We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Grattan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, how do you think about risk?
Risk has played a big role in my life and career. A lot of people think about risk mostly in the negative—in terms of what could go wrong. But I like to think about risk in terms of what could go right. Ten years ago I went backpacking from the Canadian border of Montana to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I hiked 2,500 miles in five months, largely on a trail of my own design. Pretty much all of my colleagues, friends, and family said, “You’re doing what?!” It seemed terrifying, but if (when) I managed to do it, how cool. That kind of energy is what drives me personally and professionally—it seems undoable, but if it works, how incredible would it be? My college friends and I joked that the line between badass and bad is very, very fine. It’s my goal to be on the badass side of that line. So I imagine what could be if things go right, and then ensure that they do. I started a financial services company—with a philosophy degree—because I thought, “How cool would it be if we brought purpose and intention back into investments? How cool would it be to transform finance from the inside?” And that’s what we get to do now. Another side of risk worth touching on: Part of the reason why capital isn’t flowing evenly to all communities is because of misperceived risk, where people see other and believe that different equals bad. In large part because I am of mixed race and feel a kinship with many types of folks, instead of seeing downside risk in overlooked communities, I see opportunity. That feeds into how Mission Driven Finance does its underwriting and how we develop new impact funds.
What should our readers know about your business?
Mission Driven Finance is an impact investment firm and Certified B Corporation dedicated to building a financial system that ensures good businesses have access to sufficient, affordable capital. Built from the ground up with a single purpose—to make it easy to invest in your community—all our funds and structured products are designed to close financial gaps that will close opportunity gaps. We work with local and national investors to help them create the impact they want, and work with businesses and community partners to help them get the capital they need. In our work, I am proud of the Freedom100 Fund (https://www.forbes.com/sites/morgansimon/2020/08/03/blended-capital-for-immigration-bonds-introducing-the-freedom100-fund/#a8ed9361987d) and the fact that we met the co-founders of Freedom for Immigrants in a lovely person’s backyard and said, “We can make a fund for that.” We can demonstrate together that immigration detention is a terrible use of taxpayers’ dollars and that we can treat people with dignity, not detention, with both immediate relief and long-term policy change. In the span of five months, the fund has enabled 40 people to be bonded out of immigration prison. I’m also proud of a growing set of finance practitioners who are finding us and saying, “You’re a dream fund manager.” Although they may have just met us, they are sold on and excited by the potential of having a values-aligned partner. On a recent call about setting up a worker-centered fund, a potential client explicitly stated that they want a partner, not a transactional service provider which is our goal too. I’m proud of building that kind of company which is exceedingly rare in finance. Even with my values-aligned credit union, I don’t have a relationship with my banker anymore; I have a relationship with the web portal. We are part of a movement that is changing the game.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It’s not strictly the city, but I love Mt. Laguna and hike there often with my partner and our dogs. I am a vegetarian with a vegan partner, so my recommendations are for all the plant eaters who like flavor. I love Nomad Donuts (https://nomaddonuts.com) with a fiery passion. Dos Brasas, down the street from our office in Old Town, makes a perfect no-nonsense veggie burrito. Also in the office area, Nibble Chocolate (https://nibblechocolate.com) is entirely vegan and entirely delicious. PARU Tea Bar (https://paruteabar.com) in Point Loma (shoutout to Amy) is both calming and energizing. I also love GIHON Ethiopian Kitchen (https://www.gihonsd.com) in North Park and Chennai Tiffins (http://www.chennaitiffins.com/sandiego.php) in Miramar/Black Mountain for South Indian food. My go-to restaurant in suburbia is the Pho Hut & Grill on the corner of Balboa and Genesee. They have a vegan and vegetarian menu and I have eaten everything on it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Women of color making cool stuff happen: – Khea Pollard, who wears 14 hats, all agitating for a better world – Amy Truong of PARU Tea Bar keeping me caffeinated during the pandemic – Marlayna Bollinger of Skinny Gene Project – Catherine Rells of Gene Tox Lab Solutions – Wilda Wong & Laura Olivas, my teammates most often helping translate wild ideas into reality
David S. Martin; Common Future, Lauren Grattan