Client Highlight: Interview with Janine Firpo, Board Member of Zebras Unite
Janine Firpo is a values-aligned investor, angel investor, and social innovator who is on the Board of Directors of Zebras Unite. Zebras Unite is a community of entrepreneurs, investors and allies dedicated to building companies that balance both profit and purpose. Catalyst and Zebras Unite have worked together since 2017.
What change do you want to see in the world?
I want to see a new narrative around women and our abilities related to finance and money. Women are fully equipped to take control of their money and be strong confident investors. You don’t have to give up financial return to invest your money in areas that align with your values. How we invest gives us integrity in our values while also helping to create a better world.
Women are fully equipped to take control of their money and be strong confident investors. You don’t have to give up financial return to invest your money in areas that align with your values.
What is the focus of your life’s work?
I can’t say that I’ve had a “life’s work.” I have had multiple life’s work. At one point in my career, my life was about making technology easier and more accessible for people and finding ways to bring technology into education. At another point, my life’s work was on technology and business thinking to minimize problems of poverty and social inequality in emerging countries around the world. Currently, my life’s work is to educate women to become smart, confident investors and help women realize that collectively we have the power to change the economy to be a more equitable and just model by the way we invest. My 4th life’s work is still to be determined!
Why did you join the Zebras Unite Board?
First, I have respect for the women who started Zebras Unite. They are all entrepreneurs and were running their own businesses, yet still found time to found a non-profit to help others. I also love what they’re trying to do. 81% of new companies can’t find capital. A lot of those enterprises are founded by women, people of color, and other minorities. Being on the board allows me to be a part of the change I want to see in the world.
How do you help invest in founders?
As a values-aligned investor, I help directly with my own money. I’m currently investing in female founders using cash, private debt, and private equity. Through my book, Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World, I am showing other women how they can invest this way too. In addition, I am a lead investor in the Next Wave Impact Fund which has pulled together 99 women and has pooled their assets around supporting female founders leading socially aligned ventures (education, consumer products, healthcare, water, and others). The other way I help this by sitting on the board of Zebras Unite.
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
I think the most important thing is just to persevere and be willing to pivot. Times will get hard, and you’ll wonder whether there’s enough money and you’ll want to quit. It’s going to happen. You have to persevere. It’s like the stock market. Don’t sell. Stay and keep going.
You have to persevere. It’s like the stock market. Don’t sell. Stay and keep going.
You’ve worked at the intersection of technology, finance, and social innovation. What are you most proud of?
The way I’ve worked. I’ve always tried to be collaborative, open, and transparent. I try to live with integrity and be honest, even if I think it might hurt me. I’ve always followed my heart and did the work that was presenting itself at the time. I am at my best when I am working collaboratively with people who don’t let their egos get in the way so we can focus on the work. It’s the way I worked that I’m proud of more than any one particular thing.
How has Catalyst helped your organization or cause?
Zebras Unite is currently going through a very innovative process of creating a for-profit cooperative model and a fund structure to complement the nonprofit. Catalyst has been essential in helping us navigate this complex set of organizations working under the same brand with a similar but different set of objectives. Catalyst is helping to ensure the nonprofit stays true to its governance structure.
What is your new book about?
Yes. I mentioned Activate Your Money earlier. It is about the change I want to see in the world. It’s a framework for that change. I spent many years getting my financial assets in alignment with my personal values. I wanted to create a resource for other women to take control of their collective economic might and use that collaboration to create real and meaningful change in the world while still providing a strong financial return.
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