Cathy Wariapa founder of Cwakama Arts & Crafts, the first SME to be accelerated by REAL Impact’s  Considered Accelerator  program. Image Credit: Alec Bruce-Mason.

Cathy Wariapa founder of Cwakama Arts & Crafts, the first SME to be accelerated by REAL Impact’s Considered Accelerator program. Image Credit: Alec Bruce-Mason.

‘Profit for purpose’ enterprise REAL Impact has qualified for an $80,000 grant funded by the Australian Government through the Pacific Readiness for Investment in Social Enterprise (Pacific RISE), to facilitate ethical and sustainable value chains to four female-led Pacific Island SMEs.


Virginia Bruce, CEO and founder of REAL Impact, says, “Creative artisans are primarily women and dominate the informal sector, characterised by lower and less reliable income and difficult working conditions. REAL realises the significant contribution of women to Pacific communities and economies. By helping local artisans create viable businesses we will create a real economy that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable and deals in real value and financial returns.”


A pilot initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Pacific RISE was established to pioneer and facilitate a social impact investment market in the Pacific through introducing A$5 million worth of investment capital. Pacific RISE focusses on getting more investment into businesses that has a positive impact on women knowing the obstacles they face in seeking investment.  REAL Impact’s grant is to assist in delivering this outcome.


Pacific RISE facility manager Amanda Jupp says, “This investment in REAL Impact is a good fit for Pacific RISE as their model and approach supports our investment thesis -- a collection of six potential Pacific futures -- that we are using to engage investors in understanding the broader opportunities that exist in the Pacific. Each potential future is informed with a gender lens, where an understanding of culture and context is key something that REAL Pacific honours and values.”  


Pacific RISE has partnered with Pacific Trade Invest Australia (PTI Australia) to facilitate impact investment opportunities. PTI Australia Trade & Investment Commissioner Caleb Jarvis says that women in the Pacific nations are an undervalued asset, and have the potential to make significant contributions to local economies.


“As governments and the private sector seek to resolve diminishing economic performance, nearly half of all women of working age across the globe are not currently active in the formal economy. Investing in women and girls is being shown as having a powerful effect on productivity, efficiency and economic growth,” Jarvis says.


“Philanthropy and grants have historically been a significant part of capital flow in the Pacific, yet opportunities for investing with a social impact are largely untapped. This grant will open new avenues for women entrepreneurs in the Pacific,” Jarvis adds.


REAL Impact is working to establish a B2B eCommerce digital marketplace in the Pacific by providing investment-readiness technical assistance to four artisan SMEs in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands. To build viable businesses and stable production, REAL partnered with global crowd-sourcing platform Kiva to provide the necessary working capital loans of up to US$50,000 across the four SMEs.


“Most businesses in the informal sector of the Pacific are family-run initiatives with women hidden in the value chain,” explains Virginia Bruce. “REAL creates products by combining the existing skill sets of high-quality artisan producers in the informal economy with design advice to transform products from ‘handicrafts’ to designer objects, and – through small-batch production – deliver these products to global fashion and interior design markets.


“We are creating ethical and sustainable value chains by helping local artisans create viable businesses with access to markets and in doing so, we are connecting female entrepreneurs with the capital they need to succeed, ” adds Bruce.


According to the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, which measures the progress in the economic advancement of women, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are ranked among the worst five of 128 countries.


Ms Jupp says, “Women face many obstacles in the investment climate that prevent them from growing their businesses, from unequal access to property, credit and justice, to a lack of business experience and formal processes. Getting more women involved in business is good for business.”


Pacific RISE grants promote greater investment into businesses that improve economic and social outcomes for women and girls using gender lens investing analysis tools and approaches.


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For more information about REAL Impact contact:


PARTNERSHIPS                                                                                      MEDIA INQUIRIES

Virginia Bruce                                                                                         Jane Morey

CEO & Founder                                                                                      Director

Real Impact                                                                                            morey media

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M:  +61 415 508 442                                                                             M:  +61 416 097 678




REAL Impact

REAL Impact is a “profit for purpose” enterprise developing a viable creative industry across the Pacific by innovating global supply chain processes to include high-impact, small-batch production, and leveraging this through an e-commerce B2B marketplace connecting global retailers through procurement contracts with the informal economy across the Pacific. To date, REAL Impact has scoped and piloted in four countries: Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, PNG and Fiji. REAL Impact recognises the support of its founding partner Pacific Trade Invest Australia.


Pacific RISE

Pacific RISE is an Australian Government funded initiative designed to create an impact investment market in the Pacific. It is establishing private sector partnerships made up of investors, intermediaries and Pacific-based businesses. These connections will link finance and ideas to achieve social and economic development outcomes, particularly for women. Pacific RISE will introduce $5 million of new private investment capital into the Pacific over a three-year period and will apply a gender lens across all of its investment opportunities.

Marc Evans