Family Business and Family Office as a Force for Good: My Transformation Journey

What is the true purpose of wealth? Read bout Berry's venture into impact investing, aligning wealth across various asset classes with a focus on people, planet, and profit.

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The Purpose of Capital is to Be in Service of Life

Berry Liberman, Co-founder and Creative Director of Small Giants, shared her transformative journey at the 2023 Business and Philanthropy Forum in Singapore on 9th Nov, 2023. Born into a family with a refugee background, she inherited a legacy that sparked her quest to redefine the purpose of capital. Liberman, driven by values and guided by her husband, ventured into impact investing, aligning wealth across various asset classes with a focus on people, planet, and profit. The Small Giants Family Office, born from this vision, epitomizes impact investing’s evolution, challenging the notion that profit and purpose are mutually exclusive. Liberman emphasized the need for capital to serve life, introducing initiatives like the Biodiverse Carbon Fund, and showcasing Small Giants’ commitment to regenerative practices. Through Small Giants Academy, she seeks to educate future leaders on balancing wisdom and action, steering towards a sustainable and responsible economic paradigm.

From Refugee to Entrepreneur

Berry Liberman recounts the journey of her family’s rise from World War II refugees to successful entrepreneurs in Melbourne. The story begins with her grandfather, a war refugee from Poland, who arrived in Australia with a few hundred francs earned from smuggling cigarettes to American soldiers. Despite initial language barriers, he and Liberman’s brother ventured into Melbourne’s central business district to sell hamburgers, where they stumbled upon a unique business opportunity involving discarded silk stockings.

Liberman’s grandfather salvaged these stockings, repaired them with the help of local women, and sold them to secretaries on Collins Street. This action even changed the local market dynamics, posing a threat to hosiery manufacturing factories. Undeterred, he continued working persistently and saved enough to purchase machines for manufacturing stockings, gradually establishing a thriving clothing manufacturing empire.

Family Business Legacy and the Personal Journey of Pursuing Dreams

Berry Liberman’s father grew up in Australia, arriving in Melbourne at the age of one. The grandfather had high hopes that his children would receive a formal education, become Australians, and play a role in the family business. Upon entering the family enterprise, the father and his brothers successfully expanded its scope, extending the grandfather’s vision into a classic 20th-century business involved in diverse fields such as banking, fuel, and real estate. The family business thrived during the 1980s, experiencing consecutive growth at a rate of 30% per year for 30 years.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Liberman’s father passed away at the age of 45, leaving her to inherit the entire family legacy at the tender age of 14. As the youngest member of the family, she made the decision to depart from the family business to pursue her artistic dreams. However, this personal journey prompted her to question the purpose of capital while emphasizing the significance of crafting a will for the family, especially for her own children.

Wealth and Responsibility

At the age of 24, Liberman underwent significant life changes as she joined the family board and met her future husband, Danny Almagor, an aerospace engineer and founder of the “Engineers Without Borders” organization in Australia and New Zealand. The combination of these experiences led her to reevaluate the management of financial capital. While the traditional mission of family businesses is to pursue profit, she began questioning the true purpose of wealth. Through joint reflection with her husband, she aspired to align money with inner values, believing that wealth could become a positive force in the world.

When Liberman was eight months pregnant with her first son, Danny Almagor guided her to watch Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” addressing urgent climate change. Despite being reluctant to confront this unsettling topic during pregnancy, he firmly encouraged her to finish watching the film. The movie triggered an emotional outburst, immersing her in fear of the imminent challenges. Faced with the crisis at hand, she expressed her confusion and helplessness to her husband. Unsure of what she could do, as two ordinary individuals, they felt powerless to change it all. However, after the birth of their child, she realized she hadn’t fully considered her use of financial capital and resources. Contemplating how an individual could contribute to addressing this global issue, the company Small Giants was born.

Small Giants: Investing for Life

The birth of Small Giants marks a capital revolution, where wealth and responsibility converge, propelling the company into the realm of impact investing. The firm steadfastly aligns all its wealth with impact, spanning across real estate, venture capital, listed stocks, and private equity, with a core focus on people, the planet, and profits. Initially met with skepticism in the industry, this decision has evolved over time, crystallizing into the concept of impact investing, a philosophy deepening its roots in Small Giants’ practices.

In this innovative investment model, every dollar is actively deployed to address global challenges. The company swiftly transitioned to being 100% impact investors, contributing to the sustainability of ecology, society, and the economy. Liberman shares an exciting investment— the Biodiversity Carbon Fund. This fund purchases degraded land for regeneration and profits by selling high-quality carbon credits. This practice epitomizes her commitment to the best practices of impact investing, underscoring her dedication to transforming financial capital into a tool for positive change in the world.

Beyond specific investment projects, Liberman emphasizes the importance of changing business conventions. She highlights that existing business practices endanger the foundation of life on Earth, necessitating a shift towards vibrant ecosystems. To achieve this, Small Giants has created various tools and enterprises, such as the Biodiversity Carbon Fund, Regenerative Agriculture Debt Fund, and Regenerative Agriculture Operating Capital Fund, guiding funds toward more sustainable directions.

Through the Small Giants Academy, Liberman is devoted to educating and inspiring the next generation of leaders. Recognizing that wisdom without action cannot fulfil hopes for the future, the academy focuses on balancing wisdom and action, nurturing leaders capable of providing service to the world. Ultimately, Liberman envisions a shift in the purpose of capital, transcending mere profit pursuit to a commitment of serving life. This visionary perspective guides the Small Giants Capital Strategy, paving the way for a more sustainable and responsible economic paradigm. Concurrently, Liberman encourages participants to join her mission, collectively creating a brighter future.

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