Investment group out to help firms that do well and do good

Eric Payne started Venture Advocates to invest in businesses that not only return a profit, but also offer social and environmental benefits. In addition, the Grand Junction firm offers brokerage services and assistance with mergers and acquisitions. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Eric Payne started Venture Advocates to invest in businesses that not only return a profit, but also offer social and environmental benefits. In addition, the Grand Junction firm offers brokerage services and assistance with mergers and acquisitions. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Eric Payne believes in the benefits of investing in businesses that not only do well, but also do good. While profits remain important, so do the pursuits of firms that make a difference with their services, products and philanthropy.

It’s a win-win situation, said Payne, who oversees a Grand Junction investment group that aims to help those kinds of businesses with financing and management services. “Yes, we want to make money. But yes, we want to do good.”

There’s also an opportunity for the group to make a difference of its own in promoting economic development in the Grand Valley in bringing in capital, businesses and jobs, he said

Payne serves as chief executive officer of Venture Advocates, what he describes as an impact investment group that partners with a network of investors to buy and build companies with social and environmental missions.

Payne works with Les McPherson, a certified public accountant who practices in Grand Junction and has been involved in mergers and acquisitions for more than 20 years.

Payne brings to the operation his experience as a business broker and appraiser. He’s also set up several online platforms to raise money and manage fund-raising campaigns.

Venture Advocates is similar to a private equity group, Payne said, except investors have control over not only how much they invest, but also the businesses in which they invest and for how long. While private equity groups typically acquire larger businesses, Venture Advocates fills a niche in working with businesses that are too small to attract the attention of such groups, but too big for most investors to acquire on their own. The ideal candidate, he said, would be a business with annual earnings of $150,000 to $700,000.

Venture Advocates is different in another way in working with businesses with a social or environmental mission. The goal, Payne said, is to build companies and sustain great causes.

Venture Advocates works with businesses under a variety of circumstances, Payne said. Some entrepreneurs might be looking for investors to help start a venture or expand an existing operation. Some business owners might want to sell their operations as part of an exit strategy, he said. Other owners might want to continue working, but pull some equity out of their operations. Depending on the situation, owner financing or conventional financing also could be involved in a transaction to further leverage buying power, he said.

Investors have options as well, Payne said, in purchasing a business outright, acquiring equity, extending a loan or even donating money to an operation.

If a business doesn’t constitute a good fit for Venture Advocates, Payne said he still can offer services as a broker and market the business for sale through what he said is a confidential and targeted approach on a national level.

As for so-called impact investing in companies that offer social and environmental benefits along with a financial return, Payne said the market is substantial and growing.

According to the results of a survey conducted by the Global Impact Investing Network, the 205 investors who responded committed a total of more than $22 billion to impact investments in 2016 and expected to commit $25.9 billion in 2017.

While some investors make returns a priority, Payne said other investors are willing to accept lower returns to support efforts to provide such services as housing and health care or promote such causes as conservation and renewable energy.

Along with building up companies that  pursue good causes, Payne said he hopes Venture Capital can play a role in building up the Grand Valley economy. “I want to see it thrive.”

With its comparatively low cost of living and high quality of life, the Grand Valley offers an attractive location for businesses, including those with social and environmental missions, he said.

There’s an opportunity to entice businesses operating in the Denver and Salt Lake City areas looking to relocate to a less congested area with closer access to outdoor recreation, Payne said.

The Grand Valley also offers a lot of resources to businesses, Payne said, including the Business Incubator Center, Factory co-working space and Colorado Mesa University.

Under the right circumstances, Venture Advocates could purchase a business outside the area and bring the operation and its employees to the area, he said.

Payne said Venture Advocates allows him to draw on the varied skills and experiences he’s developed over the course of his career.

Payne owned and operated a VR Business Brokers franchise in Denver as well as started and grew Nationwide Valuations, a national business appraisal firm. He sold both companies and relocated to Western Colorado, where he launched a mergers and acquisitions and business advisory firm.

Payne later founded FundSpot.com and bought and sold ChromeBuffalo.com., both online fund-raising platforms.

Payne said he enjoys the sales and marketing aspects of business management as well as creating networks and teams.

He also said he believes businesses should not only perform well financially, but also contribute to worthwhile causes on a local or even larger scale. “I have a passion for businesses to do good.”

For more information about Venture Advocates, call 255-8000 or visit the website at www.ventureadvocates.com.