you need only ask yourself one question: do I want to make a difference? If the answer is yes, start today. The world will be better for it!
• Lelemba Phiri is the founder of the Africa Trust Fund, a gender-lens angel investment fund committed to investing in Africa’s Women entrepreneurs. She holds a master’s degree in development finance from the UCT Graduate School of Business.