Tracy Gray, our guest in this special episode, is a Managing Partner at The 22 Fund, Founder at We Are Enough, and Lead Partner at Porfolia Green & Sustainability Fund. She is an innovative and visionary leader with solid international, investment, business strategy, and marketing experience. With over 15 years of demonstrative team and project management success, including a 200% increase in project funding, Tracy is a relationship builder across various industries – from technology to venture capital to entertainment.
Having an Air Force veteran for a father, Tracy spent the early years of her life in Okinawa, Japan, and lived in different parts of the US before settling in Lompoc, California, near the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. Because of this experience, she fell in love with traveling (She has already been to 42 countries!). It is also why Tracy focused on international business.
Tracy shares her experiences from college and what she did after graduating, how being a B-student landed her a job at NASA, and how she ended up in the Mayor’s office, which is how she came up with her strategy with The 22 Fund.
Being an active citizen in Los Angeles, Tracy also tells us the importance of helping and supporting the community we live in, especially disadvantaged people who don’t have the same privileges as we do. She also tells us why she pursued an MBA even after having years of unique professional experiences and how she started and founded The 22 Fund. It is the only one of its kind, investing in high potential women and BIPOC-owned tech-based manufacturing companies to increase their international sales (exporting), with a mission of creating the clean, quality jobs of the future in underserved communities.
On having the courage to go after what she wanted to study in college
“A lot of research shows that when girls don’t do well, we quit, and we do something else. And I hate to be a statistic, but I quit Mechanical Engineering and went into where I was really good, Math. And that’s how I landed on Applied Math, Mathematical Science as my major because I still loved engineering, and I wanted to be in Aeronautics. There’s no Aeronautics at Santa Barbara, so what I did is I kind of created my own degree. And thank God there was a woman in the Math Department, a Black woman, and she let me do this – create this Mathematical Science degree with Aeronautics emphasis.
And that’s how I made my decision. And so, if there’s someone young trying to figure out their decision in going to school and listening, I would say, don’t be afraid to do what you really want and to say what you want. If I hadn’t said I wanted to do this and take this chance and create my own major almost, I would have had a whole different life path probably. But whatever gave me not being fearful about asking that was really fortunate.”
On her duty as a citizen
“I just am the type of person where if I’m living someplace, I’ve got to be active, helping, supporting the community I live in. And it doesn’t matter if it’s my county or my city or my micro-neighborhood; I am going to be a citizen. I feel like all the work I’ve done around Los Angeles is my duty as a citizen. I don’t know another way to exist in the world as a citizen if you don’t support where you live and support the people who don’t have all the advantages as you do.”
On pursuing an MBA
“It’s kind of a societal issue for women, especially Black women. I don’t want to say we never think we’re enough, but we never think we have enough credibility in the eyes of others that we can do the job we want to do. And so, I knew I wanted to start my own fund, but I always thought I needed as much credibility as possible and more education. That’s why Black women are the most educated demographic in the country because we get all these degrees because people think we don’t know enough or aren’t enough. We know we are, but we got to get it on paper. So, I wanted to get my MBA for that reason.”
On founding her nonprofit, We Are Enough
“All these women were coming up to me crying over a finance talk. And that is where I saw, okay, this is a deep trauma, deep work that women need to do around our money and our power around money and our being okay with power. And so, I launched We Are Enough. The only thing we do is educate everyday women on why and how to invest in women in businesses or with a gender lens on the public markets. Because when you grow women’s wealth, all those 17 SDG, sustainable development goals that you hear a lot about, the majority of them are positively impacted by women growing their wealth.”
On their unique strategy in investing in manufacturing
“I knew I wanted a win-win strategy with high impact and high returns. And I wanted something that had multiple impacts. And so, I landed on manufacturing. People didn’t understand that the foundation of our economy literally is manufacturing and making things and selling them abroad. So, if you’re a manufacturer that exports your products to another country but you’re located here, you create jobs faster, you pay higher wages, and you’re more likely to have healthcare. On top of that, when you export, you have higher revenues and are more resilient and more successful.
Our strategy of investing in manufacturing to increase their international sales causes our impacts. We call ourselves holistic investors, not impact investors, because we hit multiple positive impacts. It’s not siloed with climate change, race, gender, economic development. We hit it all just from this one strategy in investing in manufacturing to increase their export capacity. So, our mission is to create what we call the clean, quality jobs of the future and low and moderate-income communities and increase generational wealth for women and people of color. And that all happens just by our strategy.”
Thoughts on Black History Month
“You’ve got to keep highlighting history because people want to try to erase it. And I wonder why they want to erase it. Why are they fearful? Why are they trying to protect kids from the wrongs in the world? So, I’m very informed. You can’t help being a Black person and not be informed by our ancestors. It’s ancestral trauma, right? It is with us all the time and it’s deep. And it informs a lot of what we do. History will repeat itself if you forget what happened and we’re in the middle of that right now.
Another thing about Black History Month is it added LatinX History Month, Asian History Month. It added all that. And it allowed now with all the trauma around race in our country, every race is starting to see, you know, when people come after Black people, they start looking for another place to come after. They come after all of us that do not fit in a particular way they think we should be. And so, when I think about Black History Month and the history of Black people, it’s a history of all people in this country, right? This isn’t just my history. And it informs a lot of how people of color are treated. And so this year of the race and ethnic months, I feel like we need one month at the end called the multicultural month where we all come together and talk about the power and the beauty of different cultures and what it has built in this country.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00:00] Chris Kim: Welcome to the OneHaas Podcast. I’m Chris Kim. Today we have Tracy Gray, Berkeley Columbia EMBA alum. Tracy is Managing Partner at The 22 Fund, founder of We Are Enough, and lead partner at Portfolia Green & Sustainability Fund. Tracy is an innovative and visionary leader with experience in international investments and business strategy.
Tracy, welcome, and great to have you on the show.
[00:00:30] Tracy Gray: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
[00:00:32] Chris: Yeah, Tracy, it’s a great opportunity and honor for me to have you on the show. Could you maybe start off with, and just share with us, you know, where did you grow up and where did your story begin?
[00:00:42] Tracy: Well, my dad was in the Air Force, so for the first half of my youth, I used to say the first half of my life, but now I’m too old, but the first half of my youth, I was born in Nebraska and then my dad went all over the United States, we lived in Okinawa.
[00:01:00] Chris: Oh, wow.
[00:01:03] Tracy: Before he retired in Santa Barbara County in a small town called Lompoc that is next to Vandenberg Air Force Base. So from about seven or eight until I was 18, I lived in Lompoc, California, near Santa Barbara and Vandenberg Air Force Base.
[00:01:25] Chris: And what was that like growing up? I mean, that’s a pretty diverse experience, you know, starting from a young age. Well, what was that like growing up, and were there any memories or early experiences that you had that may have formed who you are today?
[00:01:38] Tracy: Yes. I greatly remember very fondly growing up in Okinawa. I was there from, I think I was like three to seven. And so I spoke fluent, you know, 7-year-old Japanese. I don’t know any of it anymore, unfortunately, because I think it’d be a great circus trip for a Black woman to speak Japanese. And so I remember all my friends, we lived off the base for a big chunk of time. So you really get to go into the culture. So I spent a lot of time at what we call Japanese villages. I don’t even know if that was the appropriate name now. And my best friend was Japanese. We spent the beaches in Okinawa or just gorgeous.
We spend a lot of time just roaming around as children, without our parents even, feeling perfectly safe at the beach in the water, out night all the time. So I had always had a very safe childhood that I felt throughout my teens and I love international travel. And that’s why I focus on international business. And I’ve been to 41, 42 now countries.
[00:02:51] Chris: Oh, my goodness. Wow.
[00:02:52] Tracy: Yeah. So I think traveling everywhere with my family, when my dad retired, he was done, right. He had traveled so much he just wanted to stay home and I, to this day, get itchy if I’m not on a plane. So, you can imagine during the pandemic, although I didn’t mind being home cause I had traveled so much, on the day I was fully inoculated, which was on my birthday in 2021, I was fully inoculated, I was literally on a plane that day. So I think my love of travel that I don’t think my brother got so much, cause it wasn’t so probably great for him because he was a Black, you know, Black child during the ’50s.
And my parents still had to ride in the back of the bus and certain places, couldn’t vote here in the United States really, but we’re in the Air Force and was free. I think he didn’t have the same experience as being like the only, but by the time I came, it was very diverse. I felt no problem. So, yeah, that really informed my love of travel and getting to know other cultures. It also informed me that the Air Force, which I’m very anti-war, but I was a systems engineer on the space shuttle. I love space. So I think that love of space came from my dad’s time in the Air Force.
[00:04:16] Chris: That’s an amazing experience. Tracy, I know, you know, one of the major inflection points for folks is often going to college and didn’t go too far for college. Would love to maybe ask what was that experience like? And as you were going through the decision process for a lot of young folks, a very important decision process, and what was that process like for you? And how did decide on your eventual major that you studied in college?
[00:04:42] Tracy: I knew I was going to major in Math and Engineering from the time I was like, I mean, that was not even a thought.
[00:04:47] Chris: Oh, wow.
[00:04:48] Tracy: I think that also comes from that I was raised in Japan and Okinawa. They were very focused on Math and at a very early age, I like to say like when I was four, I was doing division. And so when I came to the United States, I was ahead of everybody in Math and you know how kids, like when they’re ahead of something. They will focus on that. So, I’m very competitive. So I was like, oh, I’m winning in Math. I’m going to be a Math major. So that was never going to be, that was never anything different.
There was nothing that was ever going to be done differently. I, at one time, thought I’d be a Math teacher. And then when people were like, women are all, they should be teachers. I was like, no, I’m not going to do what you think women should do. So the teacher was out. And then so I was always going to be a Math or Engineering major. I was going to, I looked where Math and Engineering were strong and like most young people I wanted to get away from my hometown but I wanted to stay in California. So I was looking at Cal Poly San Luis. And then I was looking at UCLA and my dad said, “Alright, you can go to UCLA only if you get in the dorms.”
But when I think back, he knew I procrastinated with everything I did and the dorms was hard to get into if you didn’t apply soon. So I didn’t get in the dorms. He wanted me to go to UC Santa Barbara. He wanted me to be as close to home as possible. My brother went to Cal Poly. He knew that you know, San Luis was not going to be for me. It’s, you know, with very ag. Yes. There’s a lot of ag-tech coming out of that now and engineering. And I think he knew I wouldn’t go there, but I think he was okay because I was closer than Los Angeles. He hated Los Angeles. But when he told me I couldn’t go to UCLA, I was like, I’m going to get even with him, I’m going to go to my junior college, which is what he really did not want me to do is go to a junior college because each one of his kids went and I think he didn’t want, you can. Our junior college felt like high school with all the same people. And you kind of lose a year. And so I was like, I’m going to get back at him and go to my Allan Hancock Junior College, which I got back at myself because I lost a year. I literally lost a year, he was right. And I was like, okay, I give in, I’m just going to go to UC Santa Barbara.
And it was the perfect school for me, you know, it was by the beach still, but it was really hard, you know, it’s hard having that beach and then having to go to school, you know. And I was in engineering school at first, but the problem sets back then for engineers were very focused on male engineers. And so it was like, let’s find the forces around this part in the engine. And I’m like, where’s the engine? Why couldn’t you have done forces around something girls were used to like, you know, not to be sexist, but we were pushed into sewing machines and mixers and things like that, but you can easily find forces around things that weren’t so male-oriented and I didn’t do well because it was really hard for me to figure out just what they were telling me to look for.
And so, I mean, there’s a lot of research that shows that when girls don’t do well, we quit and we do something else. And I hate to be a statistic, but I quit Mechanical Engineering and went into where I was really good, Math. And that’s how I landed on Applied Mathematical Science as my major, because I still loved engineering and I wanted to be aeronautics.
There’s no aeronautics at Santa Barbara, but so what I did is I kind of created my own degree. And thank God, there was a woman in the Math department, a Black woman, and her name, I don’t remember her last name, but her first name was Princess. And so I was like, oh, she’s a princess. And she pushed, she let me do this, like create this Mathematical Science degree with aeronautics emphasis.
And that’s how I made my decision. And so if you know, there’s someone young trying to figure out their decision in going to school and listening, I would say, don’t be afraid to do what you really want and to say what you want. If I wouldn’t have said I wanted to do this and create this, take this chance and create this my own major almost, I would have had a whole different life path probably, but whatever gave me not being fearful about asking that was really fortunate. It all worked out fine. I loved being in UC Santa Barbara.
[00:09:36] Chris: That’s an amazing experience, Tracy. I know you had a pretty amazing and diverse, you know, in terms of different things that you were able to do, a professional career. What did you do right after you graduated from college? And how did you find that path to where, you land you know, soon after graduating from Santa Barbara and then going to the professional workforce?
[00:09:56] Tracy: Well there, the path was very crooked and lots of distractions. So I always say, I’m like, I’m a dog with a squirrel. And I’m like, that’s my career. Like, oh, there’s something fun over there on my path.
[00:10:11] Chris: Sounds very familiar.
[00:10:13] Tracy: Yeah, I’m going to step on the path and go in that direction now. But I knew I wanted to be an astronaut and I’m not talking about 10 years old. I wanted to be an astronaut. Yes at 10 years old, but I applied at 23 when I got my first job. And my first job was as a Systems Engineer and a mission monitor on the spatial program. And my one thread through my whole career has been, I fell into everything because I can be one, a procrastinator, two, I can be kind of lazy. Like if I have this weird laziness go-getter, like in me. And so I wait to the last minute to do things and I like the easy way. So usually it’s someone coming to me with an opportunity and I’ve criticized myself for that for a long time, but it’s like, but I’ve always been ready for the opportunity to come.
So I am like, okay. I jumped at the opportunity, so that’s okay. And that’s how I, so even in my career, I wanted to work for NASA. I didn’t really know how to do it, and I didn’t want to do all the work to figure it out. I was an intern, my last year of college, at NASA headquarters. But when I was there, I was enjoying myself so much I didn’t really think about what networking do I need to do to get to NASA when I’m out of school. I just didn’t think that way. But luckily, one of my good friends, her father worked for an aerospace corporation that had contracts with the space shuttle. And I was starting to look for a job.
And he said to me, and you know, I probably should have been insulted, but I was like, oh, that’s this is okay. He said, you know, I don’t hire A students because they don’t listen to me. And I don’t hire C students because they don’t try hard enough. I like B students.
[00:12:16] Chris: Very specific.
[00:12:17] Tracy: I know you are, you could be an A student and you could be a C student, but you’re a B student. Would you want to work on this contract with NASA? And I was like, yes, I do. And that’s how I got, you know, it was like my network, that what we learn now, it’s all about your network and who you know, and that was how I ended up working on this contract, the spacial program. I remember I was in line for a job at Hewlett-Packard. I’m so glad I didn’t do that. That wouldn’t have been, it would’ve been a whole different route. So that’s how I got my first job and I worked on the spatial contract here in Southern California. I went all over the country to the different NASA sites around the country.
I helped it was DARPA net it was before the internet, but DARPA net became the internet. So I actually worked on the internet and connecting NASA’s different sites to each other so they could communicate. And then when the shuttle was up, I was a mission monitor and was pretty much translating the technical terms of the astronauts was talking about two laypeople so they understood what was going on because this was right after challenge or accident and the laypeople and the Air Force and the general didn’t know. The reporters knew before them what happened. And so they want to make sure that didn’t happen again. So part of my job was briefing, debriefings for them on what happened each 24 hour period that the shuttle was up so that they would be informed if something went wrong.
[00:14:03] Chris: Tracy, from just seeing your professional background, you know, you’ve done a ton of stuff in tech and also as an investor. but one of the other themes that stick out is you’ve had a really long relationship with kind of Los Angeles and the greater Los Angeles area. Could you maybe talk a bit about howthat journey started and how you got connected and how that’s kind of progressed over the years? You’ve really done a wide variety of different things in the area. And it’s really, I think, a great testament to you know, as you were saying, kind of being open and willing to try new things, apply all that background and experience that you had already developed.
[00:14:39] Tracy: Well, I think the person I am, I would have done the same thing wherever I lived. I’ve been ambivalent to Los Angeles since I’ve lived here going on, I don’t know how long, 30 years now. I don’t want to say it’s a love and hate relationship with Los Angeles. It’s ambivalence. It’s like, I like the weather, all my friends are here, so I’ll keep staying here. It’s close to my hometown so I could see when my parents were alive, it was easy to see my parents. My sister lives here. But it’s not that I’m like all in on Los Angeles. I just am the type of person where if I’m living someplace, I’ve got to be active, helping, supporting of the community I live in and it doesn’t matter if it’s my county or my city or my micro-neighborhood here in downtown LA and Arts District, I am going to be a citizen, you know, so all the work I’ve done around Los Angeles is just, I feel like it’s my duty as a citizen of the city and the county.
So I’m not sure if that’s answering your question, but that’s, I don’t know how another way to exist in the world as a citizen if you don’t support where you live and support the people who don’t have all the advantages as you do. So, you know, I’ve worked for an economic development nonprofit that was fighting for workers’ rights and unionizing workers, around all the development that was dislocating people in Los Angeles. Not a nonprofit gal, I have my own nonprofit but I am not great at working for one. And then I’ve worked for the music industry in Los Angeles and other parts of the world. And then I worked for one of the first venture funds in Los Angeles. And then finally did a stint in the mayor’s office as a Senior Advisor to the mayor for international business. And I call that my recession job because I was launching a venture fund, right? When we got out of school, it was 2007, 2008, and I’m launching a fund and secured an anchor investor for a fund that was doing what everyone’s doing now. Not everyone, but more people are doing investing in women and people of color in early-stage tech. That’s what I launched with a classmate from business school in 2007 and then in August 2008, I secured an anchor investor from my work at the non-profit, but then September 2008 came and the Lehmann brothers and the world fell apart. So I couldn’t raise it. There’s no way I could raise a fund. I didn’t think I could raise the first-time fund during that time and then that’s how I ended up in the mayor’s office.
And I mean, it wasn’t a straight line like that, but I was a consultant to the mayor’s office to help them raise equity capital for affordable housing. And then they asked me to come in on staff. And that’s how I came up with my strategy of my fund now was from that, what I called that I used the pejorative of my recession job, but without that job, I wouldn’t have The 22 Fund. So, I should tell the former mayor that I’m very grateful that I worked for him. Yeah.
[00:18:07] Chris: It’s a great point maybe Tracy to talk through, you know, by the time you had already started business school and for folks who aren’t aware, executive MBA program is kind of prestigious and very competitive program as well, but you know, for folks who go into that program, they already have a ton of accomplishments, really a ton of experiences as well, you know, just as a prerequisite to get into the program. Could you share a little bit of why you decided to go back to school and get an MBA even after having, you know, years of experience and really having done a lot of amazing things even before getting to business school?
[00:18:45] Tracy: Well, it’s kind of a societal issue for women, especially Black women. I don’t want to say we never think we’re enough, but we never think we have enough credibility in the eyes of others that we can do the job we want to do. So, I felt like if I was going to really, I wanted to go have my own fund, you know the Silicon Valley route to be in venture capital was you the analysts as a fund, you go work for a portfolio company, then you get your business degree. Then you come back as a principal, and then you move up to partner. And I was like, okay, I want to have my own fund. So I’m going to surf and I don’t want to work for a portfolio company. And the fund I was at said, you know, you should work for one of the portfolio companies and that’s when I quit, but I didn’t quit because of that. I quit because all I saw was giving mainly, you know, it was like 99% white men just throw money at them.
And I didn’t understand why we weren’t throwing money at women and people of color. And so when I left my fund, I knew I wanted to start my own fund, but I always thought I needed as much credibility as possible and more education. That’s why Black women are the most educated demographic in the country because we get all these degrees because people think we don’t know enough or are enough but we know we are, but we got to get it on paper. So, I wanted to get my MBA for that reason. When I was working at the non-profit, the Executive Director, she had her law degree and worked in real estate development law. When she was running this nonprofit, she was fighting for the rights of the community to not be displaced from development. So she’d be at the negotiating table with these developers and their lawyers. They would just talk so down to her the whole time, you know, trying to educate her about what development is really like and you don’t know what you’re talking about. And then she sits there and be quiet.
And when they finish she’d say, well and she tells them what she knew, you know, and be able to, and they didn’t even take the time to do research to see that she worked at a top law firm on their side of the equation. And it was just it used, it’s she’s like a superwoman and takes off her suit and underneath there’s that cape you know and I was like, okay, I need an MBA for my cape. I need that. And so I’m not just going to get one MBA from one top 10 schools I need to get two. nd that’s how I ended up getting Berkeley and Columbia MBA and I could still be my lazy self and not have to go to both schools, you know, not have to go to two different schools, but could get it all with one degree. Yeah, and that’s how I did it.
I just thought I needed that credibility and validation to start my fund and it really doesn’t matter, they’re going to still say no to you. No matter what you have, if I would have venture capital, the system would have found a way to say no to giving me money. But it was great. I mean, it was one of the best experiences I ever had that time, as you know, it’s really hard when you’re working full time and then being in class all day, and then ours was flying between the two schools plus the international, but it was, you know, I have great friends to this day that I could probably call for anything and you know, you go through bootcamp together and no one else understands that. Like, I mean, there’s that analogy to my father. He had great friends from when he was in Vietnam and Korea because no one really understands what you go through, unless you’re there. So you need those people. And yeah, so great network around the world I have from that time.
[00:22:44] Chris: Absolutely. And it’s great to hear Tracy. You know, I think for all of us who go through the MBA program, you know, regardless, you know, Haas is unique, it has a full-time, part-time, an executive but for all of us who go through the experience, we all know that it really is a life-changing and a very positive experience despite all of the difficulties of writing equations and doing formulas and know business strategy and marketing.
[00:23:13] Tracy: The money spent for the program. It was worth it. That was the best multi-headed thousand dollars check.
[00:23:23] Chris: We laugh about it, but truly a life-changing experience. And, and hopefully for the better for folks who go through. Tracy, could share a bit, you know, how you decided to make your transition, you know, as you mentioned, you already had some experience on the investing side, you had gone through the MBA program, and you were already in the mayor’s office and transitioning to your next kind of career where we maybe come to today, you know, you’ve founded a number of organizations and also have your funds that you’re managing. Could you explain what that transition was like and how did you go through that process of knowing when to start to take on this next stage which you’ve been doing for a number of years now?
[00:24:03] Tracy: I find it also interesting that people think I really sat and thought about and planned, but honestly, I really do fall into things. So The 22 Fund, I knew after being at the venture capital fund, I was in Zone Ventures in 1999, that venture capital was what I was wanted to do. It was fun. It was hard, but it was like, that’s what I wanted because as you can tell, I have professional ADD. So working for one company, doing what that does, one thing and one industry were not going to work for me.
Also, I’m not a great employee, you know, if anyone comes to you and says, “You should hire Tracy Gray”, you run because am not a good employee. Like I know that myself, I know more than a lot of people and I don’t like listening to people because I’m the youngest child and I’m somewhat spoiled. I’m just gonna, I might say yes, I’m going to do something. And then I think I’m going to do it in the way I want to do it. Not the best employee. I like to show up when I want to show up. I don’t like this whole 9 to 5 thing. I don’t understand if I get the work done, why does it matter that I’m there doing the work? So, you know, now it all works really well for me. I had to be my own boss.
I had to figure out a way to do that, but I also wasn’t a small business person that could, you know, those small business people that run small businesses with a few employees. That’s super hard. So just remember I’m lazy and ambitious. You know, I have to find the route where I can be really ambitious and do a lot, but it’s got to be not as hard as someone running like a restaurant or a clothing store. I mean, that is too hard. So I knew I couldn’t do that. And I knew I had to work for myself and I knew I loved venture capital. So that’s been my goal to start my own fund.
My nonprofit, We Are Enough, that just happened because I did a TEDx talk about women that was supposed to be about being the only Black person and everything I did. But then I started doing the research, a lot of research that people know now about how little money is going to women entrepreneurs. Yet we women control 75% of the consumer discretionary spend. So we have a lot of money to control and direct, but we don’t invest. We give it all away. And women have this kind of, you know, not the curse, but this F up relationship with money. We don’t always like to say we make a lot or spend a lot or give away a lot. You know, it’s like we just, society has done a number on us with money. Then I also saw that 85% of our capital goes to our family and our communities, and men, it’s 30, 35%. And so I was like, okay, instead of constantly going to men and begging, cajoling,guilting, and shaming them into doing the right thing, which is to invest in women, women control so much money around the world, why not educate the everyday woman, not the professional investor or finance person, but the everyday woman, the power of their wallets and how literally the path changing the world is through women.
And so I started We Are Enough after I did this talk, all these women were coming up to me and I thought I was just talking about, you know, it was financed, but they were crying. Like women were crying over a finance talk. And that is where I saw, okay, this is a deep trauma, deep work that women need to do around our money and our power around money, and our being okay with power, and so I launched We Are Enough in 2016 to educate. The only thing we do is educate everyday women on why and how to invest in women in businesses or with a gender lens on the public markets. Because when you grow women’s wealth, all those 17 SDG, sustainable development goals that you hear a lot about, the majority of them are positively impacted by women growing their wealth, having more wealth, everything from getting rid of sex trafficking to more education, to climate change, everything changes when women have more wealth. And so I just fell into that too.
And this year finally, we’re going to, you know, knocking on wood, we’re going to launch a global campaign to educate all women at every economic level how and why to invest in each other, taking a lead from the women in the global south who have already been doing this through microfinance villages from India to the loanclubs in Kenya of women, buying buildings and real estate. They’re already doing it so they can teach us in, you know, in the global north or the Western world a thing or two on how to support women and make money at the same time.
[00:29:39] Chris: You know, we’ve been talking a lot about the amazing things that you’re doing, both kind of through your non-profit, but you also have a pretty interesting and amazing kind of professional business as well at The 22 Fund and as a Lead Partner for Green & Sustainability Fund, at Portfolia. Could you talk a little bit about your business endeavors and, you know, what you focus on as a leader in that capacity?
[00:30:04] Tracy: You know, when you say amazing work you’re doing it’s just, I can’t, I’m so stubborn. I can’t help but do what I want to do. So I if it’s amazing. It’s just that I’m a Taurus and stubborn and if I want to do something, I’m going to do it. And then leadership, you know, what is leadership? I think I’m considered a leader because I say whatever’s on my mind and I’m not afraid to speak up. So I just wanted to put that little asterisk that you know, that I still get uncomfortable when someone says that the amazing work you’re doing or your leadership is just, it’s nothing special. It’s just who I am. So The 22 Fund, I really wanted, as I said, I tried to launch a fund of venture capital, early-stage venture capital investing in women and people of color that you see a lot of people doing now, or a lot compared to before. I like to fill gaps. I’m not one to follow where everybody else is going because what’s the point? Other people are already doing it. There’s capital going there, not nearly enough, but there’s some going there. Where is there a gap? And I knew I wanted a strategy that was a win-win, had high impact and high returns. I wasn’t interested in a trade-off or concessions between impact and returns, nothing wrong with anyone wanting to have concessions, to have a purely impact fund that below market-rate returns. I just didn’t want to do that. That’s not my philosophy.
So I wanted to see what strategy was the best for that early-stage investing in, you know, tech software enterprise, not so much, it’s going to have the impact that I want to have. And I wanted something that had multiple impacts. And so I landed on manufacturing, which when I started thinking about this when I left the mayor’s office, which was in 2013 when I left the mayor’s office and really started to think about the strategy, you know, people didn’t understand manufacturing, and they didn’t until the pandemic. And people didn’t understand that the foundation of our economy literally is manufacturing and making things and selling them abroad. So if you’re a manufacturer that exports your products to another country, sells to another country but you’re located here, you create jobs faster, they pay higher wages, and they’re more likely to have healthcare. On top of that, when you export, you are more seen of higher revenues and are more resilient and more successful.
So, our strategy of investing in manufacturing to increase their international sales causesour impacts. We call ourselves holistic investors, not impact investors because we hit multiple positive impacts. It’s not siloed with climate change, race, or gender economic development, we hit it all just from this one strategy in investing in manufacturing to increase their export capacity. I won’t go into all the why’s and why we hit it all but we do. So our mission is to create what we call the clean, quality jobs of the future and low and moderate-income communities and increase generational wealth for women and people of color. And that all happens just by our strategy. And so I found this strategy that could do all that, and I don’t have to like settle for one thing. I also believe, we need to take a sector approach to climate change. Otherwise, we get lost on how big the issue is and we rely tothe government’s only way to do it.
But if you look at the sector you’re in the industry you’re in and focus on it. And really infuse climate actions throughout it, you can have a big change. Our sector is manufacturing. Manufacturing can be one of the dirtiest sectors. We can help clean that up by investing in technologies that manufacturers can use or creating clean tech manufacturing facilities, you know, we can do that by just our one sector. So we’re very focused on that. That’s The 22 Fund.
The Portfolia Green Sustainability Fund, if you don’t know about Portfolia, Portfolia creates sematic funds that are focused on improving the lives and wealth of women. They may not describe it that way, but that’s kind of the way I describe it. So they have different things. They have ag tech and food. They have FinTech, they have one that’s focused just on women of color, aging, and then the most recent one is this green sustainability fund. And as a lead partner, we’re pretty much like the investment committee for a fund. So they have infrastructure that has the analysts to do the due diligence, do the investment memos if that’s necessary, do everything that a venture fund would do. And then as the lead partners, we’re like the partners of the fund that we don’t have to do all thework of a fund. We are the investment committee. I think right now there are four of us. I think there’s going to be one or two more lead partners on this fund.
So this fund, and then they raise the fund usually from individuals, women, and men who believe in this mission. Trish Costello, I believe she headed up the Kauffmanoundation’s entrepreneurship program. She started Portfolia to on women. So that’s what we’re doing there. Yeah, until people can, portfolio, they can submit their business plans on the site. And once a month we go through them and say which ones are the most promising. And then we have a pitch session, but it’s not a pitch contest, which I am fundamentally against pitch contest for women and people of color, because it’s like, we’re going after the small amount of money when the white dudes are out there just grabbing money like falling from off trees. And when you do these pitch contests and I’m fundamentally against those, but we do a pitch call where three entrepreneurs will come, and then all the investors can watch the pitch and it’s open to all the investors. So I think they have like, you know, there’s like 90 individual investors might be on call and because people do $10,000 at a time and they become LPs in a fund. And it really is opening up, you know, not everyone can afford 10,000 but it’s opening up more than being an LP where you have to put in you know, millions of dollars into a fund and they watched the pitch from there and then we decide who that person is. I mean, if we’re gonna invest in all three of them or we’re gonna invest in one of them, whatever, but that’s the process. It’s really quite revolutionary in a way, right?
[00:37:18] Chris: It’s almost like a fresh look at how investing can be done. And it’s really, really interesting to hear.
[00:37:26] Tracy: Yeah. And you know, even at The 22 Fund, we invest equity, debt, and revenue share. And it’s hard to have to raise the first-time fund when you are trying to do something no one’s ever done before. And we literally, no one’s ever done this model with these types of capital raising a hundred million, no woman of color, no Black woman, maybe even a woman of their first-time fund where they didn’t spin out of some investment bank or some larger fund has raised over a hundred million dollars. And so, when you’re doing in this system of venture capital and the allocators, when you’re doing something different, they don’t like it. You know, it’s a hard road to break out of the status quo. And I like to be outside the status quo.
[00:38:20] Chris: Yeah, I’m sure there are Berkeley folks who’d be on the same page with you there, Tracy. Well, Tracy, I just kind of going the conversation, you’ve had, you know, sustainability, race, and gender, kind of at the forefront of your career, particularly, you know, this month that’s where celebrating Black History Month reflecting both on the past and looking to the future. Could you maybe share some of your thoughts on the different topics that have been areas of passion for you and what your take might be both kinds of reflecting on the past and also looking to the future in that respect?
[00:38:57] Tracy: Well, one I’m ambivalent about Black History Month. Another thing I’m ambivalent about. I see the importance now that there are a lot of states that are trying to pretend that slavery didn’t exist or they’re banning books doing this crazy stuff, trying to erase the bad of history. So before they did that, I was like, can we just have Black people in every month? Can you just have us included in everything and not just one month, you know? So that was the same with Women History Month and International Women’s Day. I’m like, really? Why don’t we let them just give us this one little bit? And then they forget the rest of the time. I love that your podcast you’ve had, Black people throughout the podcast. So this isn’t saying anything to you.
[00:39:42] Chris: No, we’re very, very intentional about it.
[00:39:44] Tracy: Yeah, and I saw that. So I really appreciate that. And now I’m like, okay, you’ve got to keep highlighting history because people try to erase it. And I wonder why they want to erase it. Why are they fearful and embarrassed? You know, why are they fearful? Why are they trying to protect kids from the wrongs in the world? Anyway, so I’m very informed. You can’t help being a Black person and not being informed by our ancestors. It’s ancestral trauma, right? It is with us all the time and it’s deep and it informs a lot of what we do.
And then now we’re in constant trauma now, like we’re getting killed by police. We’re being left out of the tribe and people started to stop us voting again. And all the things that we thought we had been done with, it comes back. So history will repeat itself iif you forget what happened and we’re in the middle of that right now.
Another thing I think about Black History Month is what does is it added, Latin X history month, Asian history month. It added all that. And it allowed now with all the trauma around race in our country that is in the forefront, before it was more under the surface but always there, now I think, Asians and every race is starting to see, you know, when people come after Black people, they start looking for another place to come after. Right? They come after all of us that do not fit in a particular way they think we should be. And so, when I think about Black History Month and history, I think the history of Black people, it’s a history of all people in this country, right? This isn’t just my history. And it informs a lot of how people of color are treated.
And I think the powers that be want to pit us against each other and we sometimes fall for it. Right? You’ll have brown and black people not getting along or Asian and Black not people not getting along, you know, and it’s not us, it’s the powers that be needed to keep us separate. And so this year of the race and ethnic months, I feel like we need one month at the end called the multicultural month where we all come together and talk about the power and the beauty of different cultures and what it has built-in this country.
I don’t know what your question was, but I’m just thinking out loud right now. That is what I’m passionate about. And I’m sure it’s informed from my international travels, my dad being in the air force where it’s lots of diversity, lots of you know, multiracial people, biracial people, because the GI’s were all over the world and they would meet wives everywhere. And that’s what I grew up with and it’s beautiful and I don’t understand why people don’t find it beautiful in my engineer mind when it’s illogical, it just drives me crazy. And if it’s illogical with injustice, my head explodes and I have to fight it. So I dunno, like I said, I don’t know what your question was, but what’s on my mind right now when I think about Black people’s history, Black History Month, our trauma, the trauma of many races and ethnicities, and how that informs, always informs our work and it should inform our work.
If someone’s not tapped into that in themselves, I recommend tapping into that because there’s some deep strength you can get from the power of your ancestors and remembering what they did. That’s how I feel like I can help change the world, tapping into my ancestors and those who came before me. I call myself an impatient Buddhist and I’m also Episcopalian so like you figured that out, but I think there’s a lot we need to do and we need to be engaged with the world to do it. And the world is so many different cultures and races that why would you not do things in everything you do? It’s got to be I mean, for me, it’s gotta be my profession. It’s gotta be in my recreational time, my personal time, it’s infused in everything I do.
[00:44:20] Chris: Yeah, Tracy, before we end, we’d like to have a little fun lightning round where we just kind of ask, you know, a couple of quick questions and I know we’re almost at the end of our podcast, we’d love to just kind of do a quick lightning round if you’d be up for it and then close out today’s podcast. So, one of the questions, a newer one. So, you mentioned you love to travel, so where’s the one place that you’ve traveled that you’d recommend other folks to go to?
[00:44:47] Tracy: Well, I don’t want to give it away because I don’t want a lot of people to go but I love, there are two places. Sorry, I don’t follow rules. Croatia and Mozambique.
[00:45:00] Chris: Oh, wow. fun. Berkeley question here, could you share maybe a fond memory that you have from being in the MBA program?
[00:45:07] Tracy: Playing late-night poker, where it was myself and my B-School bestie, Ivana Ristic and I beingthe only women, maybe one other woman would be with us. And all men, and usually we won.
[00:45:23] Chris: That’s an awesome memory.
[00:45:27] Tracy: They may say no, we didn’t win, but we did.
[00:45:32] Chris: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to somebody either professionally or personally?
[00:45:38] Tracy: Don’t start with fear. I mean, just the word fear is there to keep us down, to keep us small. Even if you are afraid, start at a place where you think about all the wonderful things that could happen and go right because fear will always come in. But if you start there, it’s hard to stop it.
[00:45:57] Chris: And last one. You know, what’s one thing that gets you excited about the future?
[00:46:02] Tracy: This is gonna sound like a cliche, but young people. And they’re just like having no more to give around climate, around race, around gender, that is, you know, they literally are the future and we’ve done a number on that, trying to do a number on them and they’re not letting go or stopping. And I’m just so,every day when I think about all the things going on in the world, if I just take some time and look at my goddaughters and their children and my niece and nephew, and then all the people around you and people around me, it’s where I have hope.
[00:46:43] Chris: Well, Tracy, it’s been great to have you on the show today. Want to say thank you again and wish you all the best in the future.
[00:46:49] Tracy: Thank you so much.