Interview Date: 2020-07-07
Peter Aghar is a Toronto-based real estate investor, developer and venture capitalist, and Windmill’s newest board member. As President of Crux Capital, a firm that exists to build extraordinary value in partnership with like-minded investors, Peter’s vision is to make fewer investments with better results within aligned relationships.
Multiple online bios highlight how you see things differently, what made you invest in Windmill Microlending and what makes Windmill different?
What I saw at the core of Windmill was a social enterprise providing character loans; I didn’t see a charity. I saw charitable values and mission, but I didn’t see a charity and still don’t. To me, and to Crux, Windmill is more than just a charity, in that it doesn’t simply help people reach untapped potential, or unleash potential. Rather, the organization tries to give where it can affect someone’s individual outcome and make lasting change. Windmill takes someone who is making minimum wage and helps them become a fiscally stable professional. Windmill provides a hand-up, not a hand-out, to people who get stuck facing one difficult challenge after another, due to circumstances beyond the capacity of their resources to change, never breaking free of the low-income cycle. That’s permanent change, that’s long-term impact!
My family and I believe there are lots of opportunities to give to various charities, and giving to them will make donors feel good, but those donations won’t change someone’s potential to become a CEO or an accountant or controller. The transformation Windmill creates in people’s lives are job stability followed by family stability, long-lasting positive changes that can last a lifetime, echoing down through the lives of their children’s children’s children.
We’ve seen the improvements Claudia has been making over the years, building a sophisticated institution without the core issues many charities face with technology, management standards and discipline. For example, sometimes charities begin to work on technology and improve their management practices, but lose their mission in the process. Windmill’s mission and goals are clear and they’ve grown and improved with time on all fronts.
What would be one thing you can attribute to your tremendous success in Canada?
I was lucky to grow up in a safe middle-class family in Ottawa after my parents left their unsafe, albeit middle-class environments from Egypt in 1962. I was also raised with a view that I matter, and I was comfortable being a change agent. As I matured, I continued to grow within my community and to be a change agent in my business dealings as well as the society we live in. Fundamentally, however, I believe the success of Crux Capital comes down to hard work, tenacity and a commitment to building strong, trusted relationships.
What advice would you give to donors who want to make an impact on the Canadian economy?
While I believe money is not the be-all-and-end-all, as both a business owner and investor, I build businesses and support great business ideas and I support charitable endeavors the same way. My family and I believe in supporting organizations that are smart and that are doing something uniquely well. Supporters like us are not big corporations and not interested in getting noticed; we give because we know we’re fortunate and we want to share our fortune.
Much like taking risks in business, I believe that donors should take risks with charities. From that perspective, I would say that donors and investors have to not only give their time and money, but watch the organization grow and be on the growth journey with them, to be confident that their money is well-invested. For example, I connected with Windmill soon after it began to spread nationally, after having been a small charity in Western Canada. My support and involvement with the organization was in lockstep with the organization as it expanded and became more refined. I didn’t wait for Windmill to be perfect before supporting them, and if I had, I wouldn’t have seen and been part of its accomplishments.
Windmill is honoured to have Peter join our board of directors as we continue to create extraordinary value.