13 Feb Akiptan, Inc
Interview with Skya Ducheneaux; Executive Director of Akiptan, Inc
Jen: How was Akiptan, Inc Created?
Skya: Akiptan was founded by Native ag professionals from the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) in 2017 and as of January 1st, 2019, Akiptan has begun operating and lending as an independent organization. Founders of Akiptan recognized that ag financing was not setting producers up for success, and by listening to producer frustrations, Akiptan came to fruition.
Jen: How are your investment funds catalytic in a way that is different from other funds?
Skya: Akiptan differs from other funds in several ways. The first is our patient capital approach, we believe in leaving our loan funds with the borrower longer so that they can retain/grow assets and increase cash flow before making large lender payments. That is why we do up to 5 years of interest only payments. Akiptan also has flat interest rates across our portfolio, just because someone is deemed “risky” from a traditional perspective, we do not charge them more interest because oftentimes they are the ones who need the break the most to get back on their feet. We also put a large emphasis on our relationship with our borrower with our quarterly check-ins and in-depth technical assistance process. Akiptan takes a holistic underwriting approach where credit report doesn’t necessarily help or hurt you and sweat equity and other holistic metrics are taken into consideration. Lastly, Akiptan doesn’t charge any fees at all; we don’t have origination, closing, late fees, etc.. We don’t believe in adding another barrier to success to our already struggling demographic.
Jen: How do you describe the kind of non-financial returns the fund offers?
Skya: Akiptan recently contracted with a consulting firm to identify more non traditional KPIs, but we currently track things like jobs created, jobs retained, # and $ of financing to underbanked, etc. I also love to share their individual success stories. The anecdotal impacts are just as important as the qualitative impacts.
Jen: Can you describe how you use integrated capital to do your work?
Skya: We utilize various sources of funding from the government, private foundations, impact investors and donations. This allowed us to start pairing our loans with equity grants when we have funding available. Producers get extra dollars to purchase extra assets for their operation. It gets their balance sheets off to a good start, gives them a financial break and improves producer morale.
Jen: How do you address racial justice, income inequality, and/or gender justice through your products and services?
Skya: We were created to serve Native American agriculture producers, which addresses a large racial equity gap. Native ag producers have been underserved or excluded from being served for generations. Our unique approach to financing allows us to have accelerated asset growth and a healthy cash flow which contributes greatly to income inequality.
Jen: Can you share with us an example of an investment?
Skya: We have a ton of success stories on our website. I invite everyone to go look there!
Jen: What do you tell people who think your fund is risky?
Skya: Investing in ag is not risky, I think so often it gets labeled “risky” and is perceived to be “risky” because it’s a field that not a lot of people are familiar with which makes people associate ag with risky. In reality, the ag industry isn’t going anywhere, we are always going to have to feed ourselves. Yes, there’s certain risks that go along with ag, but any industry has risk so agriculture shouldn’t get penalized at a higher rate. Most of our producers we work with are 3rd or 4th generation producers, how often are businesses in operation for generations? Not often, but in ag, that’s the norm. Investing in or lending to a business that has been standing for generations is rarely risky.
Investment Thesis/What is your rationale for your approach to investing? Akiptan is a Native CDFI that provides innovative, patient financing and technical assistance to Native American agriculture producers across Indian Country.
Geography: Nationwide/Indian Country
Year Founded: 2017
# of Investments: 116
# of Investors: 15+ (donors, funders, supporters, investors)
Funds Raised: $17,235,135 since inception
What’s on Skya’s Mind?
Book: What happened to you? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing – Bruce D Perry, MD, PhD & Oprah Winfrey
Song: Any Man of Mine – Shania Twain is always my go to
Podcast: Crime Junkie