Between the true believers in investing for impact and those that, for whatever reason, have their heels dug in, there are the “quietly bothered.”
“It is incumbent upon us people who are changemakers for a living to create solutions for these quietly bothered folks that meet them where they are in their lives,” Uplifting Capital’s Toussaint Bailey says in the latest episode of ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact podcast. “We want to turn these desires for these big, sweeping changes into micro acts of courage that people can access in a day.”
Bailey himself is more than quietly bothered. In the aftermath of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, he took a sabbatical from his position as CEO of Petaluma-based Enso Wealth Management, which he had built into a $1.8 billion registered investment advisor. He convened a series of conversations around race and racism in wealth management.
“And at that point I knew I needed to do something more than just help people create wealth,” he said. “I needed to help people who seemed to be genuinely bothered by what they were seeing, who seemed to genuinely want to make change.”
Bailey arranged the sale of Enso and launched Uplifting Capital. The firm is part of the second cohort of VC Include, an accelerator for diverse impact managers founded by Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson (see, and listen in to, “VC Include’s Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson on three drivers of inclusion alpha”). In coming weeks, ImpactAlpha will present podcast interviews with other fund managers in the cohort, including Aisha Weeks of the Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth, Eunice Ajim of Ajim Capital and Himalaya Rao of The BFM Fund.
“If we’re not creating solutions for the people who want to see change, then we’re missing the opportunity,” Bailey told me at VC Include’s recent conference in Berkeley, Calif. “And the imperative – climate change is an all-hands problem, reproductive rights are an all-hands problem, racial equity is an all-hands problem. So if we’re missing potential allies, then shame on us.”
Uplifting Capital aims to broaden access to impact investors to high-net worth individuals and small foundations that are moving capital from public equities to private equities, but may not have an impact lens. Bailey knew that such investors needed products with relatively low fees that are easy to integrate into standard portfolios in terms of cash flow, liquidity and returns. He expects to raise the first $25 million by early next year and then larger amounts in annual vintages.
The firm’s investments will be split between direct investments and impact funds, debt and equity, venture and later-stage and even assets like buyouts and real estate. The funds are organized across nine impact themes, including JEDI (for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) health and wellness and education, which can be weighted according to investors’ priorities. The fund’s first deployments were to Collide Capital and Kapor Capital (see, “Kapor Capital attracts outside investors to $126 million fund to close equity gaps“).
“Using things like affordable housing, renewable energy infrastructure, later-stage private equity, to have money show up – things have cash flows and have returns a lot quicker – is going to be more conducive to how many of the investors who are new to private markets in general, not just impact, are used to seeing investments,” Bailey says.
Bailey, who spent 10 years as a lawyer before switching careers to wealth management, has been even more dogged in overcoming the barriers faced by first-time fund managers. He was determined to be part of VC Include even after being turned away from the network’s first cohort last year.
“The biggest hurdle that we meet as emerging managers of color is this perception that we’re not institutional, that what we’re doing is not of institutional quality,” he says. With VC Include, “we have not only the infrastructure, we have the confidence and now we have the community of managers along with us.”
“So I knew this was right for me and there was no way that a single no was going to stop me from what I was doing.”