Spotlight on Carmina Bayombong


Leveraging Business as a Force for Good

2019 fellow Carmina Bayombong discusses the impact of women in the entrepreneurial realm and what characteristics enable them to thrive.

What Makes a Great Impact Entrepreneur?

Impact is at the heart of women entrepreneurs who are tackling social and environmental challenges. The thing that sets these women apart is their commitment to driving change by leveraging business as a force for good. This month, CWI is focusing on some of the key characteristics and traits that enable them to thrive. 

As a part of our Fellow Spotlight series, we hear from CWI 2019 Fellow, Carmina Bayombong, to discuss the impact of women in the entrepreneurial realm and just what characteristics enable them to thrive as they leverage business as a force for good. 

Carmina was studying engineering when she saw a problem and decided to provide a solution.  In 2016, she decided to launch InvestEd, a FinTech providing education loans to disadvantaged youth, through a proprietary Risk Engine that minimizes risk for both lenders and borrowers.

We know that your business was inspired by your own personal experience with entrepreneurship and by seeing the financial hardships many of your peers faced when financing their education.  What do you think allowed you to overcome your personal challenges to start a business aimed at helping those in a similar situation? 

Carmina: Similar to the students that we serve, I get up and do this work every day to pursue a dual-dream. My aspiration in life is to fix one seemingly unsolvable problem in society. I would consider this my dream as we are working on something that will last beyond my lifetime. Making money along the way also motivates me because it’s my dream to give my parents the best retirement- they deserve nothing less. My dual-dream to bring prosperity for my family and simultaneously improve society is something I share with our investees. Many of them pursue these exact two things and I think it is a beautiful cycle of paying it forward. Think about it: my work is to make dreams possible and in turn, this work makes my own dreams possible. The thread that connects the InvestEd community- from students to funders to our team, is the fact that education is the tool we believe in making our shared dreams possible.

When times get tough, I also remind myself that this job is more of a privilege than a sacrifice. Our company is in a position to shape the country's future; it is hard but it is also a huge responsibility that we have to appreciate. Moreover, there are just so many people who supported InvestEd from day one. When I face challenges, I remember that these people continue to believe in us and help our mission, even if they are not required to do so. That pure and genuine support in our team allows us to keep going.

You mentioned the many obstacles you had to overcome at every stage of business development.  Do you think that these challenges are universal to women impact entrepreneurs?

Carmina: I think yes and no. There were obstacles I faced along the way which I found every single woman entrepreneur I've met faced the exact same thing (i.e. lack of confidence, lack of access to opportunities to maximize potential, fundraising). On the other hand, there are also obstacles which I felt were unique to our local context and may not be the same in every region (i.e. tolerance for risk, role-modeling, etc.). I think it's great that there's so many organizations now finally looking into this because it requires focus, research and sensitivityto make sure that the interventions are truly impactful and not blanketed or made to generalize when contexts are different.

What do you think the biggest challenges facing women impact entrepreneurs are today?  What do you see as biggest opportunities? 

Carmina: I think the biggest challenge facing women impact entrepreneurs today is maximizing their potential. What women entrepreneurs need to maximize their potential is different everywhere. In some contexts, it could be about making it even culturally acceptable for a woman to be a CEO. In other contexts, like mine, helping me maximize my potential would mean giving me the right tools and empowering me to create a more valuable business. In other places, it could be more equitable access to funding.

I see a huge opportunity in safe space platforms where women can support each other. Close and tight-knit groups like the Cartier Women’s Initiative are important in bringing women entrepreneurs from all walks of life together to guide each other through all kinds of challenges -whether personal or professional.

What do you think are the key characteristics, particular to women impact entrepreneurs, that enable them to thrive in leveraging business as a force for good? 

Carmina: I think women are at the nexus of systemic change, simply because we are humble leaders who are able to put egos aside when the stakes are high. When our mission sometimes requires us to not look good, to look like we are losing, or to simply be quiet, we can do it for the greater good. That takes a lot more courage than people think.

You have a background in mentorship and training for young entrepreneurs.  How are you able to leverage this knowledge and skill set to help grow your business and encourage your ecosystem to achieve their goals?

Carmina: I fully believe that everything I have been able to achieve or build was simply a product of education- which not only includes traditional degrees but also mentoring and training. I see mentoring and training as a simple transfer of knowledge and the process of empowering people to realize their full potential.

We've been able to leverage this a lot in growing the business and our ecosystem. First, we're building a culture of coaching within our own organization which allows our employees to develop themselves and achieve more. Second, we're passing on our own learnings with regards to training and mentoring to other startups in our community.

If you could meet yourself a few years ago, prior to starting InvestEd, what advice would you give yourself? 

Carmina: This one is easy. I would tell myself two things: To trust myself more and to take care of myself more. I spent the past four years being very tough on myself; I always thought that anything less than excellence would surely lead my business to failure. Being a first-time entrepreneur + being very young + being female + being Asian sort of melded into a quadruple sense of round the clock dread and the feeling that I was not good enough to achieve my mission.

Don't get me wrong- the commitment to excellence is one definite factor that brought InvestEd to great heights and I have no regrets. I just feel it didn't have to be that emotionally and physically harrowing and I could have enjoyed the journey much more and be healthier. Due to my lack of confidence, I consistently overworked and short-sold myself and I'm sure I must have missed a lot of opportunities too. To confess something that only a few people know, up to the third year of my being a CEO, I was still convinced I was not a true entrepreneur. It took organizations like Cartier to make me realize that I am much more than just a girl from the Philippines with a great idea. It took many mentors and coaches to remind me consistently that my voice and my vision truly mattered. I also had to be consistently reminded that I was doing a great job. And for those people around me who remind me of this- I will be eternally grateful.

Do you have any last words of advice to women seeking to drive change through entrepreneurship? 

Carmina: Sharing the same advice I received from my fellow Cartier 2019 women: On deciding if you want to become an entrepreneur or not: "There are no wrong decisions, just decisions." When you feel like the odds are against you, remember: "If we let statistics dictate why we do what we do, none of us would be here."