"The course is really one of the best courses I've done, it has exceeded my expectations with how comprehensive and detailed the information is"
At the helm of two companies, Capital Unlocked and Impact Unlocked in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sibongile Zulu recently completed our Innovative Impact Deal Structuring course. She has since signed up for our Theory of Change as well. Read more about her experience here.
What motivated you to take the Innovative Impact Deal Structuring course?
“I had previously taken a couple of basic courses on impact investing and had gotten a grasp on its fundamentals, so while searching for new training I didn’t want to go for yet another entry level. I was very happy when I came across this course on deal structuring because it allowed me to focus on what adds value to our business, which is to advise our clients when they’re raising capital. Another thing was that even though I had been in the DFI environment for a long time, I got lost along the way and stopped thinking through the perspective of the entrepreneurs that I was working with. We can wear our own shoes for such a long time that we forget how to step into someone else’s – the course brought this ability back to me through the role-playing exercises.”
Efiko aims to equip individuals and teams with the skills and abilities that help them excel at creating high and lasting impact
Financing impact ventures with tailored instruments
What did you think of the course’s hybrid structure, i.e., live online sessions plus self-paced content?
“The course is really one of the best courses I’ve done, it has exceeded my expectations with how comprehensive and detailed the information is. The hybrid format was ideal because it allowed me to connect with other people – I have since networked with two people from the course and I’m looking to do business with one of them. It’s so easy to get lost on your own, so having the expert instructors be there on the calls facilitating discussions, sharing points of view and answering questions was really useful. I’ll go further to add that I liked the accessibility of the course and how user-friendly the platform is. I did the course during a very busy period in my business, so it was sometimes tricky to allocate sufficient time to sit, watch and listen. It helped me to be able to connect on my phone and laptop and sometimes listen to the audio whilst on the road – it allowed me to make seamless transitions and simply pick up where I had left off.”
What was the main takeaway for you from the course?
“Although I already had a grasp of what impact investment is, I was glad that the course started off on a clean slate and took the time to go through the fundamentals. The depth that it goes to explain each of the funding instruments – their advantages and disadvantages – really stood out to me.
The practical examples as well, from funders, business owners and fund managers were so useful. Listening to them speak honestly about their experiences of what works and what doesn’t was incredibly valuable and is something that I’m referring back to when I’m dealing with my clients. The course adds so much depth of knowledge in a very short space of time. We’ve advanced as a business in terms of our knowledge because we had access to this knowledge hub that we still keep coming back to, time and time again. The quality of the facilitators, who were extremely knowledgeable, was a great differentiator.”
And how you’ve applied the learnings from the course to your work?
“I’ve been able to apply the practical tools from the course whilst advising my clients. The first instance was whilst advising one of my fund manager clients who had recently started raising capital to invest in women and youth entrepreneurs. They were struggling to find funding and I’ve been able to help them by taking what I’ve learnt from the course to guide them through the different instruments they could use that would be helpful to them.
The second instance was whilst working with a client that plays in the early childhood development space. I’ve been able to refer back to the list of funders mentioned in the course and check whether I could match my client with some of these funders. I didn’t expect to get this list, it went above and beyond in terms of value. I’ve also shared the perspective of the entrepreneurs that were available on the course with my client, who has greatly benefited from learning what it takes to make it a social enterprise.”
Is there any advice you could give for people who would like to work in impact investing?
“Learn as much as you can on impact investing – sign up for webinars and newsletters, and maybe seek other professionals. I’d say you have to do a course to get to grips with the core concepts and to learn about the different approaches that you could take whilst operating in the impact investing space.
Being part of a community and network is also quite useful because there are so many actors that are involved in this field. You have to understand that this is an ecosystem that requires all the actors to play a certain role. To succeed, you need to be active in the ecosystem, read up on impact investing, or better, go do a course. If you’re an entrant to the field, start with the basics and then keep levelling up depending on the role you want to play. I think this also applies to people already doing a certain level of impact investing, without necessarily defining it as impact investing. Knowing the specific concepts and the terms and the finer details is necessary so that your base is superficial and so you can back it up with detailed knowledge.”
Do you have any next steps after taking the course?
“I’ve now signed up for the theory of change course so that I can help the smaller businesses that I work with. I saw the gap in my team and knew that we needed to sort out our idea of change and be able to articulate it as well. We want to advise our business clients on how to design the idea of change and the system related to that, so first, I need my team and I to have a really good grasp of it.”