Esther is the CEO of Cienega Capital, a regenerative investment firm utilizing an integrated capital approach to systemic change in the areas of soil health, regenerative agriculture, and local food systems. Cienega Capital is also part of the #NoRegrets Initiative, a regenerative asset strategy focused on the health of agricultural soils and agricultural communities in North America. Esther has 20 years of experience in mission-based financial services ranging from microfinance to risk capital investments, in partnership with financial institutions, family offices, foundations, and investment advisors. She also serves as a board member of a number of companies and non-profits.
Esther formerly served as the Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at RSF Social Finance working with social enterprises; and as a senior consultant at ShoreBank Advisory Services, providing strategic and capital planning advice for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). In a previous life, Esther lived in Nukus, Uzbekistan, teaching English and conducting program evaluation work for the United Nations. Esther received her MPP from University of Chicago, and BA in Social Welfare from the University of California Berkeley.
Reflecting on JEI’s core values — Community, Interconnectedness, Transformation — which value speaks to you most, at this moment in time? Why?
It’s hard to pick one because they are all related. For me, interconnectedness stands out because so many of today’s problems are caused by our disconnection from nature, our fellow human beings, and ourselves. If we can truly recognize that we are all connected, we can definitely do better.
What are a few things about you that would surprise other people?
I’ve worked in, lived in, and visited places many have not – like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and North Korea. A few guilty pleasures: YouTube reaction videos that react to a cappella groups and K dramas.
What movement for a just economy, past or present, inspires you?
The Black Panther party/movement.
I love to push people to aspire to the highest ideals, which is a place that requires innovation and collaboration. It’s also what propels us in our work at #NoRegrets.