By Steven R. Okun Feb 01, 2016

In a part of Bali where tourists rarely go, Aaron Fishman and his team created East Bali Cashews (“EBC”). The company uses sustainable, eco-friendly business practices to process cashews, package and sell them to the domestic and international markets. But more than that, EBC creates jobs in a village where historically not many have been available outside of farming.

In 2013, just as it was getting off the ground as Bali’s first large-scale, environmentally friendly cashew processing facility, EBC employed about 100 workers where average income is less than US$2 per day, and the company had an annual revenue of roughly $300,000.

That year, EBC met and worked with KKR and Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), a leader in development through impact investment, to better position itself for third-party investment to grow its business to the benefit of the Desa Ban community.

With that partnership as a foundation and catalyst, EBC has more than tripled its employment and quadrupled its revenue in the past two years. In doing so, it greatly increased its social impact, not only by hiring more villagers, but also by building and staffing an early learning center for more than 60 village children, thereby providing first time early learning opportunities.

Having East Bali Cashews recently nominated for the US Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (“ACE”) is a testament to how businesses can create both a return for investors and a simultaneous outsized social impact.  This honor recognizes EBC as a model for social enterprises, entrepreneurs and impact investors looking to make a tangible difference.

It also shows how a little support from corporates can go a long way with social enterprises.

In this instance, KKR investment team members from Singapore and Sydney drafted a business plan over the course of a five-month period to assess the cashew sector’s fundamentals; implement an investment structure that incorporated both debt and equity to resolve EBC’s ongoing working capital needs and create marketing materials and financial projections.

KKR’s support, on a pro-bono basis, has enabled EBC to raise an initial $900,000 in third party capital, and a subsequent $1.5 million from impact investors, to grow the business, create the early learning center, and launch a development project enabling farmers to collect and sell more products. This project gives farmers the ability to generate greater income and offer increased opportunity to rise out of poverty.

KKR has found that providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs like Aaron has been an amply rewarding endeavor.  Getting businesses ready for impact investors enables KKR to transfer its expertise – the work that it does every day– to a social entrepreneur with a mission to generate a social return as well as a financial one.

Companies like EBC have a distinct role to play in developing markets as a vehicle for social change. They go above and beyond the social mission of other for-profits by not just offering jobs to workers in an impoverished community, but also by enhancing inclusion, focusing on eco-sensitivities and offering targeted social services. As revenue-generating businesses providing a return to investors, these companies provide a sustainable social impact not reliant upon donations in contrast to traditional NGOs.

Of course, no need to take our word on East Bali Cashews’ excellence. Experience it yourself – their cashews are now available in the US!  Not only does the company generate a significant social impact, but it also makes a great product. And now that you know a little more about what happens behind the cashews, perhaps you’ll delight in them that much more. Enjoy!