Social Impact Fund adds two new ventures to portfolio

Logos for Queen City Certified and Keepsake Tales

The John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship’s student-led Social Impact Fund, added two new social ventures to its portfolio targeting impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) with investments in Queen City Certified and Keepsake Tales.

Queen City Certified is the nation’s leader in providing cohort-model programming around DE&I for small to medium-sized employers. Its mission is to equip businesses with tools to improve the equity of employment practices.

Queen City Certified was part of Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub’s ElevateEquity accelerator program, a specific program focused on creating a more equitable economy in the Greater Cincinnati region. The Social Impact Fund partnered with Flywheel for the second-consecutive year to increase early-stage impact investing in the region.

The company’s Founder and CEO, Nicole Armstrong, was recently named to Venue Magazine’s 2021 40 Under 40 List, which honors executives and entrepreneurs that use their positions “to shape Cincinnati and its future through innovative business practices, giving back to the community, the promotion of equal opportunity employment.”

Nicole remarked, “Partnering with the Miami University Social Impact Fund has been a game changer when it comes to growing and scaling our business. Not only has it allowed us to secure the capital we need to become tech enabled, but it will help us become a leader in our industry, empowering visionary employers across the country as they build more inclusive and diverse workplaces by leveraging data, collaborative learning, and equity-centered assessments of workplace policy and culture.” 

Keepsake Tales is a digital publishing startup specializing in personalized books. They create personalized children’s books that allow children to “... see themselves in stories in a way that's never been possible before.” The company, based in Raleigh NC, was founded by Miami University and Farmer School of Business grad Mike Vaggalis, (MU ‘13 in Finance) who currently serves as CEO.

Keepsake Tales seeks to transform the children’s book industry by increasing representation and self-confidence through integrating children into their own personalized story. They focus on strengthening self-image and representation of disabled and diverse children.

Mike commented, “I've always been proud to be a Miami alum, but never more so than after seeing, and engaging with, the amazing work that's being done in the entrepreneurial community at Miami. I've had the opportunity to work with several Miami classes (the best students in the country), to meet with the brains behind the L.I.F.E program, and most importantly for us at Keepsake Tales - to gain investment from the Social Impact Fund. The pioneering work that Miami is doing to cultivate the spirit of entrepreneurship and to create opportunities for those of us in the startup world is unparalleled.

He continued, “Miami's investment is allowing us to respond to customer feedback with a needed investment in technology that will allow us to scale. For this opportunity to have been afforded to us from my University... it's overwhelming.” 

Through this cause, the Social Impact Fund identified a real social impact.  “Keepsake Tales is beginning to level the playing field for all children, especially those who have often been neglected by the publishing industry,” said Dr. Brett Smith, faculty director of the Social Impact Fund. Smith continued, “There is an opportunity to create a profitable business model and increase representation so all children see themselves as part of the future.” 

The Social Impact Fund was established at Miami University in 2018 and led by the department of entrepreneurship’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship. It is one of the only undergraduate-led funds of its kind in the nation. In partnership with Flywheel a social entrepreneurship accelerator in Cincinnati, the student team has an opportunity to make investments in the social impact ventures that comprise Flywheel’s cohort of companies.

This unique relationship between Flywheel and Miami’s Social Impact Fund creates a deal flow for the fund of vetted, investable social startups and will provide the early-stage funding needed for those startups as well as other social startups identified by the student team. By participating, students will be equipped with high-level skills and real-world learning in social impact investing and will create a portfolio of impact investments for Miami University.